Proposed States In The U.S. That Never Happened

For the majority of Americans alive today, the idea of 50 states might seem immutable. It is a nice round number that has not changed since 1959. Any thought of changing the number, especially to an odd one, appears unsettling. But in the America of the 2020s, the issue of partitioning existing states or adding new ones has gained considerable traction as political tensions between the left and right wings rise following the contentious 2020 election. 

While these movements can be a bit shocking to those used to the 50 states, they are nothing new. American history is full of attempts to partition and create new states out of existing ones, many of which ended up failing. From the Franklin to Deseret and beyond, numerous movements have petitioned Congress for statehood along geographic, cultural, racial, and political lines. Some of them continue to be debated to this day. Below are some of the most famous proposed states that failed to receive admittance, along with some currently pushing for recognition that might still get their chance.


According to the Journal of the American Revolution, there exists an oft-used but poorly understood term in American historiography called the "14th colony." Although it is defined as a colony that did not revolt against British rule, the term is incorrectly used to describe at least eight different entities. One of these, however, did request this title – the short-lived colony of Westsylvania.

According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, a group of speculators led by Benjamin Franklin founded the Vandalia Company to colonize Western Pennsylvania's Ohio River Valley. The settlement eventually would extend into Kentucky and West Virginia. In 1772, King George III's Privy Council chartered the Colony of Vandalia, named in honor of British Queen Charlotte's alleged Vandal ancestors. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775 put the project on the backburner.

The inhabitants of Vandalia did not give up their aspirations for independence. According to the "History of the Upper Ohio Valley," Pennsylvania and Virginia both had territorial designs on the area. Vandalia's inhabitants, however, were independence-minded. In 1775-76, they issued a petition for a state called Westsylvania. The petition noted that Richmond and Philadelphia were too far away to effectively govern the Ohio Valley frontier. Their malfeasance and lack of interest in the area had led to a slew of abuses enumerated in Westsylvania's independence declaration. Thus, they requested to be admitted as a "Sister Colony & the fourteenth Province of the American Confederacy." The Founding Fathers ignored it, distracted by war, and Virginia and Pennsylvania split the former colony among themselves.


According to GMU's Virginia Places, the original 13 states all laid claims to frontier lands, resulting in a series of messy land disputes. To solve this issue, states often ceded the land to the Confederation Congress (the government under the Articles of Confederation) to organize into new territories and states. In early-1780's North Carolina, a farcical set of events thwarted a hardy frontiersman's attempt to create the State of Franklin.

According to the NC History Project, the state sought to unload a group of politically and geographically detached western counties. But the state legislators were keen to profit first. The Land Grab Act of 1783 placed North Carolina's western lands for sale, and the legislators bought them up. The entire deal, of course, was of questionable legality. Then the territory was ceded to Congress with the expectation that it would honor the deals. Following the cession, the inhabitants of the ceded lands feared Congress would sell the land as war debt repayment (via Smithsonian). According to the Tennessee State Museum, the locals preemptively created the state of Franklin in 1784 under Revolutionary War veteran John Sevier (pictured above). The state's radical constitution included near-full male suffrage but banned doctors, lawyers, and clergy from politics.

Meanwhile, North Carolina had voted to nullify the cession, so the U.S. government intervened to end the quarrel. Congress rejected Sevier's petition for Franklin's statehood, forcing him and his followers to rejoin North Carolina in 1789. The state then promptly ceded the lands back to Congress to create a new territory. It ended well for Sevier, however. He became governor of the newly-minted Territory of Tennessee.


According to the National Humanities Center, the Church of Latter-Day Saints emerged from the religious ferment of the Second Great Awakening. After their expulsion from Nauvoo, Illinois and the murder of their founder Joseph Smith, the group colloquially known as Mormons migrated west into what was then part of Mexico under Smith's successor Brigham Young. According to an observer published in the American Catholic Quarterly Review, "Brigham Young was king" of the theocratic State of Deseret, as both the civil head and president of the church. Non-Mormons, including Catholics, were allowed some freedom of worship. But in 1848, the Mormons returned to American sovereignty after Mexico ceded its northwestern territories under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. According to the LDS Church, the once-isolated Mormon settlements, which had wanted to be left alone, were drawn into the greater American economy and came to the attention of the federal government in Washington.

According to the Utah History Encyclopedia, Young realized that the future lay with the United States and petitioned Congress to make Deseret a territory. Young hoped, per Deseret News, that the Territory of Deseret would include Southern California, giving Deseret maritime access. Simultaneously, Young and his advisors hastily drafted a constitution and petitioned for Deseret's statehood. Unsurprisingly, Congress rejected that petition but accepted Young's territory proposal – with some changes. Deseret renounced all claims to California, and according to the LOC, rebaptized itself "Utah" after the Native American Ute tribe. However, it retained the modern state of Nevada, so Young accepted the conditions and dissolved the State of Deseret in 1851, becoming Utah's first governor. Several subsequent attempts to reconstitute Deseret during periods of Mormon-federal hostility failed and Utah became a state in 1896.


