From its pivotal moments in American history to its unique cultural and environmental attributes, Virginia stands out as a state of both historical significance and modern-day interest.
Here are eight fun facts that shed light on the diverse aspects of this fascinating state.
1. The Controversial Birth of West Virginia: During the tumultuous times of the Civil War, the creation of West Virginia was marked by controversy. Citizens, opting not to join the conflict, convened to form their own state. The split from Virginia required the existing government’s consent, a condition bypassed when Abraham Lincoln recognized West Virginia’s representatives as the legitimate government, paving the way for the state’s creation without Virginia’s formal approval.
2. A Struggle with Mental Health: West Virginia faces a significant challenge in mental health, ranking as the state with the poorest mental health in America. An alarming thirty of the fifty counties with the most severe mental health issues in the country are located in West Virginia, including the top ten.
3. Preserving Religious Freedom: The efforts of James Madison, a Founding Father and the author of the Bill of Rights, along with Thomas Jefferson, were instrumental in preventing the Virginia Assembly from establishing Christianity as the state religion. Their advocacy for religious freedom is a testament to their forward-thinking principles.
4. A Symbol of Virtue: The flag of Virginia features an exposed breast on the figure of Virtus, the Roman goddess of virtue, a detail added in 1901. This design choice was made to counter the goddess’s previously masculine appearance, embodying a more accurate representation of virtue’s strength and femininity.
5. The Sinking Island with a Unique Dialect: Tangier Island, home to around 500 residents, is a Virginia community on a sinking island where a distinctive form of Old English is spoken. This dialect, reminiscent of the English Restoration era, is believed to have remained nearly unchanged since the island’s initial settlement by English colonists.
6. A State of Independent Cities: Virginia is unique for its 41 “independent cities,” a concept where cities operate independently of any county. Of these, 38 are located within Virginia, highlighting the state’s distinct administrative structure.
7. Environmental Concerns with Teflon Production: The DuPont company, known for its Teflon products, faced criticism for disposing of toxic waste chemicals into the waters of Parkersburg, West Virginia. This issue underscores the environmental challenges associated with industrial production in the state.
8. A Burger Battle: The story of Whataburger in Texas and What-A-Burger in Virginia, both established around 1950 and unaware of each other’s existence until 1970, reflects a quirky chapter in American fast-food history. After both parties sued for naming rights, the court decided that there was little risk of customer confusion over the origin of their burgers, allowing both brands to coexist.