West Virginia

Read this profile of West Virginia to learn about the state's history, points of interest, and government. Also find interesting facts about each state, including the state's motto, symbols, and when it entered the union.
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Flag of W.Va.

Capital: Charleston

State abbreviation: W.VA.

Postal code: WV

Population est.: 1,816,856

Largest City (2005 est.): Charleston, 51,176

Land area: 24,077 sq mi. (62,359 sq km)

U.S. Representatives: 3

Entered Union (rank): June 20, 1863 (35)

Motto: Montani semper liberi (Mountaineers are always free)

Origin of name: In honor of Elizabeth, "Virgin Queen" of England

State symbols:

flower: rhododendron
bird: cardinal
song: "West Virginia, My Home Sweet Home," "The West Virginia Hills," and "This Is My West Virginia"
tree: sugar maple

Nickname:Mountain State

Residents: West Virginian

Did you know: most of the country's glass marbles made around Parkersburg, West Virginia

Map of WV


West Virginia's early history from 1609 until 1863 is largely shared with Virginia, of which it was a part until Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861. The delegates of the 40 western counties who opposed secession formed their own government, which was granted statehood in 1863.

In 1731 Morgan Morgan established the first permanent white settlement on Mill Creek in present-day Berkeley County. Coal, a mineral asset that would figure significantly in West Virginia's history, was discovered in 1742. Other important natural resources are oil, natural gas, and hardwood forests, which cover about 75% of the state's area.

The state's rapid industrial expansion began in the 1870s, drawing thousands of European immigrants and African Americans into the region. Miners' strikes between 1912 and 1921 required the intervention of state and federal troops to quell the violence.

Today, the state ranks second in total coal production, with about 15% of the U.S. total. It is also a leader in steel, glass, aluminum, and chemical manufactures. Major agricultural commodities are poultry and eggs, dairy products, and apples.

Tourism is increasingly popular in mountainous West Virginia. More than a million acres have been set aside in 37 state parks and recreation areas and in 9 state forests and 2 national forests. Major points of interest include Harpers Ferry and New River Gorge National River, The Greenbrier and Berkeley Springs resorts, the scenic railroad at Cass, and the historic homes in the Eastern Panhandle.

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