The BEST Episodes of How the States Got Their Shapes

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Sep 17, 2021

Network: History

We are so familiar with the map of United States, but do we know why our states look the way they do? Every shape on the map tells a great story about our past. This special examines how every state is a puzzle piece ultimately revealing the unique... geography, political and social history of America.

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A River Runs Through It

#1 - A River Runs Through It

Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired May 3, 2011

How has water has literally shaped the States? There's surprising history hidden in the blue, squiggly lines on the map. Did the founding fathers make a mistake along the Georgia Tennessee border? Can that boundary actually change because of water? Why does Maine have so much water? Why was Nevada was left high and dry? -- All these answers can be found in the unique shapes of these states.

star 8.12
52 votes
Hatfields vs. McCoys

#2 - Hatfields vs. McCoys

Season 2 - Episode 4 - Aired Oct 6, 2012

America's most iconic rivalry was more than just a feud between families. The fight between the Hatfields and McCoys nearly launched a war between two states.

star 8.09
32 votes
North vs. South

#3 - North vs. South

Season 2 - Episode 5 - Aired Oct 13, 2012

It's America's original rivalry, a divide that was so wide it took a war to close the gap. But have we really reunited, or are we still fighting a culture war?

star 8.06
31 votes
Battle of the Bible Belt

#4 - Battle of the Bible Belt

Season 2 - Episode 8 - Aired Oct 20, 2012

With 85% of Americans affiliated with an organized religion, we're a nation of believers, but have we always practiced what we preached?

star 8.06
31 votes
Rich vs. Poor

#5 - Rich vs. Poor

Season 2 - Episode 17 - Aired Dec 8, 2012

Money makes the world go 'round and in America, the pursuit of fortune and riches has shaped our states. Some states have built enormous economies on resources like gold, oil, or timber, but they first had to draw their borders around all the riches in order to stake a claim. In the race to grab up all the country's treasures, which states were the slowest on the uptake, and which came out on top?

star 8.06
31 votes
Red State vs. Blue State

#6 - Red State vs. Blue State

Season 2 - Episode 1 - Aired Sep 29, 2012

It's a rivalry that tears us apart every four years, but how did our nation divide into red states vs. blue states, and what happens to the states caught in the middle?

star 8.06
33 votes
East vs. West

#7 - East vs. West

Season 2 - Episode 13 - Aired Nov 10, 2012

The squabble between east coast and west coast leaves the rest of the country stuck in the middle. It's a rivalry that has made its way into our popular culture, but is there any common ground in this continental tug of war?

star 8.00
32 votes
Mess with Texas

#8 - Mess with Texas

Season 2 - Episode 15 - Aired Nov 24, 2012

Everything is bigger in Texas. It's the only state that acts like a country, but has it grown too big for its britches? We'll mess with Texas to settle this ten-gallon rivalry.

star 8.00
32 votes
State of Rebellion

#9 - State of Rebellion

Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired May 24, 2011

How did the most rebellious states took shape? How did they earn their outsized features and outspoken reputations. For instance, why does Montana looks like it took a bite out of Idaho? Why wasn't Texas broken up into five states? And why exactly do we have not one but two Carolinas?

star 7.71
93 votes
Living On The Edge

#10 - Living On The Edge

Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired Jun 7, 2011

Mysterious or fringe areas and how they shaped the states are examined. States include Nevada; Florida; Missouri; and Georgia.

star 7.67
69 votes
Mouthing Off

#11 - Mouthing Off

Season 1 - Episode 10 - Aired Jul 12, 2011

We all live in the same country, so why do we sound do different? It's a matter of where you are on the map. Why didn't the southern accent exist until after the Civil War? How did California athletes end up coining so many new words? Why do we have so many different words for the same things -- like pop versus soda? Will one particularly strong accent cause New York to break up and create a 51st state?