Although most proposals originated among European and American settlers, a group of Native American tribes sought to obtain their own star on Old Glory in 1905. Modern day-Oklahoma was essentially (and sadly) the federal government's dumping ground for deported Native American tribes (via Britannica). The eastern portion formed a distinct legal entity called Indian Territory whose inhabitants were permitted self-rule. The 1898 Curtis Act, however, stipulated Indian Territory's dissolution by 1906. Alarmed at the prospect of losing their independence and possibly their tribal identities, the Five Civilized Tribes, led by the Cherokee, settled on statehood, per the Oklahoma Historical Society. The new state would be called Sequoyah after the creator of the Cherokee Syllabary. Unlike most other states, according to the Library of Congress, it had a Native American majority. The Five Tribes drafted a state constitution in 1905 that a supermajority of participating voters ratified (albeit among low turnout).

After ratification, the bill for statehood went before the 59th Congress in 1906. The records of the 59th Congress indicate Republican opposition to the bill. Congressman Bird McGuire, (R-OK) argued that uniting Oklahoma Territory with Indian Territory would force whites and natives together and pressure the latter to conform to the former, thereby accelerating assimilation. Sequoyah's statehood was seen as a bid to block assimilation by giving the tribes their own state. 

While racism absolutely played a role, there were also more immediate political concerns. According to the University of Tulsa, the Republican Party sought to block the addition of a Democrat-majority state. They ultimately carried the day. The 1906 Enabling Act merged Indian Territory with Oklahoma Territory. The following year, Oklahoma became a state.


President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal was a relief program meant to attenuate the devastating economic effects of the Great Depression. However, not everyone benefited or wished to take part. According to South Dakota Magazine, farmers in that state were left out, despite years of drought. 

Meanwhile, in Wyoming, according to Prof. Phil Robertson of the University of Wyoming, FDR Democrats swept to power in the state capital Cheyenne. Upstate Wyoming, a Republican stronghold, had its interests relegated to the backburner since, according to the NY Times, Wyoming's Democratic Party represented railroad and oil interests in the south of the state. Tensions between the small rural communities in Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming and the larger towns in the states were exacerbated by the uneven spread of New Deal aid, leading to a full-blown movement for secession.

Under the leadership of former baseball player A.R. Swickard, Absaroka came into being in 1939. The fledgling state obtained some trappings of statehood. It issued its own license plates, had a Miss Absaroka beauty queen, and hosted King Haakon VII of Norway on a "state visit." The town of Sheridan, WY became the state capital. But in the end, it did not get far. The outbreak of the Second World War put a damper on the movement, while Wyoming in particular placated the secessionists with concessions. Today the movement is considered a joke of sorts, although the secessionists were serious about moving it forward.

Washington, D.C.

On April 22nd, 2021, the Democrat-majority House of Representatives passed the Washington, D.C. Admission Act. According to NPR, its proponents hailed the bill as giving the citizens of Washington, D.C. full representation within the U.S. government. Since D.C. residents pay taxes, they should have the same representation as other U.S. citizens, as the Founding Father's famous rallying cry points out. 

However, Republican lawmakers have accused the Democrats of a naked power grab to gain additional Senate seats to push through their chosen policies. But D.C. statehood faces the major hurdle of the U.S. Constitution, and currently your view on how constitutional a state of D.C. would be depends on which side of the aisle you fall on.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, argued for the constitutionality of D.C. statehood in the Washington Post, writing, "There are no good legal arguments against it." Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, on the other hand, believes that Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution explicitly empowers Congress "to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District." The word "District" here refers to the nation's capital, which would become Washington, D.C. in 1791. Thus, it's his opinion that D.C. statehood would require a constitutional amendment, and conveniently for Republicans like himself, in the current political climate, the chances of mustering the required ⅔ majority to amend the constitution are basically zero.


In 1858, the NY Times (via Mackinac Journal) reported that Michigan and Wisconsin were finalizing the creation of the State of Ontonagon in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Although it, and subsequent late-19th century attempts for UP statehood failed, it highlighted the economic, political, and cultural differences between the UP (whose inhabitants are known as Yoopers) and the rest of Michigan. The UP has frequently complained of a lack of representation and control over its tax dollars (via NBC), and sympathy for secession remains to this day.

The differences between Lower and sparsely populated Upper Michigan are stark. The UP (via the NY Times) has its own Finnish-influenced dialect and have their own separate history from the rest of the state. Yet secession attempts have consistently gone nowhere. The latest one in the mid-1980s only garnered 20,000 signatures out of a required 36,000 to even get on the ballot. 

But the possibility of a "State of Superior" could rise again thanks to recent political changes. The Washington, D.C. Admission Act has proposed making Washington, D.C. a state, which would give the Democratic Party two more guaranteed Senate seats. However, the Wisconsin State Journal has noted that Republicans will expect concessions in return, namely a state of their own to balance D.C.'s new senators. Thus, the State of Superior could be the key to solving the question of D.C. statehood and preserving a balance of power in Congress. For Superior's proponents, it is a golden opportunity.


