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posted by DM PHOTOGRAPHY alias [email protected] on Thursday 17th of December 2020 07:37:22 PM

A silhouette (English: /ˌsɪluˈɛt/ SIL-oo-ET,[1] French: [silwɛt]) is the image of a person, animal, object or scene represented as a solid shape of a single colour, usually black, with its edges matching the outline of the subject. The interior of a silhouette is featureless, and the silhouette is usually presented on a light background, usually white, or none at all. The silhouette differs from an outline, which depicts the edge of an object in a linear form, while a silhouette appears as a solid shape. Silhouette images may be created in any visual artistic media,[2] but were first used to describe pieces of cut paper, which were then stuck to a backing in a contrasting colour, and often framed. Cutting portraits, generally in profile, from black card became popular in the mid-18th century, though the term silhouette was seldom used until the early decades of the 19th century, and the tradition has continued under this name into the 21st century. They represented a cheap but effective alternative to the portrait miniature, and skilled specialist artists could cut a high-quality bust portrait, by far the most common style, in a matter of minutes, working purely by eye. Other artists, especially from about 1790, drew an outline on paper, then painted it in, which could be equally quick. From its original graphic meaning, the term silhouette has been extended to describe the sight or representation of a person, object or scene that is backlit, and appears dark against a lighter background. Anything that appears this way, for example, a figure standing backlit in a doorway, may be described as "in silhouette". Because a silhouette emphasises the outline, the word has also been used in the fields of fashion and fitness to describe the shape of a person's body or the shape created by wearing clothing of a particular style or period. Etymology and origins The word silhouette is derived from the name of Étienne de Silhouette, a French finance minister who, in 1759, was forced by France's credit crisis during the Seven Years' War to impose severe economic demands upon the French people, particularly the wealthy.[3] Because of de Silhouette's austere economies, his name became synonymous with anything done or made cheaply and so with these outline portraits.[4][5] Prior to the advent of photography, silhouette profiles cut from black card were the cheapest way of recording a person's appearance.[6][7] The term silhouette, although existing from the 18th century, was not applied to the art of portrait-making until the 19th century. In the 18th and early 19th century, “profiles” or “shades” as they were called were made by one of three methods: painted on ivory, plaster, paper, card, or in reverse on glass; “hollow-cut” where the negative image was traced and then cut away from light colored paper which was then laid atop a dark background; and “cut and paste” where the figure was cut out of dark paper (usually free-hand) and then pasted onto a light background.[2] History Mythological origins Attic Greek Black-figure Neck Amphora attributed to the Princeton Painter, ca. 550–540 BCE The silhouette is closely tied in mythology to the origins of art. Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (circa 77–79 AD) Books XXXIV and XXXV, recounts the origin of painting. In Chapter 5 of Book XXXV, he writes, “We have no certain knowledge as to the commencement of the art of painting, nor does this enquiry fall under our consideration. The Egyptians assert that it was invented among themselves, six thousand years before it passed into Greece; a vain boast, it is very evident. As to the Greeks, some say that it was invented at Sicyon, others at Corinth; but they all agree that it originated in tracing lines round the human shadow [...omnes umbra hominis lineis circumducta].“. In Chapter 15, he tells the story of Butades of Corinth: “Butades, a potter of Sicyon, was the first who invented, at Corinth, the art of modelling portraits in the earth which he used in his trade. It was through his daughter that he made the discovery; who, being deeply in love with a young man about to depart on a long journey, traced the profile of his face, as thrown upon the wall by the light of the lamp [umbram ex facie eius ad lucernam in pariete lineis circumscripsit]. Upon seeing this, her father filled in the outline, by compressing clay upon the surface, and so made a face in relief, which he then hardened by fire along with other articles of pottery.” In accord with the myth, Greek Black-figure pottery painting,[8] also known as the black-figure style or black-figure ceramic (Greek, μελανόμορφα, melanomorpha, common between the 7th and 5th centuries BC) employs the silhouette and characteristic profile views of figures and objects on pottery forms. The pots themselves exhibit strong forms in outline that are indicators of their purpose, as well as being decorative.[9] Profile portraits Portrait The traditional method of making a silhouette portrait S. John Ross, Sydney Royal Easter Show, c. 2004 For the depiction of portraits, the profile image has marked advantage over a full-face image in many circumstances, because it depends strongly upon the proportions and relationship of the bony structures of the face (the forehead, nose and chin) making the image is clear and simple. For this reason profile portraits have been employed on coinage since the Roman era. The early Renaissance period saw a fashion for painted profile portraits and people such as Federico da Montefeltro and Ludovico Sforza were depicted in profile portraits. The profile portrait is strongly linked to the silhouette. Recent research at Stanford University indicates that where previous studies of face recognition have been based on frontal views, studies with silhouettes show humans are able to extract accurate information about gender and age from the silhouette alone.[10] This is an important concept for artists who design characters for visual media, because the silhouette is the most immediately recognisable and identifiable shape of the character.[11] Portrait "Mister Bethany and Patience Wright, Anonymous engraving Drawing a Silhouette by Johann Rudolph Schellenberg (1740–1806) Rise of popularity and development in the nineteenth century A silhouette portrait can be painted or drawn. However, the traditional method of creating silhouette portraits is to cut them from lightweight black cardboard, and mount them on a pale (usually white) background. This was the work of specialist artists, often working out of booths at fairs or markets, whose trade competed with that of the more expensive miniaturists patronised by the wealthy. A traditional silhouette portrait artist would cut the likeness of a person, freehand, within a few minutes.[12] Some modern silhouette artists also make silhouette portraits from photographs of people taken in profile.[6] These profile images are often head and shoulder length (bust), but can also be full length.[13] The work of the physiognomist Johann Caspar Lavater, who used silhouettes to analyse facial types, is thought to have promoted the art.[14] The 18th century silhouette artist August Edouart cut thousands of portraits in duplicate. His subjects included French and British nobility and US presidents. Much of his personal collection was lost in a shipwreck.[15] In England, the best known silhouette artist, a painter not a cutter, was John Miers, who travelled and worked in different cities, but had a studio on the Strand in London.[16] He advertised "three minute sittings",[17] and the cost might be as low as half a crown around 1800. Miers' superior products could be in grisaille, with delicate highlights added in gold or yellow, and some examples might be painted on various backings, including gesso, glass or ivory.