Welcome to Fun Facts About the 50 States, where – week by week – I’ll be taking you on a tour around this great nation of ours, providing you with interesting, yet completely useless and probably untrue, information about each of the 50 states.
This week, we’ll be unable to tell if that black stuff on our eggs is pepper, coal dust, or roach droppings as we visit West Virginia. So let’s get started…
The state flag of West Virginia consists of a blue-edged white background, overlaid by an image of two men debating whether Fahrenheit 9/11 or An Inconvenient Truth was a bigger load of crap.
* West Virginia became the 35th state on June 20, 1863. Originally part of the state of Virginia, the people in the western part of the state broke away in protest of the despicable institution of mandatory public education and the deplorable conditions of literacy that resulted therefrom.
* The state flower of West Virginia is the Rhododendron. State legislators were chastised for picking a flower that most people in the state couldn’t spell, but lawmakers ignored the complaints, since people had said the same thing when the dog was chosen as the state mammal.
* West Virginia license plates are white with blue lettering, and contain the tourism slogan, “Now With A Paved Road!”.
* In a recent survey, 95% of West Virginians report having checked out a book from their local public library within the last year. During the same time period, 95% of West Virginians also reported having found a way to fix that wobbly kitchen table with the short leg.
* The state song of West Virginia is “YAY! No More 3.2 Beer!”
* The celebration of Mother’s Day was first observed in Grafton, West Virginia, in 1908, mostly as a way to get women to stop whining about not being able to vote.
* With a median age of 40, West Virginia has the oldest population of any state in the US. Upon turning 40, it’s traditional for a West Virginian to cope with his mid-life crisis by buying a shiny red convertible to put up on blocks in his front yard.
* West Virginia’s nickname is “The Robert C. Byrd Memorial State” State.
* Jackson’s Mill, West Virginia, was the site of the first 4-H Camp in the US, where rural youngsters learned valuable agricultural skills such as how to milk cows, shear sheep, and hide stills from ATF agents.
* The world’s largest sycamore tree was located in Webster Springs, West Virginia. However, it was recently cut down and sold to David Letterman, who was reportedly thrilled at finally having a toothpick big enough to fit his tooth gap.
* In 1960, Danny Heater of Burnsville, West Virginia, set a world’s record by scoring 135 points during a high school basketball game. Even more amazing was that he accomplished this feat while being the youngest player on the team at age 24.
* Some critics complain that the record shouldn’t count, since he violated West Virginia rules by wearing shoes.
* The first state sales tax in the US was instituted in West Virginia in 1921. It was hailed as a vast improvement over West Virginia’s old revenue-raising technique – random muggings of Yankee tourists.
* The first federal prison exclusively for women was opened in Alderson, West Virginia, in 1926. For those not familiar with women’s prisons, they’re sort of like sorority houses, except with more sobriety, and fewer gratuitously-sadistic, lesbian-overtoned initiation rituals.
* The New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville is the highest steel-span bridge in the US, rising 876 feet above the river below. Every October, the locals celebrate “Bridge Day”, when over 100,000 celebrants gather to watch or participate in bungee jumping and parachuting from the structure. On Bridge Day, the bridge itself is closed to both automobile traffic and scissors.
* The state motto of West Virginia is “Montani semper liberi”, which is Latin for “Sister, daughter, wife… whatever”.
* At 69 feet high and 900 feet in circumference, the nation’s largest and oldest Indian burial ground is located in Moundsville, West Virginia. The mound’s many unquiet spirits are frequently seen on TV shows such as “America’s Most Haunted”.
* Nearly 75% of West Virginia is covered by forests, providing the state’s many fine restaurants with beautiful views and fresh road kill.
* In 1824, John Gallaher published the first women’s magazine, “Ladies Garland” which featured the now-infamous centerfold of Andrew Jackson showing off “Old Hickory”.
* The variety of apple known as Golden Delicious originated in Wellsburg, West Virginia, in 1775. It was greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm by a population who’d spent years being stuck with eating the Ocher Atrocious.
* Outdoor advertising got its start in Wheeling, West Virginia, when the Block Brothers Tobacco Company started painting barns with the slogan “Treat Yourself to the Best with Mail Pouch Brand Gumming Tobacco”.
* 15% of America’s coal comes from West Virginia. The state’s coal producers expect that number to rise to 20% once they get their Balrog infestation problem under control.
* In 1997, West Virginia had the lowest crime rate in the US. Coincidentally, this was the year after bribing Senator Byrd was legalized.
* The world’s largest shipment of matches – 210 million of them – was shipped from Wheeling, West Virginia, to Memphis, Tennessee in 1933. They were used as part of FDR’s American Arsonist Army (AAA) program, whose job was to burn down trees so that the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) could have jobs planting new ones.
* Which may explain why – before the word “retarded” was coined in 1940 – extremely stupid people were referred to as “F-D-R-ded”.
* “Coal House” in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, is the only residence in the world which is made entirely of coal. Tourists are strongly advised to bring their own toilet paper.
* In 1841, William Tompkins of Cedar Grove, West Virginia used natural gas to evaporate salt brine – the first known industrial use of the natural gas. Prior to this, the highly explosive gas was mostly used by organized crime figures to fill brightly colored balloons for “kids who saw too much and needed to have an ‘accident'”.
* In May, 1860, the first oil well in West Virginia was drilled at Burning Springs. In June, 1860, the former governor of Texas invaded West Virginia and stole it.
* In 1885, stone quarried at Hinton, West Virginia was sent to Washington D.C to become part of the Washington Monument. Although the monument builders thanked West Virginia profusely at the time, they actually thought the stone was horrid. They immediately hid it in the attic of the monument and now only bring it out when they know a West Virginian is coming to visit.
* The last public hanging in West Virginia took place in Ripley in 1897. After that, folks learned to keep their uppity book-learnin’ to themselves.
That wraps up the West Virginia edition of Fun Facts About the 50 States. Next week we’ll be nibbling ourselves into a cheese-coma as we visit Wisconsin.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go lay in some supplies for my visit to Coal House.
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