Geography and Landforms:

The geography of New York is diverse. The highest, most rugged mountains, the Adirondacks, are located in the northern part of the state between Lake Champlain in the east and Lake Ontario in the west. The St. Lawrence-Champlain lowlands can be found on the shores of Lake Ontario and running northeast along the St. Lawrence River and the Canadian border. South of the Adirondack uplands, the Hudson-Mohawk lowland follows the rivers north and west. This area is from 10 to 30 miles wide. In the southeast is the Atlantic coastal plain, and to the west of the Hudson River are the Appalachian Highlands that extend west toward Lake Erie. This area includes the Catskill Mountains and the Finger Lakes. Further west is the Erie-Ontario lowlands as New York slopes toward these two Great Lakes.

New York is 330 miles long and 283 miles wide. New York covers 54,475 square miles. In size, New York ranks 27th compared with the other 50 states. Major rivers include the Hudson, the Mohawk and the Genessee. Major lakes include Ontario, Erie, Champlain and George.


The first European explorer to visit the area now known as New York was Giovanni de Verrazano, who sailed into New York Bay in 1524. Henry Hudson, an English explorer in the service of the Dutch, was the first European to visit the river that would come to bear his name in 1609. Northern areas of New York were claimed for France by the explorer Samuel de Champlain. The first settlement in the area came soon after in 1624, when the Dutch established a colony near Albany called Fort Orange. About a year later, Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from Native Americans for trade goods worth about 60 Dutch gilders and called the area New Netherland. Forty years later, the English conquered the colony and renamed the area New York in honor of the Duke of York.

New York was a British colony until July 9, 1776 when the colony declared its independence from the Crown and become of the first thirteen states of the new United States.

New York was one of the central battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War, serving as host to over one-third of the battles and skirmishes fought with the British. The colonists' defeat of British troops at the Battle of Saratoga convinced the French to ally with the new nation, and became an important turning point in the war for independence.

After the Revolution, New York City became the first capital of the new nation. George Washington was inaugurated its first President there on April 30, 1789.


New York has been a leader in industry and in the national economy since the earliest times. Robert Fulton invented the first steam-powered ship in 1809, and this new technology began a new era in transportation. Soon after, in 1825, the completion of the Erie Canal connecting the Great Lakes with the harbor in New York City allowed trade across the state to flourish and a number of cities grew up along these trade routes. By the 1880s, a system of roads and turnpikes across the state increased New York's ability to move goods along with the railroads that had become an important addition to the state economy.

Today, the great metropolis of New York City is the nerve center of the nation. It is a leader in manufacturing, foreign trade, commerce and banking, book and magazine publishing, and theatrical production. A leading seaport, its John F. Kennedy International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. New York is also home to the New York Stock Exchange, founded in 1789, the largest in the world. The printing and publishing industry is the city's largest manufacturing employer, with the apparel industry second.

The state ranks seventh in the nation in manufacturing, with the principal industries printing and publishing, industrial machinery and equipment, electronic equipment, and instruments. The convention and tourist business is also an important source of income.

New York farms produce cattle and calves, corn and poultry, and vegetables and fruits. The state is a leading wine producer.

First Inhabitants:

When the first European explorer sailed into New York harbor in 1524, the native civilization found on the banks of the Hudson was a complex and ancient one. The natives' ancestors had entered the Hudson Valley some twelve thousand years earlier, after the last continental glacier receded from North America.

A significant change took place in the northeast from 1000 to 1600 AD as these early people gradually discovered they could grow their own vegetables. Horticulture, or garden farming, added to the traditional lifestyle of hunting, fishing and gathering. Corn, beans, squash and pumpkins, sunflowers and tobacco came from the south and southwest, perhaps initially from Mexico, where agriculture had been practiced for several thousand years.

At the time of encounter with the Europeans, the natives densely populated the entire area in and around what is now New York City. On the banks of the Hudson, as far north as Albany, Algonquin tribes lived in fortified villages, protected by sturdy walls of upright logs. According to early colonists and explorers' journals, there were also many unfortified villages on both banks of the Hudson.