[18] The size was normally small, with many designed to fit into a locket, but otherwise a bust some 3 to 5 inches high was typical, with half- or full-length portraits proportionately larger. In America, silhouettes were highly popular from about 1790 to 1840. The physionotrace apparatus invented by Frenchman Gilles-Louis Chrétien in 1783-84 facilitated the production of silhouette portraits by deploying the mechanics of the pantograph to transmit the tracing (via an eyepiece) of the subject's profile silhouette to a needle moving on an engraving plate, from which multiple portrait copies could be printed.[19][20] The invention of photography signaled the end of the silhouette as a widespread form of portraiture.[6] Maintaining the tradition The skill was not lost, and travelling silhouette artists continued to work at state fairs into the 20th century. The popularity of the silhouette portrait is being reborn in a new generation of people who appreciate the silhouette as a nostalgic way of capturing a significant occasion. In the United States and the UK silhouette artists have websites advertising their services at weddings and other such functions.[6][21][22] In England there is an active group of silhouette artists.[23][12][24] In Australia, S. John Ross plied his scissors at agricultural shows for 60 years until his death in 2008.[25] Other artists such as Douglas Carpenter produce silhouette images using pen and ink.[26] The silhouette in art, media and illustrations Illustration A traditional paper-cut illustration by Wilhelm Gross White on black by Hans Christian Andersen. Since the late 18th century, silhouette artists have also made small scenes cut from card and mounted on a contrasting background like the portraits. These pictures, known as "paper cuts", were often, but not necessarily, silhouette images.[27] Among 19th century artists to work in this way was the author Hans Christian Andersen.[28] The modern artist Robert Ryan creates intricate images by this technique, sometimes using them to produce silk-screen prints.[29] In the late 19th and early 20th century several illustrators employed designs of similar appearance for making book illustrations. Silhouette pictures could easily be printed by blocks that were cheaper to produce and longer lasting than detailed black and white illustrations. Silhouette pictures sometimes appear in books of the early 20th century in conjunction with colour plates. (The colour plates were expensive to produce and each one was glued into the book by hand.) Illustrators who produced silhouette pictures at this time include Arthur Rackham and William Heath Robinson. In breaking with literal realism, artists of the Vorticist, Futurist and Cubist[30][31] movements employed the silhouette. Illustrators of the late 20th century to work in silhouette include Jan Pienkowski and Jan Ormerod. In the early 1970s, French artist Philippe Derome uses the black cut silhouette in his portraits of black people. In the 21st century, American artist Kara Walker develops this use of silhouette to present racial issues in confronting images.[32] Shadow theatre Originating in the orient with traditions such as the shadow theatres of Indonesia, the shadow play became a popular entertainment in Paris during the 18th and 19th century. In the Paris of the late 19th century, the shadow theatre was particularly associated with the cabaret Le Chat Noir where Henri Rivière was the designer.[33] Movies Since their pioneering use by Lotte Reiniger in silent films, silhouettes have been used for a variety of iconic, graphic, emotional, or conversely for distancing, effects in many movies. These include many of the opening credit sequences of the James Bond films. The opening sequence of the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents features a silhouetted profile of Alfred Hitchcock stepping into a caricatured outline of himself, and in his movie Psycho the killer in the shower scene manifests as a terrifying silhouette. A scene from E.T. showing the central characters on a flying bicycle silhouetted against the full moon became a well-known movie poster. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 contains an animated sequence in silhouette illustrating a short story The Tale of the Three Brothers that is embedded in the film. The sequence was produced by Ben Hibon for Framestore, with artwork by Alexis Lidell. Silhouettes have also been used by recording artists in music videos. One example is the video for "Buttons" by The Pussycat Dolls, in which Nicole Scherzinger is seen in silhouette. Michael Jackson used his own distinctive silhouette both on stage and in videos such as "You Rock My World". Early iPod commercials portrayed silhouetted dancers wearing an iPod and earbuds. The cult television program, Mystery Science Theater 3000 features the three main characters of the series watching a movie as silhouettes at the bottom of the screen. Theatre, film and photography A Balinese shadow show puppet and its shadow Shadow theatre designed by Henri Rivière for Le Chat Noir Scene from the film noir, The Big Combo (1955) filmed by John Alton Architecture The discipline of architecture that studies the shadows cast by or upon buildings is called Sciography. The play of shadows upon buildings was very much in vogue a thousand years ago as evidenced by the surviving examples of "mukarnas" art where the shadows of 3 dimensional ornamentation with stone masonry around the entrance of mosques form pictures. As outright pictures were avoided in Islam, tessellations and calligraphic pictures were allowed, "accidental" silhouettes are a creative alternative.[34][35] Photography Silhouette of trees against the blue sky. Many photographers use the technique of photographing people, objects or landscape elements against the light, to achieve an image in silhouette. The background light might be natural, such as a cloudy or open sky, mist or fog, sunset or an open doorway (a technique known as contre-jour), or it might be contrived in a studio; see low-key lighting. Silhouetting requires that the exposure be adjusted so that there is no detail (underexposure) within the desired silhouette element, and overexposure for the background to render it bright; so a lighting ratio of 16:1 or greater is the ideal. The Zone System[36] was an aid to film photographers in achieving the required exposure ratios. High contrast film, adjustment of film development,[37] and/or high contrast photographic paper may be used in chemical-based photography to enhance the effect in the darkroom.[38] With digital processing the contrast may be enhanced through the manipulation of the contrast curve for the image.[39] In graphic design In media the term "to silhouette" is used for the process of separating or masking a portion of an image (such as the background) so that it does not show. Traditionally silhouettes have often been used in advertising, particularly in poster design, because they can be cheaply and effectively printed. Advertising An advertisement for James Whitcomb Riley's business, 1871 Poster for Palais der Friedrichstadt c. 1920 Poster for the Festival of Calanchi, San Marino, by Bradipone (2008) Advertising postcard for Tiedtke's store in Toledo, Ohio with a man in silhouetted profile Advertising postcard for Tiedtke's store in Toledo, Ohio Other uses The fashionable silhouette of 1900 Fashion and fitness The word "silhouette", because it implies the outline of a form, has been used in both fashion and fitness to describe the outline shape of the body from a particular angle, as altered by clothing in fashion usage, and clothed or unclothed where fitness is concerned, (e.g. a usage applied here by the Powerhouse Museum). Advertising for both these fields urges people, women in particular, to achieve a particular appearance, either by corsetry, diet or exercise. The term was in use in advertising by the early 20th century. Many gyms and fitness studios use the word "silhouette" either in their name or in their advertising.