New York State Facts

New York State is known as The Empire State. As one of the original thirteen colonies, there is some speculation as to how we became the “the Seat of the Empire”. Regardless of the nickname’s origin, there’s no doubting that we have a long history. With mountain ranges, to Women’s Suffrage history there’s a lot here to learn.

We are the fourth most populous state in the nation, but 27th in land mass. With New York City accounting for 40% of the state’s total population, the culture statewide is diverse and sometimes even sporadic.

Our geography is unique because we were once covered by an ocean, and then later by ice. The population density is unique in many ways because of the Erie Canal. Our food is unique because we have so many different settlers from various nationalities that reside here. Our culture is unlike most other states.

While most people can’t decide where Upstate New York starts and ends, you’ll find people all over who are proud to represent New York from each corner of the state.

New York State Defined

This page of facts will include interesting bits of information that pertain to more than a single region in Upstate.

– New York State has 114,709 miles of public roads. [source]

– New York has 390 miles of inland waterways, ranking it 22nd in the nation.

– The Second Continental Congress first voted to declare independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. In that vote, 12 of the 13 colonies voted in favor while only New York abstained. Representative Robert R. Livingston didn’t feel he had enough information to fairly vote for his constituents.

– 2,078 of the 17,442 bridges in New York (11.9%) are considered to be structurally deficient. (*Data is from 2013.) [source]

– It is estimated that 90 billion gallons of rain fall in New York State per day (40 inches per year).

– In New York State non-prepared foods are exempt from sales tax, but candy is still considered taxable. So, technically, the larger marshmallows to make smores on the campfire are tax exempt, while the small ones that go into hot chocolate are subject to taxation.

– New York State has both the highest percentage and the highest number of Jewish residents in the U.S. (second in the world only to Israel). Back in 1880, it was estimated that about 80,000 Jews were living in New York State. In 2012 the estimate soared upwards of 1,800,000.

– During 2013, 157,402 tons of road salt and 469,562 gallons of anti-icing agents were used on the NYS Thruway.

– In 2014, 40 million people visited the 27 travel plazas on the New York State Thruway.[source]

– New York State has 62 counties, 62 cities, 553 villages and 932 towns.[source]

– The New York State motto is: “Excelsior”, a Latin word meaning ‘ever upward’. [source]

– There are 58 different types of orchids that grow in the wild of New York.[source]

– Lake Ontario is the 14th largest lake in the world. [source]

– The Governor Thomas Dewey NYS Thruway is 641 miles and is the longest toll superhighway in the entire U.S. [source]

– In 1901, New York became the first state to require license plates on vehicles. The cost to register was $1. [source]

– According to Influenster (who interviewed 40,000 individuals in the U.S.) the most popular Halloween candy in New York for 2015 is: Sweet Tarts! [source]

– To get from Aurora, New York to East Aurora, New York you would actually have to travel westward.

The famous folk song “Low Bridge-Everybody Down” about Sal the Mule working the canal has changed over time. Those changes have caused confusion about both the title and the lyrics. The original rendition sings, “I’ve got an old mule and her name is Sal, Fifteen YEARS on the Erie Canal” but it was later changed to “I’ve got an old mule and her name is Sal, fifteen MILES on the Erie Canal”. [source]

The idea for a statewide canal system first emerged in 1807 when prisoner Jesse Hawley wrote a series of essays outlining the plan from within his cell. Under the pseudonym “Hercules”, Hawley outlined the entire plan for the canal, including construction costs and even toll pricing. He published it in the Genesee Messenger which caught the eye of a few politicos who liked the idea and ran with it. Hawley’s flour mill operation had struggled, causing him to fall in to debt and therefore be imprisoned. The canal was his solution to improving his sales. [source]

– The 2011 Mr. New York State bodybuilding championship had an unlikely champion. The unfit Australian comedian Hamish Blake entered as a joke, but since he was the only one to enter in the heavyweight category, he won by default. [source]

– The mohawk hairstyle is indeed named for the native people of the Mohawk Valley, but the association is historically inaccurate. The depiction of Mohawk people in the 1939 film starring Henry Fonda, Drums Along the Mohawk, is responsible for the now common misunderstanding. Mohawk people of New York actually wore a hairstyle that simply was a patch of hair remaining on the crown on the scalp–an effect created not by shaving the balded parts, but by dusting the fingers with ash for grip, and then pulling it out.

– In 2018, officials counted 400 breweries operating within New York State, breaking the previous record of 393 breweries from the year 1876. [source]

– A coterminous town is one where the village and the town have the exact same geographic borders forcing a unique structure of government to manage the normally separate entities. They are rare in the United States, but New York has five–and soon will have a sixth!

– 97% of all beef farms in the United States are family owned, but here in New York a whopping 99% of farms are family owned! Even more impressive, 56% of New York’s family owned beef farms have been owned by the same family for at least three generations.