From the mid to late 1700s, the Indian population had gradually dwindled as the lower River Indians suffered from smallpox, malaria, influenza and other diseases which were previously unknown to them. Entire villages were wiped out because the natives lacked immunity to the white man's diseases. The Westchester Indians to the east of the river had sold most of their lands to the English by the early 1700s. Some remained in Yorktown around Indian Hill. Some chose to stay in the Hudson Valley, settling in remote areas either marrying other remaining Indians or intermarrying with their black or white neighbors. Most, however, moved west into Ohio, where they endured another century of struggle as white settlers spread beyond the Ohio River. Some would return to their lands to trade furs they had trapped, to sell baskets and crafts door-to-door, to visit the graves of their ancestors and to die in their homeland.

Books Related To New York

The King Of Mulberry Street - Donna Napoli
(978-0553494167) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-8, Lexile: 560, ESL level: 2 - 3
Dom arrives in the U.S. hidden in a large ship from Italy and ends up homeless on New York streets at the age of nine.

Abuela - Arthur Dorros
(978-0140562255) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, Lexile: 510, ESL level: 2 - 3
This translated book features a young girl whose imagination takes her up into the sky to view the scenes of New York City as she travels with her abuela, her grandmother, on a bus trip.

The Amazing and Death Defying Diary of Eugene Dingman - Paul Zindel
(978-0553277685) , Fiction
Interest level: 9-12, Lexile: 970, ESL level: 4 - 5
Eugene's personal diary reveals his challenges and wistful romances as he spends a summer working in a mountain resort in the Adirondacks.

Dear Primo: A Letter to my Cousin - Duncan Tonatiuh
(978-0810938724) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 610, ESL level: 2
In this epistolary style novel for the very young, two cousins compare lives from different vantage points; one lives in a rural area in Mexico and the other in New York city.

E is for Empire: A New York Alphabet - Ann Burg
(978-1585361137) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of New Yor,.

If You Come Softly - Jacqueline Woodson
(978-0142415221) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 570, ESL level: 3
Ellie, white, and Jeremiah, African American meet at a prep school in New York City and fall in love, not expecting people to have such strong reactions at their union.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers - Mordicai Gerstein
(978-0761328681) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-12, Lexile: 480, ESL level: 3 - 4
This book is a beautiful recreation of Philippe Petit's walk between the now defunct trade towers in NY City; it also features his arrest and sentencing!

My Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George
(978-0142401118) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 810, ESL level: 3
A young boy hollows out a home for himself in a tree in the Catskill Mountains.

The Planet of Junior Brown - Virginia Hamilton
(978-1416914105) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-6, Lexile: 730, ESL level: 3
Buddy, a homeless 8th grader, tries to protect and support an obesely overweight friend who has musical talent.

Safe at Home - Sharon Robinson
(978-0439671989) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 600, ESL level: 2 - 3
Elijah tries to cope with the death of his father and a move back to the city with his widowed mother.

Tar Beach - Faith Ringgold
(978-0517885444) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-12, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 3 - 4
This picture book, based on a quilt, tells the story of the girl on the quilt who dreams of flying and controlling the world below.

Famous Citizens:

Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was born in Cayuga County on the New York frontier. A member of the Whig Party, Fillmore was elected to the New York state assembly in 1829, served as a congressman in the House of Representatives from 1833-1835, and was elected vice president of the United States in 1849.

When President Zachary Taylor died on July 9, 1850, Fillmore became the thirteenth president of the United States (1850-1853). He supported the constitutional argument that slavery should be free to spread wherever it would. His endorsement of the Missouri Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Law marked the beginning of the end of his political career. He was not re-nominated for president in 1852.

Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig, born in New York City, New York and nicknamed "The Iron Horse" was one of the most beloved Major League Baseball players. He played in 2,130 consecutive games, a record only recently broken by Cal Ripkin, Jr. He died of a rare disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is now often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's disease."

Grace Murry Hopper
Born Grace Brewster Murray in New York City, New York, Grace Hopper was educated at Vassar College and Yale University. She became an associate professor of mathematics at Vassar, and joined the Navy in 1942. She was assigned as a programmer on the Mark I, the first large-scale US computer. She is credited with inventing the compiler, a program that translates instructions for a computer from English to a language the computer can understand. She helped develop COBOL (the Common Business-Oriented Language) for the UNIVAC, the first commercial electronic computer. By a special act of Congress she was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in 1983.