[40] Historians of costume also use the term when describing the effect achieved by the clothes of different periods, so that they might describe and compare the silhouette of the 1860s with that of the other decades of the 19th century. A desirable silhouette could be influenced by many factors. The invention of crinoline steel influenced the silhouette of women in the 1850s and 60s. The posture of the Princess Alexandra influenced the silhouette of English women in the Edwardian period. See advertisement left. Identification Because silhouettes give a very clear image, they are often used in any field where the speedy identification of an object is necessary. Silhouettes have many practical applications. They are used for traffic signs (see pic below). They are used to identify towns or countries with silhouettes of monuments or maps. They are used to identify natural objects such as trees, insects and dinosaurs. They are used in forensic science.[41] Journalism For interviews, some individuals choose to be videotaped in silhouette to mask their facial features and protect their anonymity, typically accompanied by a dubbed voice. This is done when the individuals may be endangered if it is known they were interviewed. Computer modelling Computer modelling Computer vision researchers have been able to build computational models for perception that are capable of generating and reconstructing 3D shapes from single or multi-view depth maps or silhouettes[42] Military usage Silhouette of an aircraft Main articles: Aircraft recognition and Jane's Fighting Ships Silhouettes of ships, planes, tanks, and other military vehicles are used by soldiers and sailors for learning to identify different craft. The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territories, 326 Indian reservations, and some minor possessions.[j] At 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million square kilometers), it is the world's third- or fourth-largest country by total area.[e] The United States shares significant land borders with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south as well as limited maritime borders with the Bahamas, Cuba, and Russia.[20] With a population of more than 331 million people, it is the third most populous country in the world. The national capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Paleo-Indians migrated from Siberia to the North American mainland at least 12,000 years ago, and European colonization began in the 16th century. The United States emerged from the thirteen British colonies established along the East Coast. Disputes with Great Britain over taxation and political representation led to the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), which established the nation's independence. In the late 18th century, the U.S. began expanding across North America, gradually obtaining new territories, sometimes through war, frequently displacing Native Americans, and admitting new states; by 1848, the United States spanned the continent. Slavery was legal in the southern United States until the second half of the 19th century, when the American Civil War led to its abolition. The Spanish–American War and World War I established the U.S. as a world power, a status confirmed by the outcome of World War II. During the Cold War, the United States fought the Korean War and the Vietnam War but avoided direct military conflict with the Soviet Union. The two superpowers competed in the Space Race, culminating in the 1969 spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. The Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991 ended the Cold War, leaving the United States as the world's sole superpower. The United States is a federal republic and a representative democracy with three separate branches of government, including a bicameral legislature. It is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States, NATO, and other international organizations. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Considered a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, its population has been profoundly shaped by centuries of immigration. The U.S. ranks high in international measures of economic freedom, quality of life, education, and human rights; it has low levels of perceived corruption. However, the country has been criticized for inequality related to race, wealth, and income; use of capital punishment; high incarceration rates; and lack of universal health care. The United States is a highly developed country, accounts for approximately a quarter of global GDP, and is the world's largest economy by GDP at market exchange rates. By value, the United States is the world's largest importer and second-largest exporter of goods. Although its population is only 4.2% of the world's total, it holds 29.4% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share held by any country. Making up more than a third of global military spending, it is the foremost military power in the world and a leading political, cultural, and scientific force internationally.[21] See also: Naming of the Americas, Names of the United States, Names for United States citizens, and American (word) The first known use of the name "America" dates back to 1507, when it appeared on a world map produced by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller. On his map, the name is shown in large letters on what would now be considered South America, in honor of Amerigo Vespucci. The Italian explorer was the first to postulate that the West Indies did not represent Asia's eastern limit but were part of a previously unknown landmass.[22][23] In 1538, the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator used the name "America" on his own world map, applying it to the entire Western Hemisphere.[24] The first documentary evidence of the phrase "United States of America" dates from a January 2, 1776 letter written by Stephen Moylan to George Washington's aide-de-camp Joseph Reed. Moylan expressed his wish to go "with full and ample powers from the United States of America to Spain" to seek assistance in the revolutionary war effort.[25][26][27] The first known publication of the phrase "United States of America" was in an anonymous essay in The Virginia Gazette newspaper in Williamsburg, on April 6, 1776.[28] The second draft of the Articles of Confederation, prepared by John Dickinson and completed no later than June 17, 1776, declared "The name of this Confederation shall be the 'United States of America'."[29] The final version of the Articles, sent to the states for ratification in late 1777, stated that "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America'."[30] In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the phrase "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in all capitalized letters in the headline of his "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence.[29] This draft of the document did not surface until June 21, 1776, and it is unclear whether it was written before or after Dickinson used the term in his June 17 draft of the Articles of Confederation.[29] The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms are the "U.S.", the "USA", and "America". Colloquial names are the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States". "Columbia", a name popular in American poetry and songs of the late 18th century, derives its origin from Christopher Columbus; both "Columbus" and "Columbia" appear frequently in U.S. place-names, including Columbus, Ohio, Columbia, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia. Places and institutions throughout the Western Hemisphere bear the two names, including Colón, Panama, the country of Colombia, the Columbia River, and Columbia University. The phrase "United States" was originally plural in American usage. It described a collection of states—e.g., "the United States are." The singular form became popular after the end of the Civil War and is now standard usage in the U.S. A citizen of the United States is an "American". "United States", "American" and "U.S." refer to the country adjectivally ("American values", "U.S. forces"). In English, the word "American" rarely refers to topics or subjects not directly connected with the United States.