18 Facts We Learned About The US In 2021 That Made Us Say 'Really?'

List Rules
Vote up the facts about the United States that make you see the country in a new way.

Both the history and the geography of the United States have shaped the country, outlining and defining everything from boundaries to naming conventions. Each of the 50 US states has its own unique story to tell, as do the rivers and mountains within their borders.

In 2021, we got really curious about the United States - and how it's developed and changed over the past couple of centuries. We explored laws, geography, culture, and commerce in the US and found out some pretty cool facts. Vote up the ones that have you looking at the United States in a whole new light. 

  • A small segment of land on Ocracoke Island, located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is still, technically, under lease to the English government. In 1942, the British naval vessel HMT Bedfordshire was one of several ships patrolling the eastern coast of the US looking for German U-boats (submarines).

    When HMT Bedfordshire was sunk on May 11 by a U-boat, all of the English ship's crew members lost their lives. Four cadavers later washed up on Ocracoke Island. Resident Jack Willis recalled seeing them brought to the Coast Guard station:

    When they pulled up the canvas, I recognized one of them. He had on a turtleneck and looked pretty normal. His beard was still coal black...

    Two out of the four men were identified, but they were all buried on the island rather than sent back to Britain. A monument was erected and it, along with their graves, was leased "in perpetuity" to Britain.

    501 votes
  • Portland, OR, is named after Portland, ME - but it almost wasn't.

    When settlers founded the Oregon city, they couldn't decide if they should name it Boston or Portland. So they let fate decide for them: In 1845, they flipped a coin, and Portland won. The so-called "Portland Penny" remains a cherished artifact of the city's founding.

    341 votes
  • A neighborhood known as Pinecraft located outside Sarasota, FL, has been a place for the Amish to spend a vacation since the 1920s. 

    Every winter, hundreds of Amish and Mennonite families travel from their homes in America and Canada to this sunny neighborhood to spend a few weeks or months at one of the modest bungalows

    Many Amish people look forward to vacationing in the Pinecraft neighborhood because it is the only time of year when their strict cultural rules are loosened and they can spend time with people from communities other than their own.

    501 votes
  • The Four Largest Cities In The US Are Located In Alaska
    Photo: Laubenstein Ronald, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The most populous cities in the US are New York and Los Angeles. New York is home to more than 8 million people, more than double the number of people living in Los Angeles. Chicago and Houston are third and fourth in population, respectively, but the largest four cities, by area, are all located in Alaska.

    Sitka is 2,870 square miles in area, while Juneau and Wrangell similarly span more than 2,500 square miles. Anchorage is 1,704 square miles. For comparison, the largest city by area in the contiguous US - Jacksonville, FL - is 747 square miles. New York City is about 320 square miles and Los Angeles is roughly 500 square miles.

    Given Alaska's size, the state could actually be split in two and still be the first- and second-largest states in the US. Currently, Alaska is the largest state, with Texas coming in second. But if Alaska were divided in two, Texas would be the third largest. Alaska covers 664,988 square miles while Texas has 268,597 square miles within its borders. 

    382 votes
  • "Everything is bigger in Texas" is a well-known saying that definitely applies to the King Ranch.

    In 1853, Richard King purchased land in the Wild Horse Desert area of Texas. By the end of the Civil War, King's property covered 146,000 acres, which was quite sizable, but pales in comparison to its current size of 825,000 acres, or approximately 1,290 square miles. This makes the ranch larger than the state of Rhode Island, which is 1,034 square miles.

    King Ranch is known for raising and breeding cattle and horses - among the latter was 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault. In 1940, King Ranch had its Santa Gertrudis brand of cattle recognized by the US Department of Agriculture as the first beef brand ever produced in America. In 1961, the ranch was designated a National Historic Landmark.

    383 votes
  • A Nuclear Bomb Was Lost Off The Coast Of Georgia In 1958 - And It's Probably Still There
    Photo: US Atomic Energy Commission / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    On February 5, 1958, a nuclear bomb was lost in the waters off Tybee Island, GA. The incendiary device, which has unknown quantities of radioactive material, has never been found. 

    How did it end up in the ocean? During a training exercise, an F-86 fighter jet experienced a midair collision with a B-47 bomber carrying the Mark 15 thermonuclear device. To prevent the bomb from detonating if he were to crash, the pilot decided to drop the 7,000-pound object into the ocean before landing at Hunter Air Force Base. 

    Shortly afterward, a search team of Navy personnel was dispatched to trace where it fell. After a two-month search was unsuccessful, officials decided to leave it where it had fallen. According to the US Air Force, as long as the device is left undisturbed, it poses no threat to the area. 

    417 votes