The United States of America us also known as: the United States, the U.S., the U.S. of A, USA, America, and the States. Its citizens are called Americans.
The U.S. is comprised of 50 states, as well as several territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other small islands). The population of the country (excluding territories) is approximately 310,715,000.
The U.S. is so large that it includes many different climates, weather conditions, such as tornados, hurricanes, drought, thunder storms, hail, and more. There are also many diverse landscapes including forests, desert, canyons, mountains, and volcanos.
The only thing more diverse than the landscape is the people. The U.S. is known as a mixture of people from all over the world. Everyone in the U.S. has ancestors that immigrated to the country (except Native Americans). Many people's roots are in Europe and Africa, but also Asia and South and Central America. Even though Americans come from all over the world, there can still be racism and prejudice against immigrants and minorities alike.
The United States is a democracy with a system of "checks and balances" to prevent any one group from having too much power. There is an elected President, the Congress made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives (all elected), and the Supreme Court comprised of 9 politically appointed judges that serve for life. There are also three levels of government: federal, state, and local.
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States.
A brief history of how the country began
While the territory was originally inhabited by Native Americans, the country is considered to be "founded" by British pilgrims seeking religious freedom in what was known as the "New World" (i.e. modern day U.S. and Canada). The first successful English settlements were Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth Colony in 1620.
As the colonies grew and developed, the inhabitants became discontent being under British rule. They were subject to paying Brtisih taxes, but they didn't have representation in the British Parliament. The tension led to the American Revolution (1775-1781). It was during this time that the colonies united and drafted the Declaration of Independence, which was issued on July 4, 1776. This day is now recognized as America's Independence Day, although actual independence wasn't achieved until much later.
Soon after independence, the country began to expand westwards, aquiring territories from France, Spain, Britain, and Mexico. Expansion also meant the displacement of the Native Americans who had lived on that land for hundreds of years.
In 1861, Civil War broke out between the northern and southern halves of the country. The war started because of tensions between the abolitionist (anti-slavery) North and pro-slavery South, as well as disputes over the relationship between federal and state governments. The southern states seceded from The Union (as the entire country was called) and formed The Confederate States of America. Abraham Lincoln, the president recently elected before the secession, wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, granting freedom to nearly four million slaves in the Confederacy and giving them legal rights. The South surrendered two years later, thus uniting the country again.
After the Civil War, there followed many important events that helped to shape the U.S. into the country it is today: World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the more current conflicts in the Middle East.
The bald eagle - It is the national bird, and it represents freedom, power, and security.
George Washington -The first president. He took office in 1789.
Statue of Liberty - A gift from France, this statue represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. It was the first thing immigrants arriving to America in the 19th and 20th centuries saw after traveling for weeks across the Atlantic Ocean.
American flag - The flag has 13 red and white alternating stripes representing the thirteen original colonies and 50 white stars on a blue background representing each state.
"The American Dream" – the national belief that freedom provides the possibility of prosperity and success. Many immigrants have come to the U.S. seeking the American Dream, which has often been represented in home ownership.
Thomas Edison - An American inventor and scientist who developed the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the light bulb amongst other things.
Orville and Wilbur Wright - The brothers who are credited with building the first successful airplane and making the first flight.
Andy Warhol - famous artist who helped develop the visual art style known as Pop Art in the 1960s. He's well-known for his painting of the Campbell's soup cans.
New York City (NYC) - Home to Wall Street, bagels, Broadway, and the Statue of Liberty, New York is the largest American city with 22.2 million people. It is also one of the most ethnically diverse cities—around 800 languages are spoken there. From 1785 to 1790, it served as the capital.
Las Vegas – Also known as "Sin City", this is the city in Nevada is where you can always lose money, although many hope to win a fortune gambling in its famous Casinos here. Las Vegas is home to many show girls, the women who dance alluringly to just about any music. It is also the setting for the hilarious movie "The Hangover," as well as numerous other American films. And remember... what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!
Disney World - The Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida where Walt Disney's animated characters come to life. It truly is a special place, especially for children, but it also costs an arm and a leg to go there. Some think it's a typical tourist trap.
The Grand Canyon – This is exactly what it sounds like: a very large canyon located in Arizona.
The world's first commercial motion picture exhibition was given in New York in 1894 and since the beginning of the 20th century, the US film industry has mostly been based in Hollywood.