[31] History Main articles: History of the United States and Outline of United States history Indigenous peoples and pre-Columbian history Further information: Native Americans in the United States, Prehistory of the United States, and Pre-Columbian era Aerial view of the Cliff Palace The Cliff Palace, built by the Native American Puebloans between AD 1190 and 1260 It has been generally accepted that the first inhabitants of North America migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge and arrived at least 12,000 years ago; however, some evidence suggests an even earlier date of arrival.[32][33][34] The Clovis culture, which appeared around 11,000 BC, is believed to represent the first wave of human settlement of the Americas.[35][36] This was likely the first of three major waves of migration into North America; later waves brought the ancestors of present-day Athabaskans, Aleuts, and Eskimos.[37] Over time, indigenous cultures in North America grew increasingly complex, and some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture in the southeast, developed advanced agriculture, architecture, and complex societies.[38] The city-state of Cahokia is the largest, most complex pre-Columbian archaeological site in the modern-day United States.[39] In the Four Corners region, Ancestral Puebloan culture developed from centuries of agricultural experimentation.[40] The Haudenosaunee, located in the southern Great Lakes region, was established at some point between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.[41] Most prominent along the Atlantic coast were the Algonquian tribes, who practiced hunting and trapping, along with limited cultivation. Estimating the native population of North America at the time of European contact is difficult.[42][43] Douglas H. Ubelaker of the Smithsonian Institution estimated that there was a population of 92,916 in the south Atlantic states and a population of 473,616 in the Gulf states,[44] but most academics regard this figure as too low.[42] Anthropologist Henry F. Dobyns believed the populations were much higher, suggesting around 1.1 million along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, 2.2 million people living between Florida and Massachusetts, 5.2 million in the Mississippi Valley and tributaries, and around 700,000 people in the Florida peninsula.[42][43] European settlements Further information: Colonial history of the United States and Thirteen Colonies Claims of very early colonization of coastal New England by the Norse are disputed and controversial. The first documented arrival of Europeans in the continental United States is that of Spanish conquistadors such as Juan Ponce de León, who made his first expedition to Florida in 1513. Even earlier, Christopher Columbus had landed in Puerto Rico on his 1493 voyage, and San Juan was settled by the Spanish a decade later.[45] The Spanish set up the first settlements in Florida and New Mexico, such as Saint Augustine, often considered the nation's oldest city,[46] and Santa Fe. The French established their own settlements along the Mississippi River, notably New Orleans.[47] Successful English settlement of the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and with the Pilgrims' colony at Plymouth in 1620.[48][49] The continent's first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses, was founded in 1619. Documents such as the Mayflower Compact and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut established precedents for representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.[50][51] Many English settlers were dissenting Christians who came seeking religious freedom. In 1784, the Russians were the first Europeans to establish a settlement in Alaska, at Three Saints Bay. Russian America once spanned much of the present-day state of Alaska.[52] In the early days of colonization, many European settlers were subject to food shortages, disease, and attacks from Native Americans. Native Americans were also often at war with neighboring tribes and European settlers. In many cases, however, the natives and settlers came to depend on one another. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts; natives for guns, tools and other European goods.[53] Natives taught many settlers to cultivate corn, beans, and other foodstuffs. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Native Americans and urged them to adopt European agricultural practices and lifestyles.[54][55] However, with the increased European colonization of North America, the Native Americans were displaced and often killed.[56] The native population of America declined after European arrival for various reasons,[57][58][59] primarily diseases such as smallpox and measles.[60][61] Map of the U.S. showing the original Thirteen Colonies along the eastern seaboard The original Thirteen Colonies (shown in red) in 1775 European settlers also began trafficking of African slaves into Colonial America via the transatlantic slave trade.[62] Because of a lower prevalence of tropical diseases and better treatment, slaves had a much higher life expectancy in North America than in South America, leading to a rapid increase in their numbers.[63][64] Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery, and several colonies passed acts both against and in favor of the practice.[65][66] However, by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves had supplanted European indentured servants as cash crop labor, especially in the American South.[67] The Thirteen Colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) that would become the United States of America were administered by the British as overseas dependencies.[68] All nonetheless had local governments with elections open to most free men.[69] With extremely high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly, eclipsing Native American populations.[70] The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest both in religion and in religious liberty.[71] During the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), known in the U.S. as the French and Indian War, British forces captured Canada from the French. With the creation of the Province of Quebec, Canada's francophone population would remain isolated from the English-speaking colonial dependencies of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Thirteen Colonies. Excluding the Native Americans who lived there, the Thirteen Colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about a third that of Britain. Despite continuing new arrivals, the rate of natural increase was such that by the 1770s only a small minority of Americans had been born overseas.[72] The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their unprecedented success motivated British monarchs to periodically seek to reassert royal authority.[73] Independence and expansion Further information: American Revolution and Territorial evolution of the United States See caption Declaration of Independence, a painting by John Trumbull, depicts the Committee of Five presenting the draft of the Declaration to the Continental Congress, July 4, 1776. The American Revolutionary War fought by the Thirteen Colonies against the British Empire was the first successful war of independence by a non-European entity against a European power in modern history. Americans had developed an ideology of "republicanism", asserting that government rested on the will of the people as expressed in their local legislatures. They demanded their "rights as Englishmen" and "no taxation without representation". The British insisted on administering the empire through Parliament, and the conflict escalated into war.