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Geography of the United States of America

Learn All About the United States

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Gateway Arch in the United States

The Gateway Arch is seen from the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri. The Gateway Arch is a monument to the westward expansion of the United States of America.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Updated March 10, 2010

Population: 307,212,123 (July 2009 estimate)
Capital: Washington D.C.
Area: 3,794,100 square miles (9,826,675 sq km)
Bordering Countries: Canada and Mexico
Coastline: 12,380 miles (19,924 km)
Highest Point: Denali (also called Mount McKinley) at 20,335 feet (6,198 m)
Lowest Point: Death Valley at -282 feet (-86 m)

The United States of America is the third largest country in the world based on population and land area. The United States also has the world's largest economy and is one of the most influential nations in the world.

Independence and Modern History of the United States


The original 13 colonies of the United States were formed in 1732. Each of these had local governments and their populations grew quickly throughout the mid-1700s. However during this time tensions between the American colonies and the British government began to arise as the American colonists were subject to British taxation but had no representation in the British Parliament.

These tensions eventually led to the American Revolution which was fought from 1775-1781. On July 4, 1776, the colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence and following the American victory over the British in the war, the U.S. was recognized as independent of England. In 1788, the U.S. Constitution was adopted and in 1789, the first president, George Washington, took office.

Following its independence, the U.S. grew rapidly and the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 nearly doubled the nation's size. The early to mid-1800s also saw growth on the west coast as the California Gold Rush of 1848-1849 spurred western migration and the Oregon Treaty of 1846 gave the U.S. control of the Pacific Northwest.

Despite its growth, the U.S. also had severe racial tensions in the mid-1800s as African slaves were used as laborers in some states. Tensions between the slave states and non-slave states led to the Civil War and eleven states declared their secession from the union and formed the Confederate States of America in 1860. The Civil War lasted from 1861-1865 when the Confederate States were defeated.

Following the Civil War, racial tensions remained through the 20th century. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the U.S. continued to grow and remained neutral at the beginning of World War I in 1914. It later joined the Allies in 1917.

The 1920s were a time of economic growth in the U.S. and the country began to grow into a world power. In 1929 however the Great Depression began and the economy suffered until World War II. The U.S. also remained neutral during this war until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, at which time the U.S. joined the Allies.

Following WWII, the U.S. economy again began to improve. The Cold War followed shortly thereafter as did the Korean War from 1950-1953 and the Vietnam War from 1964-1975. Following these wars, the U.S. economy for the most part grew industrially and the nation became a world superpower concerned with its domestic affairs because public support waivered during previous wars.

On September 11, 2001, the U.S. was subject to terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., which led to the government pursuing a policy of reworking world governments, particularly those in the Middle East.

Government of the United States

The U.S. government is a representative democracy with two legislative bodies. These bodies are the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate consists of 100 seats with two representatives from each of the 50 states. The House of Representatives consists of 435 seats and are elected by the people from the 50 states. The executive branch consists of the President who is also the head of government and chief of state. On November 4, 2008 Barack Obama was elected as the first African American U.S. president.

The U.S. also has a judicial branch of government that is made up of the Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Courts and State and County Courts. The U.S. is comprised of 50 states and one district (Washington D.C.).

Economics and Land Use in the United States

The U.S. has the largest and most technologically advanced economy in the world. It mainly consists of the industrial and service sectors. The main industries include petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber and mining. Agricultural production, though only a small part of the economy, includes: wheat, corn, other grains, fruits, vegetables, cotton, beef, pork, poultry, dairy products, fish and forest products.

Geography and Climate of the United States

The U.S. borders both the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans and is bordered by Canada and Mexico. It is the third largest country in the world by area and has a varied topography. The eastern regions consist of hills and low mountains while the central interior is a vast plain (called the Great Plains region) and the west has high rugged mountain ranges (some of which are volcanic in the Pacific Northwest). Alaska also features rugged mountains as well as river valleys. Hawaii's landscape varies but is dominated by volcanic topography.

Like its topography, the climate of the U.S. also varies depending on location. It is considered mostly temperate but is tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the plains west of the Mississippi River and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest.

To learn more about the U.S. visit the U.S. section of this website and the American History page.

References

Central Intelligence Agency. (2010, March 4). CIA - the World Factbook - United States. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html

Infoplease. (n.d.). United States: History, Geography, Government, Culture - Infoplease.com. Retrieved from http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0108121.html

Wikipedia. (2010, March 9). United States - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States

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