The United States of America reference article from the Simple Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
(provided by Fixed Reference: snapshots of Wikipedia from

United States of America

You can make a difference by sponsoring a child
The United States of America is a country in North America.

Table of contents
1 Names for United States of America
2 Where is the United States of America
3 Introduction
4 Government
5 History
6 Politics
7 Political Groups
8 Geography
9 Economy
10 Demographics
11 Culture
12 Related Topics
13 External links

Names for United States of America

Where is the United States of America

The main part of the United States of America is in the middle of the continent of North America. It has borders with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, and touches the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. This part is made up of forty-eight states, sometimes called the contiguous states or the lower forty-eight.

Alaska and Hawaii are also states within the United States, but they are not joined to the others. Alaska is west of Canada, and Hawaii is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean.

United States of America also owns islands around the world, including:


The Eastern part of what is now the United States of America were colonized by the Kingdom of Great Britain from around the year 1500. In 1776 these colonies decided they no longer wanted to be ruled by Britain, and signed the United States Declaration of Independence, declaring they were free and independent states. Britain tried unsuccessfully to recapture the colonies in the American War of Independence.

People from many nations live in United States including people from Europe, Asia, Africa, and from Native American Indian tribes. People in the US mainly farmed until the industrial revolution and the 20th century. In the 20th century the US became heavily involved in the World. They began interacting with many countries culturally and economically, and becoming involved in many foreign wars.

The Constitution is a document that says how the government works. The basic idea is a representative democracy elected by the people.

United States of America
Flag of the United States of America
Great Seal of the U.S
(U.S. Flag) (U.S. Great Seal)
National mottos
(1776 - ): E Pluribus Unum
(Latin: "Out of many, one")
(1956 - ): In God We Trust
Official language None at federal level,
some states specify
English de facto
Spanish widely spoken in
some areas (+/-10% total)
Capital Washington, DC
Largest city New York City
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 3rd
9,629,091 km²
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 3rd
 - Declared
 - Recognized
Revolutionary War
July 4, 1776
September 3, 1783
GDP (base PPP)
 - Total (2002)
 - GDP/head
Ranked 1st(countries)
Ranked 1st(economies)
10,40 trillions $
37,600 $
Currency US dollar ($)
Time zone UTC -5 to UTC -11
National anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner"
Internet TLD.US .UM .EDU .GOV .MIL
Calling code1


The federal government is explained in the Constitution. There are three branches of government. They are the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. State governments work very much like the federal government.

Executive branch

The executive branch is the part of the government that makes sure laws are followed. Members of the U.S. Electoral College elect a President who is in charge of the executive branch. The President approves laws and signs treaties. He may also make "executive orders" to make sure people follow the law. Two famous executive orders were when Abraham Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation and when Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered 1,200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division to allow the Little Rock Nine into school. The President is in charge of many departments (such as the Department of Commerce) and agencies (such as NASA). As of 2004, there are 15 departments. The President appoints Supreme Court justices and heads of agencies and departments. The President is also in charge of the United States Army. The President may serve up to two 4-year terms.

Legislative branch

The legislative branch is the part of the government that makes laws. This is the most important branch. The legislative branch is made up of Congress. Congress is divided into two parts called "houses."

One house is the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives is made up of people elected by others from their states to represent them. The number of representatives a state has is based on how many people live in that state. As of 2009, there are 435 representatives. Representatives serve 2-year terms.

The other house is the Senate. The Senate is like the House of Representatives, except each state has two representatives no matter what. Before the President makes treaties or appoints officials, the Senate must approve them. Senators serve 6-year terms.

Representatives suggest laws in Congress. These are called bills. If two thirds of the house the representative is a member of vote to make the bill a law, it goes to the other house. If two thirds of that house support the bill, it goes to the President. If the President supports the bill, it becomes a law. If he doesn't support the bill he vetoes it. Congress can override the veto so it becomes a law anyway, but this is rarely done.

Judicial branch

The judicial branch is the part of government that decides what the laws mean. The judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court and many lower courts. If the Supreme Court decides that a law does not follow the Constitution, it is not a law anymore. The Supreme Court is made up of 8 associate justices and a Chief Justice. Justices are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate.