[74] The Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776; this day is celebrated annually as Independence Day.[75] In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a decentralized government that operated until 1789.[75] After its defeat at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, Britain signed a peace treaty. American sovereignty became internationally recognized, and the country was granted all lands east of the Mississippi River. Tensions with Britain remained, however, leading to the War of 1812, which was fought to a draw.[76] Nationalists led the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in writing the United States Constitution, ratified in state conventions in 1788. Going into force in 1789, this constitution reorganized the federal government into three branches, on the principle of creating salutary checks and balances. George Washington, who had led the Continental Army to victory, was the first president elected under the new constitution. The Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.[77] Map of the U.S. depicting its westward expansion Territorial acquisitions of the United States between 1783 and 1917 Although the federal government outlawed American participation in the Atlantic slave trade in 1807, after 1820, cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it, the slave population.[78][79][80] The Second Great Awakening, especially in the period 1800–1840, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the North, it energized multiple social reform movements, including abolitionism;[81] in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave populations.[82] Beginning in the late 18th century, American settlers began to expand westward,[83] prompting a long series of American Indian Wars.[84] The 1803 Louisiana Purchase almost doubled the nation's area,[85] Spain ceded Florida and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819,[86] the Republic of Texas was annexed in 1845 during a period of expansionism,[87] and the 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest.[88] Victory in the Mexican–American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest, making the U.S. span the continent.[83][89] The California Gold Rush of 1848–1849 spurred migration to the Pacific coast, which led to the California Genocide[90] and the creation of additional western states.[91] The giving away of vast quantities of land to white European settlers as part of the Homestead Acts, nearly 10% of the total area of the United States, and to private railroad companies and colleges as part of land grants spurred economic development.[92] After the Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade, and increased conflicts with Native Americans.[93] In 1869, a new Peace Policy nominally promised to protect Native Americans from abuses, avoid further war, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship. Nonetheless, large-scale conflicts continued throughout the West into the 1900s. Civil War and Reconstruction era Main articles: American Civil War and Reconstruction era Drawing of the Battle of Gettysburg, depicting soldiers charging forward and firing a cannon The Battle of Gettysburg, fought between Union and Confederate forces on July 1–3, 1863, around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marked a turning point in the American Civil War. Irreconcilable sectional conflict regarding the enslavement of Africans and African Americans ultimately led to the American Civil War.[94] With the 1860 election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, conventions in thirteen slave states declared secession and formed the Confederate States of America (the "South" or the "Confederacy"), while the federal government (the "Union") maintained that secession was illegal.[95] In order to bring about this secession, military action was initiated by the secessionists, and the Union responded in kind. The ensuing war would become the deadliest military conflict in American history, resulting in the deaths of approximately 618,000 soldiers as well as many civilians.[96] The Union initially simply fought to keep the country united. Nevertheless, as casualties mounted after 1863 and Lincoln delivered his Emancipation Proclamation, the main purpose of the war from the Union's viewpoint became the abolition of slavery. Indeed, when the Union ultimately won the war in April 1865, each of the states in the defeated South was required to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited slavery except as penal labor. Two other amendments were also ratified, ensuring citizenship for blacks and, at least in theory, voting rights for them as well. Reconstruction began in earnest following the war. While President Lincoln attempted to foster friendship and forgiveness between the Union and the former Confederacy, his assassination on April 14, 1865 drove a wedge between North and South again. Republicans in the federal government made it their goal to oversee the rebuilding of the South and to ensure the rights of African Americans. They persisted until the Compromise of 1877 when the Republicans agreed to cease protecting the rights of African Americans in the South in order for Democrats to concede the presidential election of 1876. Southern white Democrats, calling themselves "Redeemers", took control of the South after the end of Reconstruction, beginning the nadir of American race relations. From 1890 to 1910, the Redeemers established so-called Jim Crow laws, disenfranchising most blacks and some poor whites throughout the region. Blacks would face racial segregation nationwide, especially in the South.[97] They also occasionally experienced vigilante violence, including lynching.[98] Further immigration, expansion, and industrialization Main articles: Economic history of the United States and Technological and industrial history of the United States File:Emigrants (i.e. immigrants) landing at Ellis Island -.webm Film by Edison Studios showing immigrants disembarking at Ellis Island in New York Harbor, which served as a major entry point for European immigration into the U.S.[99] In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe supplied a surplus of labor for the country's industrialization and transformed its culture.[100] National infrastructure, including telegraph and transcontinental railroads, spurred economic growth and greater settlement and development of the American Old West. The later invention of electric light and the telephone would also affect communication and urban life.[101] The United States fought Indian Wars west of the Mississippi River from 1810 to at least 1890.[102] Most of these conflicts ended with the cession of Native American territory and their confinement to Indian reservations. Additionally, the Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy that forcibly resettled Indians. This further expanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, increasing surpluses for international markets.[103] Mainland expansion also included the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.[104] In 1893, pro-American elements in Hawaii overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy and formed the Republic of Hawaii, which the U.S. annexed in 1898. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain in the same year, following the Spanish–American War.[105] American Samoa was acquired by the United States in 1900 after the end of the Second Samoan Civil War.[106] The U.S. Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark in 1917.[107] Rapid economic development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries fostered the rise of many prominent industrialists. Tycoons like Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie led the nation's progress in the railroad, petroleum, and steel industries. Banking became a major part of the economy, with J. P. Morgan playing a notable role. The American economy boomed, becoming the world's largest.