The Civil War smashed the economy of the South, and parts of some states - Mississippi, TENNESSEE and Virginia among them - are still desperately poverty-stricken. Other parts rose from the ashes - literally in ATLANTA's case - and took on successful new commercial and industrial roles to offset the destruction of the plantation economy.
The entire area is immensely popular with tourists, since everywhere is propagated a nostalgic flavor of Dixie, the 'Ole Plantation' and mint juleps. For music buffs there are jazz bands in New Orleans, blues and rock 'n' roll in MEMPHIS and country and western in NASHVILLE, while LOUISVILLE offers the Kentucky Derby.
The most recent partners in the Union, Alaska and HAWAII, were admitted as the 49th and 50th states in 1959. Alaska was wrested from the Indians by the Russians around 1800 and bought for the USA in 1867 by Secretary of State William H. Seward for $7.2 million. Though dubbed 'Seward's icebox' or 'Seward's Folly' at the time, it was one of the greatest bargains in history, for it is exceedingly rich in timber and minerals, including gold, petroleum and coal.
Although over 3700 km (2300 miles) west of San Francisco, Hawaii is in no doubt that it is American - though as late as 1893 its 130 or so islands formed a Polynesian kingdom. Originally charted as the Sandwich Islands, they were discovered by Captain Cook in 1778; he was slain there by natives the following year. Since then, Hawaii has been more hospitable to mariners and other wanderers, so that today its population is a polyglot mixture of Polynesian, Asian and European.