Hollywood, California - A neighborhood in Los Angeles that is also known as Tinseltown because it shone with movie stars who worked at the important movie studios based there. However, much of the movie industry has since spread out into the surrounding Los Angeles area.
Marilyn Monroe - Originally named Norma Jean Baker, she's the blonde bombshell that became famous in the 1950's for her curves and sex appeal.
John Wayne - Known also as "The Duke" Marion Morrison became a famous Western movie actor in Hollywood. He epitomized masculinity and ruggedness. His walk and talk were his trademarks.
Humphrey Bogart - Another classic Hollywood actor, he was known for his dramatic films. He starred in "Casablanca," and said his famous line "Here's looking at you, kid."
Fred Astaire - A trained tap dancer, he made his mark dancing (and sometimes singing) in all of his films. He initially made many films with his dance partner Ginger Rogers.
Walt Disney - a pioneer of animated film and movies and the creator of many well-known fictional characters like Mickey Mouse.
Thanksgiving - A holiday on the fourth (but not final) Thursday of November.This holiday comes from the celebration of the first harvest the pilgrims had in the New World. It was only with the help of the Native Americans that the pilgrims were able to successfully cultivate the land. So to celebrate, the Native Americans and pilgrims gathered together to give thanks for the bountiful harvest.
The modern celebration of Thanksgiving includes gathering as a family to eat autumnal foods: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, and pumpkin pie. To prepare this feast, many people spend at least a whole day slaving away in the kitchen. After the meal, many people take naps because they just ate copious amounts of food. This day is also famous for stuffing your face until you are completely full, which is why many people wear pants with elastic waistbands so that their pants don't restrict their expanding tummies as they fill themselves with food. There are usually parades and football games on this day, too.
The Fourth of July - Considered America's independence day, the Fourth of July is a holiday during which people gather with their families for barbecues and then to see fireworks at night. During this time, many people wear red, white, and blue (the colors of the American flag), and sing national songs.
Popular sports include baseball, basketball, and football. These are the three main sports that youths play at school and college. They are also the sports most watched at the colegiate and professional levels. While soccer (known as football to the rest of the world) is not nationally popular, it is increasing in popularity.
Super Bowl Sunday - This day has the most-watched sporting event of the year: the final game between 2 professional football teams to decide the year's champion. People often have Super Bowl parties to watch the game together.
Being a large and culturally diverse country, American music reflects that. Historically famous genres include jazz, blues, rock and roll, country, folk, funk, and grunge. Over the last decade, American music has been dominated by rap and hip-hop.
Famous American Musicians
Elvis Presley - A musician and actor known as "The King of Rock and Roll."
Frank Sinatra - A musician known as "Old Blue Eyes."
Michael Jackson - A musician known as "The King of Pop."
Bob Dylan - A singer-songwriter whose music became anthems for the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements in the 1960s.
Jimi Hendrix - A 1960s musician famous for being a great electric guitarist. His rendition of the National Anthem is still played today.
James Brown - A musician known as "The Godfather of Soul."
Madonna - If you don't know who she is, you must not have been listening to music for the past 30 years (ouch... has it been that long?).
Britney Spears - The once-promising teen star whose life and career spiraled out of control. As of the posting of this information, she is still considered crazy but a well-loved crazy pop star.
Kurt Cobain - He was the lead singer of Nirvana and a pioneer of grunge music.
Famous American writers
Famous American writers that are really worth reading include Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthrone, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman, and Toni Morrison.
Typical American Food
Americans love food! Some typical foods that are considered part of American gastronomy are apple pie, fried chicken, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, mashed potatoes, barbecue (especially ribs and wings), crab cakes, chocolate chip cookies, tacos, pasta and french fries. However, Americans also eat fruits and vegetables, although they often come in cans or are pre-packaged. They also tend to eat out at restaurants and fast-food chains, or buy pre-packaged foods, such as the microwaveable meal.
Apple Pie - Considered a cultural icon of America
Hot dogs - Basically a sausage in a long bun often garnished with mustard, ketchup and/or onions. These are often sold in carts on the street as a quick snack and can also be bought at stadiums.
McDonald's - The original fast food chain we all love or hate began in 1940.
Coca-Cola - The carbonated drink that originally included cocaine (no, not anymore) and was intended to be used as a medicine. Its name and brand is one of the most recognized around the world.
American English actually incorporates many words from other languages. Examples: rodeo (Spanish), cookie and stoop (Dutch), and levee and prairie (French). However, most American words are the same as those used in British English.
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