[108] These dramatic changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of populist, socialist, and anarchist movements.[109] This period eventually ended with the advent of the Progressive Era, which saw significant reforms including women's suffrage, alcohol prohibition, regulation of consumer goods, and greater antitrust measures to ensure competition and attention to worker conditions.[110][111][112] World War I, Great Depression, and World War II Further information: World War I, Great Depression, and World War II The Empire State Building in the 1940s, towering above its neighbors in Midtown Manhattan The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world when completed in 1931, during the Great Depression. The United States remained neutral from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 until 1917 when it joined the war as an "associated power" alongside the Allies of World War I, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference and advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles that established the League of Nations.[113] In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage.[114] The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of radio for mass communication and the invention of early television.[115] The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal.[116] The Great Migration of millions of African Americans out of the American South began before World War I and extended through the 1960s;[117] whereas the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.[118] Four soldiers plant a U.S. flag on a long pole on a bare mountaintop U.S. Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in one of the most iconic images of the war At first effectively neutral during World War II, the United States began supplying materiel to the Allies in March 1941 through the Lend-Lease program. On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to join the Allies against the Axis powers, and in the following year, to intern about 120,000[119] U.S. residents (including American citizens) of Japanese descent.[120] Although Japan attacked the United States first, the U.S. nonetheless pursued a "Europe first" defense policy.[121] The United States thus left its vast Asian colony, the Philippines, isolated and fighting a losing struggle against Japanese invasion and occupation. During the war, the United States was one of the "Four Powers"[122] who met to plan the postwar world, along with Britain, the Soviet Union, and China.[123][124] Although the nation lost around 400,000 military personnel,[125] it emerged relatively undamaged from the war with even greater economic and military influence.[126] The United States played a leading role in the Bretton Woods and Yalta conferences, which signed agreements on new international financial institutions and Europe's postwar reorganization. As an Allied victory was won in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active after the war.[127] The United States and Japan then fought each other in the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.[128][129] The United States developed the first nuclear weapons and used them on Japan in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945; the Japanese surrendered on September 2, ending World War II.[130][131] Cold War and civil rights era Main articles: History of the United States (1945–1964), History of the United States (1964–1980), and History of the United States (1980–1991) Further information: Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, War on Poverty, Space Race, and Reaganomics See caption Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, 1963. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev sit in plush chairs in front of a stone fireplace U.S. president Ronald Reagan (left) and Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva Summit in 1985 After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for power, influence, and prestige during what became known as the Cold War, driven by an ideological divide between capitalism and communism.[132] They dominated the military affairs of Europe, with the U.S. and its NATO allies on one side and the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies on the other. The U.S. developed a policy of containment towards the expansion of communist influence. While the U.S. and Soviet Union engaged in proxy wars and developed powerful nuclear arsenals, the two countries avoided direct military conflict.[133] The United States often opposed Third World movements that it viewed as Soviet-sponsored and occasionally pursued direct action for regime change against left-wing governments, occasionally supporting authoritarian right-wing regimes.[134] American troops fought communist Chinese and North Korean forces in the Korean War of 1950–1953.[135] The Soviet Union's 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite and its 1961 launch of the first crewed spaceflight initiated a "Space Race" in which the United States became the first nation to land a man on the Moon in 1969.[135] The United States became increasingly involved in the Vietnam War (1955–1975), introducing combat forces in 1965.[136] At home, the U.S. had experienced sustained economic expansion and a rapid growth of its population and middle class following World War II. After a surge in female labor participation, especially in the 1970s, by 1985, the majority of women aged 16 and over were employed.[137] Construction of an Interstate Highway System transformed the nation's infrastructure over the following decades. Millions moved from farms and inner cities to large suburban housing developments.[138][139] In 1959, the United States formally expanded beyond the contiguous United States when the territories of Alaska and Hawaii became, respectively, the 49th and 50th states admitted into the Union.[140] The growing Civil Rights Movement used nonviolence to confront segregation and discrimination, with Martin Luther King Jr. becoming a prominent leader and figurehead.[141] A combination of court decisions and legislation, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1968, sought to end racial discrimination.[142][143][144] Meanwhile, a counterculture movement grew, which was fueled by opposition to the Vietnam war, the Black Power movement, and the sexual revolution.[145] The launch of a "War on Poverty" expanded entitlements and welfare spending, including the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, two programs that provide health coverage to the elderly and poor, respectively, and the means-tested Food Stamp Program and Aid to Families with Dependent Children.[146] The 1970s and early 1980s saw the onset of stagflation. The United States supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War; in response, the country faced an oil embargo from OPEC nations, sparking the 1973 oil crisis. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter brokered a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, marking the first time an Arab nation recognized Israeli existence.[relevant?] After his election, President Ronald Reagan responded to economic stagnation with free-market oriented reforms. Following the collapse of détente, he abandoned "containment" and initiated the more aggressive "rollback" strategy towards the Soviet Union.[147][148] The late 1980s brought a "thaw" in relations with the Soviet Union, and its collapse in 1991 finally ended the Cold War.[149][150][151] This brought about unipolarity[152] with the U.S. unchallenged as the world's dominant superpower.