Julius Robert Oppenheimer
Born in New York City, New York, Oppenheimer was the son of a wealthy textile importer. As a child, he became interested in mineral collecting, and through his letters to the New York Mineralogy Club, was invited to present a paper there when he was only twelve years old. In 1922, he enrolled in Harvard, and worked with an experimental physicist there. He continued his work in theoretical physics, and in 1942, he was asked to work on the US Atomic bomb program (eventually to be called the "Manhattan Project"). Oppenheimer recruited scientists to work with him at a facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Although the Manhattan Project was successful, Oppenheimer and other scientists who worked on the development of atomic weaponry became concerned about the devastation caused by the dropping of the bomb in Japan. The end of Oppenheimer's career was clouded by charges that he was disloyal to the US, and may have even passed atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, despite the fact that there is no hard evidence that he did so.

Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell, born in New York City, New York, may be one of America's best-known modern illustrators. He drew countless covers for the magazine Saturday Evening Post and his poster series "The Four Freedoms" was widely reproduced during the second World War.

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt served in the Army and as vice president prior to becoming president in 1901 after the assassination of William McKinley. He is known for his efforts to establish the National Parks, and for his involvement in the building of the Panama Canal.

Franklin Roosevelt
Born and bred in New York, Franklin Roosevelt was the only American president to win election to four consecutive terms. His "New Deal" helped Americans recover hope during the Great Depression by starting programs that provided jobs. Roosevelt knew that World War II would eventually involve the United States. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt proclaimed, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Jonas Salk
Jonas Salk, born in New York City, New York, is best known for developing a vaccine against polio, a disease that crippled or killed many adults and children prior to Salk's invention of the vaccine.

Martin Van Buren
The eighth president of the United States, Martin Van Buren, was born in Kinderhook, New York. Early in his career, Van Buren was active in New York politics. In 1821 he was elected to the United States Senate and served until 1828 when he was asked to lead Andrew Jackson's campaign for president. President Jackson rewarded Van Buren by appointing him Secretary of State. Van Buren was elected Vice President on the Jacksonian ticket in 1832, and was elected president in 1836. Van Buren's presidency was characterized by great economic hardship.

Capital: Albany
Entered Union: July 26, 1788
Population: 19,746,227
Area 54,556
Bird Bluebird
Flower Rose
Nickname: Empire State
Governor Andrew Cuomo

Places to Visit in New York: (Click the links to learn more.)

The Statue of Liberty - New York
Located in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty was a gift of international friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is one of the most universal symbols of political freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886 and was designated a National Monument on October 15, 1924. The Statue was extensively restored in time for her spectacular centennial on July 4, 1986.

Niagara Falls - Niagara Falls
The formation of this spectacular waterfall began at the end of the Ice Age. The first European to document the waterfall was a French priest, Father Louis Hennepin. During a 1678 expedition, he was overwhelmed by the size and significance of Niagara Falls. Today, hydroelectricity is one of Niagara Falls' most important products. Together, power plants on the American and Canadian sides of the Falls produce nearly 2.5 million kilowatts of electricity, by harnessing the power of the Falls.

Baseball Hall of Fame - Cooperstown
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is probably the best-known sports shrine in the world. Opening on June 12, 1939, the Hall of Fame has stood as the repository of the game's treasures and as a symbol of the most profound individual honor bestowed on an athlete.

United Nations - New York
The United Nations was established on October 24, 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership now totals 193 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. The UN has four purposes: to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights, and to be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations.

US Military Academy - West Point
West Point's role in our nation's history dates back to the Revolutionary War. General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America. Washington personally selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko, one of the heroes of Saratoga, to design the fortifications for West Point in 1778, and Washington transferred his headquarters to West Point in 1779. West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America. Several soldiers and legislators, including Washington, Knox, Hamilton and John Adams, urged the creation of an institution devoted to the arts and sciences of warfare.

President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy in 1802.