Main articles: History of the United States, Military history of the United States, Timeline of United States history

Following the European colonization of the Americas, the United States became the world's first modern democracy after its break with Great Britain, with a Declaration of Independence in 1776. The original political structure was a confederation in 1777, ratified in 1781 as the Articles of Confederation. After long debate, this was supplanted by the Constitution of a more centralized federal government in 1789. During the 19th century, many new states were added to the original thirteen as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. Two major traumatic experiences for the nation were the American Civil War (1862-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Following the end of World War II and then the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has become the world's most powerful nation-state.


Main article: Politics of the United States

The United States of America consists of 50 states with limited autonomy in which federal law takes precedence over state law. In general, matters that lie entirely within state borders are the exclusive concern of state governments. These include internal communications; regulations relating to property, industry, business, and public utilities; the state criminal code; and working conditions within the state.

The various state constitutions are similair to the federal Constitution, including a statement of the rights of the people and a plan for organizing the government. On such matters as the operation of businesses, banks, public utilities and charitable institutions, state constitutions are often more detailed and explicit than the federal constitution. The federal goverment control has grown over time and also helps in many of these same areas, especially giving money to the poor welfare, to old people social security.

The federal and state government is currently dominated by two political parties, the Republicans (center-right) and the Democrats (center-left), although minor party candidates and independents are occasionally elected to local or state office. Through out US history there have usually been two major politcal groups, and they draw support from a variety of people, buisnesses, and other orginizations. Access to funds is vital in the political system due to the financial costs of mounting policial campaigns. The corporations and other organized groups can somtimes effect government decision by offering money or voter support to a political party.

The immense cultural, economic, and military influence of the United States has made foreign relations an especially important topic in American politics, with considerable concern about the image of the United States throughout the world.

Political Groups

Main articles: Political divisions of the United States, States of the United States

At the time of the Declaration of Independence, the United States consisted of 13 states. In the following years, this number has grown steadily due to expansion to the west, conquest and purchase of lands by the American government, and division of existing states to the current number of 50:

The states are divided into smaller administrative regions: counties, cities and townshipss.

The United States also holds several other territories, districts and possessions, including the federal district of the District of Columbia (the nation's capital), and several overseas areas, the most significant of which are Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or U.S. abandonment of the area can terminate the lease.

The U.S. has made no territorial claim in Antarctica but has reserved the right to do so.

The United States is currently involved with Iraq. Forces of the US, theUnited Kingdom and other nations are in Iraq. This group is in the process of handing back control to the people of Iraq, after removing a goverment run by a Dictator. The removeing of this goverment in Iraq in 2003 is a controversial subject for many people in the US, the other nations involved, and in the world.


Main article: Geography of the United States

As the world's third largest nation (total area), the United States landscape varies greatly.

The climate varies along with the landscape, from tropical in Florida to tundra in Alaska. Large parts of the country have warm summers and cold winters. Some parts of the United States, particularly parts of California, have a Mediterranean climate.


Main article: Economy of the United States

The economy of the United States is organized on the capitalist model and is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, a large trade deficit, and rapid advances in technology. The American economy can be regarded as the most important in the world. Several countries have coupled their currency with the dollar, or even use it as a currency, and the American stock markets are globally seen as an indicator of world economy.

The country has rich mineral resources, with extensive gold, oil, coal and uranium deposits. Agriculture brings the country among the top producers of, among others, corn (maize), wheat, sugar and tobacco. American industry produces cars, airplanes and electronics. The biggest sector is however service industries; about three-quarters of Americans are employed in that sector.

The largest trading partner of the USA is its northern neighbor, Canada. Other major partners are Mexico, the Europe and the industrialized nations in the Asia, such as Japan, Taiwan, India, South Korea and China.

See also: List of American companies


Main article: Demographics of the United States

Most of the 280 million people currently living in the United States descend from European immigrants that have arrived since the establishment of the first colonies. Major components of the European segment of the United States population are descended from immigrants from Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland and Italy with many immigrants also from Scandinavian countries and the Slavic and other populations of eastern and southern Europe and French Canada. Likewise, while there were few immigrants directly from Spain, Hispanics from Mexico and South and Central America are considered the largest minority group in the country, comprising 13.4% of the population (38.6 million people) in 2002. This has brought increasing use of the Spanish language in the United States (see Languages in the United States). About 12% (2000 census) of the people are African Americans who largely descend from the African slaves that were brought to America. A third significant minority is the Asian American population (3.6%), who are most concentrated on the West Coast. The native population of Native Americans, such as American Indians and Inuit make up less than 1% of the population.