[153] Contemporary history Main articles: History of the United States (1991–2008) and History of the United States (2008–present) Dark smoke billows from the Twin Towers over Manhattan The World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan during the September 11 terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda in 2001 After the Cold War, the conflict in the Middle East triggered a crisis in 1990, when Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait, an ally of the United States. Fearing the spread of instability, in August, President George H. W. Bush launched and led the Gulf War against Iraq; waged until February 1991 by coalition forces from 34 nations, it ended in the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and restoration of the monarchy.[154] Originating within U.S. military defense networks, the Internet spread to international academic platforms and then to the public in the 1990s, greatly affecting the global economy, society, and culture.[155] Due to the dot-com boom, stable monetary policy, and reduced social welfare spending, the 1990s saw the longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history.[156] Beginning in 1994, the U.S. signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), causing trade among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to soar.[157] On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorist hijackers flew passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people.[158] Hundreds more died later from illnesses related to the attacks, and perhaps thousands of first responders, cleanup workers, and survivors suffer from long-term effects.[159] In response, President George W. Bush launched the War on Terror, which included a nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021 and the 2003–2011 Iraq War.[160][161] A 2011 military operation in Pakistan led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.[162] Government policy designed to promote affordable housing,[163] widespread failures in corporate and regulatory governance,[164] and historically low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve[165] led to the United States housing bubble in 2006, which culminated with the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the Great Recession, the nation's largest economic contraction since the Great Depression.[166] During the crisis, assets owned by Americans lost about a quarter of their value.[167] Barack Obama, the first multiracial[168] president, with African-American ancestry[169] was elected in 2008 amid the crisis,[170] and subsequently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 economic stimulus and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in an attempt to mitigate its negative effects and ensure there would not be a repeat of the crisis. In 2010, President Obama led efforts to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping reform to Health care in the United States in nearly five decades.[171] Republican Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president in 2016, a result viewed as one of the biggest political upsets in American history.[172] In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden was elected as the 46th president.[173] On January 6, 2021, supporters of outgoing President Trump stormed the United States Capitol in an unsuccessful effort to disrupt the presidential Electoral College vote count.[174] Geography Main article: Geography of the United States See caption Köppen climate classifications of U.S. states and territories The 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia occupy a combined area of 3,119,885 square miles (8,080,470 km2). Of this area, 2,959,064 square miles (7,663,940 km2) is contiguous land, composing 83.65% of total U.S. land area.[175][176] Hawaii, occupying an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America, is 10,931 square miles (28,311 km2) in area. The five populated but unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands together cover 9,185 square miles (23,789 km2).[177] Measured by only land area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and China, just ahead of Canada.[178] The United States is the world's third- or fourth-largest nation by total area (land and water), ranking behind Russia and Canada and nearly equal to China. The ranking varies depending on how two territories disputed by China and India are counted, and how the total size of the United States is measured.[e][179][180] The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont.[181] The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest.[182] The Mississippi–Missouri River, the world's fourth longest river system, runs mainly north–south through the heart of the country. The flat, fertile prairie of the Great Plains stretches to the west, interrupted by a highland region in the southeast.[182] The Rocky Mountains, west of the Great Plains, extend north to south across the country, peaking around 14,000 feet (4,300 m) in Colorado.[183] Farther west are the rocky Great Basin and deserts such as the Chihuahua and Mojave.[184] The Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges run close to the Pacific coast, both ranges reaching altitudes higher than 14,000 feet (4,300 m). The lowest and highest points in the contiguous United States are in the state of California,[185] and only about 84 miles (135 km) apart.[186] At an elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190.5 m), Alaska's Denali is the highest peak in the country and in North America.[187] Active volcanoes are common throughout Alaska's Alexander and Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii consists of volcanic islands. The supervolcano underlying Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies is the continent's largest volcanic feature.[188] The United States, with its large size and geographic variety, includes most climate types. To the east of the 100th meridian, the climate ranges from humid continental in the north to humid subtropical in the south.[189] The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid. Much of the Western mountains have an alpine climate. The climate is arid in the Great Basin, desert in the Southwest, Mediterranean in coastal California, and oceanic in coastal Oregon and Washington and southern Alaska. Most of Alaska is subarctic or polar. Hawaii and the southern tip of Florida are tropical, as well as its territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific.[190] States bordering the Gulf of Mexico are prone to hurricanes, and most of the world's tornadoes occur in the country, mainly in Tornado Alley areas in the Midwest and South.[191] Overall, the United States receives more high-impact extreme weather incidents than any other country in the world.[192] Biodiversity Main articles: Fauna of the United States and Flora of the United States A bald eagle The bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States since 1782.[193] The U.S. is one of 17 megadiverse countries containing a large amount of endemic species: about 17,000 species of vascular plants occur in the contiguous United States and Alaska, and more than 1,800 species of flowering plants are found in Hawaii, few of which occur on the mainland.[194] The United States is home to 428 mammal species, 784 bird species, 311 reptile species, and 295 amphibian species,[195] as well as about 91,000 insect species.[196] There are 63 national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas, which are managed by the National Park Service.[197] Altogether, the government owns about 28% of the country's land area,[198] mostly in the western states.[199] Most of this land is protected, though some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, or cattle ranching, and about .86% is used for military purposes.[200][201] Environmental issues include debates on oil and nuclear energy, dealing with air and water pollution, the economic costs of protecting wildlife, logging and deforestation,[202][203] and climate change.[204][205] The most prominent environmental agency is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created by presidential order in 1970.