The Making of the United States of America - When and How the States Came to Be
Nine More Came Before the End of the Nineteenth Century
A Short Course in U. S. History
Reprinted with permission of Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services
Nebraska - 37
Admitted: March 1, 1867
Prior time as territory: 13 years
Journey to statehood: Almost derailed at the last minute because of a restrictive provision in the state constitution that allowed only free white males to vote. President Andrew Johnson pocket-vetoed the Nebraska admission act, then vetoed it again outright, not relenting until the offending language was removed.
Colorado - 38
Admitted: August 1, 1876
Prior time as territory: 15 years
Journey to statehood: Stopped and started repeatedly. In 1859, residents rejected statehood in a plebiscite. In 1863, the territorial delegate introduced a statehood bill that died in committee. In 1864, Congress passed an enabling act, producing a state constitution that was rejected by the people. In 1865, the people approved a constitution and elected "senators" only to have them rejected by President Andrew Johnson. Statehood finally prevailed after the Civil War ended, railroads arrived and Indians were shoved aside.
North and South Dakota - 39 and 40
Admitted: November 2, 1889
Population: 460,000 (combined)
Prior time as territory: 28 years
Journey to statehood: became a political football as Republicans tried to get two states for the price of one by dividing the heavily Republican Dakota territory in half. But a Democratic-controlled Congress wanted to admit it as only one state, in exchange for Democratic New Mexico. A Republican sweep of the White House and Congress in the 1888 elections broke the stalemate, and America wound up with double Dakotas.
Montana - 41
Admitted: November 8, 1889
Prior time as territory: 25 years
Journey to statehood: Stuck to the well-trod western path of Indian killings, gold rushes and silver bonanzas followed by an influx of settlers clamoring for statehood. Montana's statehood bid also benefited from the Republican sweep at the polls in 1888. That victory greased the skids for the admission of four GOP "Omnibus" states: the two Dakotas, Montana and Washington.
Washington - 42
Admitted: November 11, 1889
Prior time as territory: 36 years
Journey to statehood: Thwarted in 1867, when a territorial petition for statehood was ignored by Congress. Thwarted again in 1878, when an unauthorized state constitution was drafted but then ignored by congress. Thwarted almost annually after that, when Democrats in Congress repeatedly shot down enabling acts introduced by the Washington delegate. Finally successful with the republican electoral sweep of 1888.
Idaho - 43
Admitted: July 3, 1890
Prior time as territory: 27 years
Journey to statehood: Previously handicapped by erratic population growth, but spurred on by the success of its neighboring "Omnibus" states. Territorial leaders called an unauthorized constitutional convention in 1889, and the resulting charter was approved by residents. Congress approved the constitution the following year, despite objections to some provisions, such as voting restrictions on Mormon men practicing polygamy.
Wyoming - 44
Admitted: July 10, 1890
Population: 60, 705
Prior time as territory: 22 years
Journey to statehood: Faced minimal opposition in Congress, other than concerns about a small population. Some congressmen also didn't like the fact that the territorial legislature had granted equal rights to women, including the right to vote. Like Arkansas, Florida -- and later Hawaii -- Wyoming held a constitutional convention without congressional approval but didn't elect senators or representatives until it had been admitted.
Utah - 45
Admitted: January 4, 1896
Prior time as territory: 46 years
Journey to statehood: Stalled for decades because of federal laws against polygamy, which was practiced by the Mormons who settled the territory. The Mormons endured various forms of federal persecution, including the dissolution of their church, confiscation of church property, abolition of women's suffrage and imposition of loyalty oaths for citizens. Statehood was achieved only after the Mormons struck an 1890 deal with the government to outlaw polygamy, establish public schools in the state and relinquish public control over political parties.
Note: Population is at time of entry into the Union. Date of admission reflects the effective date of each state's admission, rather than the date of congressional passage. While the dates are the same in some cases, such as Florida's, the effective date typically followed the date of passage by several months.
Source: Knight-Ridder Tribune (1993)