star 7.65
66 votes
The Great Plains, Trains and Automobiles

#12 - The Great Plains, Trains and Automobiles

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired May 10, 2011

The history of transportation is hidden in the lines of the map. From canals to trains and cars, how did getting around help draw the American map? Could Chicago have been in Wisconsin? Why are states out West or so big and boxy? And why did we almost had a state called Forgottonia?

star 7.61
77 votes
Church and States

#13 - Church and States

Season 1 - Episode 7 - Aired Jun 21, 2011

The influence of religion is considered. States include Utah; and Kansas; and New England states.

star 7.56
66 votes
Culture Clash

#14 - Culture Clash

Season 1 - Episode 9 - Aired Jul 5, 2011

Conflict can sometimes arise between different cultures that share the same state. Find out how culture clashes all over the country have shaped our map.

star 7.55
67 votes
Is West Best?

#15 - Is West Best?

Season 2 - Episode 11 - Aired Nov 3, 2012

Americans have been racing to tame the West since they first set foot on the continent, but now that the West has been won, what's next? Is the West still the best.

star 7.16
31 votes
City vs. Country

#16 - City vs. Country

Season 2 - Episode 12 - Aired Nov 3, 2012

In the battle between city and country, it looks like the city is coming out ahead in population, but is there something about the country that all the city slickers are missing? And how has the move from rural to urban changed the shapes of our states and cities?

star 7.16
31 votes
Rebels & Outlaws

#17 - Rebels & Outlaws

Season 2 - Episode 14 - Aired Nov 17, 2012

We may be a law-abiding nation but we also admire the outlaw, and the clash between rebels and the rules has shaped our states. Which states like to make their own rules, and which do the heat have on lockdown?

star 7.16
31 votes
State vs. State

#18 - State vs. State

Season 2 - Episode 16 - Aired Dec 8, 2012

We're the United States, but sometimes, it's every state for itself. Nearly every state has pulled a power play that gamed the system and changed the map. How much can you get away with when it's state vs. state?

star 7.16
31 votes
Big vs. Small

#19 - Big vs. Small

Season 2 - Episode 18 - Aired Dec 15, 2012

Does size matter when you're a state? While the giants like to throw their weight around, there are some scrappy underdogs that have made their mark on the map.

star 7.16
31 votes
The United Shapes of America

#20 - The United Shapes of America

Season 2 - Episode 19 - Aired Dec 22, 2012

After three years on the road, host Brian Unger is taking a different look at just how our states got their shapes. We'll hear about the unique American values that have made this country what it is today, and travel from coast to coast and everywhere in between. Along the way, Brian reveals that just as we shaped the map, it has shaped us.

star 7.16
31 votes
White Collar vs. Blue Collar

#21 - White Collar vs. Blue Collar

Season 2 - Episode 2 - Aired Sep 29, 2012

Deep in the Rust Belt the white collar and blue collar divide has shaped our cities and our states. How did this rivalry change the way we all bring home the bacon?

star 7.16
32 votes
Hillbilly vs. Redneck

#22 - Hillbilly vs. Redneck

Season 2 - Episode 3 - Aired Oct 6, 2012

Two underdogs of American culture go head to head to prove how hillbillies and rednecks have shaped our states.

star 7.16
32 votes
Bigfoot vs. Aliens

#23 - Bigfoot vs. Aliens

Season 2 - Episode 6 - Aired Oct 13, 2012

America is a nation under siege by unexplained phenomena. Whether you're afraid of Bigfoot or alien invasion might depend on what state you call home.

star 7.07
30 votes
Great Lakes, Big Stakes

#24 - Great Lakes, Big Stakes

Season 2 - Episode 7 - Aired Oct 20, 2012

Battles over access to lakefront property have made the Great Lakes region the most contested land on the entire map, and even pushed the states to a border war.

star 7.07
30 votes
Vice vs. Virtue

#25 - Vice vs. Virtue

Season 2 - Episode 9 - Aired Oct 27, 2012

Americans have a lot of vices and they don't just stay in Vegas. From drugs to gambling, the state you live in may shape how bad you can be.

star 7.07
30 votes