[206] The idea of wilderness has shaped the management of public lands since 1964, with the Wilderness Act.[207] The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is intended to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats, which are monitored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.[208] The United States is ranked 24th among nations in the Environmental Performance Index.[209] The country joined the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2016 and has many other environmental commitments.[210] It left the Paris Agreement in 2020,[211] and rejoined it in 2021.[212] Government and politics Main articles: Federal government of the United States, Politics of the United States, State governments of the United States, and Local government in the United States The United States Capitol The United States Capitol, where Congress meets: the Senate, left; the House, right The White House The White House, residence and workplace of the U.S. President The Supreme Court Building The Supreme Court Building, where the nation's highest court sits The United States is a federal republic of 50 states, a federal district, five territories and several uninhabited island possessions.[213][214][215] It is the world's oldest surviving federation. It is a federal republic and a representative democracy "in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law."[216] Since 2015, the U.S. has ranked 25th on the Democracy Index, and is described as a "flawed democracy".[217] On Transparency International's 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, its public sector position deteriorated from a score of 76 in 2015 to 69 in 2019.[218] In the American federalist system, citizens are usually subject to three levels of government: federal, state, and local. The local government's duties are commonly split between county and municipal governments. In almost all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected by a plurality vote of citizens by district. The government is regulated by a system of checks and balances defined by the U.S. Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.[219] The Constitution establishes the structure and responsibilities of the federal government and its relationship with the individual states. Article One protects the right to the writ of habeas corpus. The Constitution has been amended 27 times;[220] the first ten amendments, which make up the Bill of Rights, and the Fourteenth Amendment form the central basis of Americans' individual rights. All laws and governmental procedures are subject to judicial review, and any law can be voided if the courts determine that it violates the Constitution. The principle of judicial review, not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, was established by the Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison (1803)[221] in a decision handed down by Chief Justice John Marshall.[222] The federal government comprises three branches: Legislative: The bicameral Congress, made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, makes federal law, declares war, approves treaties, has the power of the purse,[223] and has the power of impeachment, by which it can remove sitting members of the government.[224] Executive: The president is the commander-in-chief of the military, can veto legislative bills before they become law (subject to congressional override), and appoints the members of the Cabinet (subject to Senate approval) and other officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies.[225] Judicial: The Supreme Court and lower federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the president with Senate approval, interpret laws and overturn those they find unconstitutional.[226] The House of Representatives has 435 voting members, each representing a congressional district for a two-year term. House seats are apportioned among the states by population. Each state then draws single-member districts to conform with the census apportionment. The District of Columbia and the five major U.S. territories each have one member of Congress—these members are not allowed to vote.[227] The Senate has 100 members with each state having two senators, elected at-large to six-year terms; one-third of Senate seats are up for election every two years. The District of Columbia and the five major U.S. territories do not have senators.[227] The president serves a four-year term and may be elected to the office no more than twice. The president is not elected by direct vote, but by an indirect electoral college system in which the determining votes are apportioned to the states and the District of Columbia.[228] The Supreme Court, led by the chief justice of the United States, has nine members, who serve for life.[229] Political divisions Main articles: Political divisions of the United States, U.S. state, Territories of the United States, List of states and territories of the United States, and Indian reservation Further information: Territorial evolution of the United States See caption Map of the United States showing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five major U.S. territories The 50 states are the principal political divisions in the country. Each state holds jurisdiction over a defined geographic territory, where it shares sovereignty with the federal government. They are subdivided into counties or county equivalents and further divided into municipalities. The District of Columbia is a federal district that contains the capital of the United States, the city of Washington.[230] The states and the District of Columbia choose the president of the United States. Each state has presidential electors equal to the number of their representatives and senators in Congress; the District of Columbia has three because of the 23rd Amendment.[231] Territories of the United States such as Puerto Rico do not have presidential electors, and so people in those territories cannot vote for the president.[227] The United States also observes tribal sovereignty of the American Indian nations to a limited degree, as it does with the states' sovereignty. American Indians are U.S. citizens and tribal lands are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress and the federal courts. Like the states they have a great deal of autonomy, but also like the states, tribes are not allowed to make war, engage in their own foreign relations, or print and issue currency.[232] Reservations are usually part of a single state, though 12 reservations cross state boundaries.[233] Indian country jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters is shared by tribes, states, and the federal government. Citizenship is granted at birth in all states, the District of Columbia, and all major U.S. territories except American Samoa.[k][237][234] State and district flags and statehood dates (listed alphabetically) (listed chronologically) Statehood date is the date of ratifying the Constitution (for the first 13) or being admitted to the Union (for subsequent states) *District of Columbia is a district not a state Territory flags and dates (listed alphabetically) (listed chronologically) Territory date is the date the territory was acquired by the United States. The USMOI are not listed. Parties and elections Main articles: Political parties in the United States, Elections in the United States, and Political ideologies in the United States Portrait of Joe Biden Joe Biden 46th President Portrait of Kamala Harris Kamala Harris 49th Vice President since January 20, 2021 The United States has operated under a two-party system for most of its history.[238] For elective offices at most levels, state-administered primary elections choose the major party nominees for subsequent general elections. Since the general election of 1856, the major parties have been the Democratic Party, founded in 1824, and the Republican Party, founded in 1854. Since the Civil Wa



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