The state of Jefferson is an ongoing attempt to detach the rural regions of Northern California and Southern Oregon from their respective states. According to the University of Oregon's Jefferson Public Radio, the poor state of the area's highways and roads hampered economic development and caused resentment among the locals towards their state governments. Thus, in 1941, a group of armed secessionists rose up "in patriotic rebellion" and elected John Childs as governor of their new state.

Jefferson issued an independence declaration, which accused both California and Oregon of neglecting the region's vital copper mining industry. Armed militias set up checkpoints and collected tolls from travelers, in defiance of California State Police attempts to disarm them. Interestingly, though, Jefferson would only be in rebellion every Thursday, making it more of an armed protest rather than an outright secession movement. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the movement faded as the country unified behind the war effort.

Lately, the idea of the state of Jefferson has returned to the fore, at least according to the movement's website. The proponents have explicitly said that they wish to form a separate state within the USA, not secede and become independent. This movement seems to be a reaction to the Yes California! movement, which seeks California's independence from the United States, but there is little more information regarding their motivations. Based on the movement's newsletters, however, political and cultural differences between conservative and liberal areas of the state (via SF Chronicle) are likely driving factors.

Greater Idaho

Another partition campaign in the Pacific Northwest aims to create the State of Greater Idaho. As of November 3, 2021, eight Oregon counties have voted to secede and join Idaho. Their motivation? Differences in politics, culture, and money all play a role.

Forbes notes that the counties in question are all heavily Republican in a Democratic state whose politics are dominated by the densely populated urban centers of Portland and Salem. Their grievances, per The World Link, include neglect by Oregon's Democratic state government, which they feel does not represent their interests. The COVID-19 crisis (via the New Yorker) further exacerbated tensions. According to the Malheur Enterprise, Governor Kate Brown's issuing of a vaccine mandate during a public health crisis threatened to devastate Oregon's rural healthcare system if staff walked off the job rather than get vaccinated. Idaho, on the other hand, offered lower taxes, less regulation, few gun restrictions, and some counties where COVID vaccine mandates were illegal (via KTVB).

In order to happen, Oregon, Idaho, California (should the north join), and Congress would need to approve the measure. The Greater Idaho Movement has noted that the plan neither creates a new state nor affects the Senate's balance of power, points they believe are in their favor. They also believe California and Oregon would lose little from ceding these less-populated areas.

Chicago/Cook County

In 2010, the Illinois Times reported that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Pat Quinn was likely to be the next governor of Illinois. Quinn had accomplished this with merely three counties, including the deep-blue Cook County and the City of Chicago. Quinn's victory highlighted the tensions between the densely populated Democrat fortress of Chicagoland and the rural Republican counties of downstate Illinois that feel politically disenfranchised at the state level. The Illinois GOP's proposed solution, according to the Chicago Tribune? Kick Chicago out of Illinois.

Proponents of the New Illinois Movement have a laundry list of grievances against Chicago. Chicago Magazine notes that Illinois taxpayers have repeatedly been on the hook for Chicago's fiscal mismanagement, while the city's strict gun laws influence statewide gun policy towards greater restrictions. In contrast, many downstate counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries that do not enforce state or federal gun restrictions. These are just two issues among a plethora of others the movement lists. Basically, downstate Illinois sees itself as another world from Chicago.

However, opponents of partition note that downstate Illinois receives more money than it pays into the state coffers in taxes, which would be a problem for it if the split actually happened. Thus, Chicago Magazine notes that splitting the state might be a good compromise. Chicago would retain more money and downstate could preserve its cultural separateness. In today's America, such a solution is not outside the realm of possibility.

Puerto Rico

According to The Conversation, 55% of Puerto Ricans voted in a non-binding referendum on statehood in 2020, with 53% of those who voted supporting statehood. But the result was far from a resounding endorsement. The question of statehood for this U.S. territory spans a complex series of cultural and financial issues that make the island's road to statehood rockier than just a simple vote of Congress.

The Conversation notes that despite support for statehood, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon because enough Puerto Ricans and other Americans alike do not support it. While there are financial considerations, the conservative thinktank the Heritage Foundation pinpointed the main divide as cultural back in a 1997 comment on H.R. 856. Puerto Rican statehood would require the language of government and education to default to English. But Spanish-speaking, Puerto Rico's culture descends from a mix of Spanish and indigenous Taino influences. Puerto Ricans generally have no interest in replacing Spanish with English. According to the left-leaning Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Puerto Ricans rightly fear that their Hispanic culture will be trampled underfoot by American mass media. 

But ultimately, economic considerations may prevail. If the economic benefits of statehood outweigh the cultural and linguistic costs, Puerto Ricans may still vote to join the United States as a state if given the opportunity. Only time will tell.