The level of Christian religious devotion in the US is showing a gradual decline, from 86.2% calling themselves Christian in 1990 to 76.5% saying this in 2001 (ARIS 2001). The religious memberships in 2001 were Protestant 52%, Catholic 24.5%, none 13.2%, Jewish 1.3% and 0.5-0.3% for Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Hindu and Unitarian Universalist. There is a significant difference between those who declare themselves to be of a religion and those who are members of a church of that religion. Census Bureau figures (PDF file) show that church membership in 2001 was 53% Christian, 2.3% Jewish and 0.1% Muslim, others lower.

The social structure of the United States, a capitalist country has a big range. In terms of relative wealth, most Americans enjoy a standard of personal economic wealth that is far greater than that known in the majority of the world. For example, 51% of all households have access to a computer and 41% had access to the Internet in 2000, a figure which had grown to 75% in 2004. Furthermore, 67.9% of US households owned their dwellings in 2002.


Main articles: Culture of the United States, Arts and entertainment in the United States

American culture has a large influence on the rest of the world, especially the Western world. American music is heard all over the world, and American movies and television shows can be seen almost anywhere. This is in stark contrast to the early days of the American republic, when the country was generally seen as an agricultural backwater with little to offer the culturally advanced world centers of Asia and Europe. Nearing the end of its third century, nearly every major American city offers classical and popular music; historical, scientific and art research centers and museums; dance performances, musicals and plays; outdoor art projects and internationally significant architecture. This development is a result of both contributions by private philanthropists and government funding.

The United States is also a center of higher education, boasting more than 1,500 universities, colleges, and other institutions of higher learning, the top tier of which may be considered to be among the most prestigious and advanced in the world.

Legal holidays

Date Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day celebrates beginning of year, marks traditional end of "holiday season"
January, third Monday Martin Luther King, Jr Day honors King, Civil Rights leader
February, third Monday Presidents' Day honors former American Presidents, especially Washington and Lincoln
May, last Monday Memorial Day honors service men and women who died in service, marks traditional beginning of summer
July 4 Independence Day celebrates Declaration of Independence, usually called "The Fourth of July"
September, first Monday Labor Day celebrate achievements of workers, marks traditional end of summer
October, second Monday Columbus Day honors Christopher Columbus, traditional discoverer of the Americas
November 11 Veterans Day traditional observation of a moment of silence at 11 AM remembering those who fought for peace
November, fourth Thursday Thanksgiving give thanks for autumn harvest, marks traditional beginning of "holiday season"
December 25 Christmas celebrates the nativity of Jesus Christ, also celebrated as secular winter holiday

See also: Holidays of the United States

Related Topics

Main article: List of United States-related topics

Topics in the United States
History Timeline (Colonial Era, American Revolution, Westward Expansion, Civil War, World War 1, Great Depression, World War 2, Cold War, Vietnam War, Civil Rights), Foreign relations, Military, Demographic and Postal history
Politics Law (Constitution and Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence), Political parties (Democrats & Republicans), Elections (Electoral College), Political scandals, Political divisions
Government Federal agencies, Legislative branch (Congress: House, Senate) Executive branch (President & Vice-President, Cabinet, Attorney-General, Secretary of State; Law enforcement: FBI, Intelligence:CIA, DIA, NIMA, NRO, NSA,), Judicial branch (Supreme Court), Military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force)
Geography Appalachian Mtns, Rocky Mtns, Great Plains, Midwest, The South, Mississippi River, New England, Mid-Atlantic; Mountains, Valleys, Islands, Rivers; States, Cities, Counties, Regions
Economy Dollar, Wall Street, Standard of living, Companies, Poverty, Class in the United States, circa 2004
Demographics US Census Bureau, Languages, Social structure, Standard of living, Religion
Arts & Culture Music (Hippies, blues, jazz, rock and roll, hip hop, gospel, country), Film & TV (Hollywood), Literature (Poetry, Transcendentalism, Harlem Renaissance, Beat Generation), Visual arts (Abstract expressionism), Cuisine, Holidays, Folklore, Dance, Architecture; Education, Languages, Media

Other United States territory, Communications, Transportation (Highways and Interstates, Railroads), Uncle Sam, Flag, American Dream, Media, Education, Tourism, Social issues (Immigration, Affirmative action, Racial profiling, Human rights, War on Drugs, Pornography, Gay marriage, Prisons, Capital punishment)

External links

United States government


For other uses see United States (disambiguation)