National Geographic photographers have been documenting human life since the early 1900s, capturing historic moments as well as more mundane routines.
In the book “National Geographic: The United States of America,” 700 captivating images from the magazine’s archives have been pulled together in one place, highlighting each state in a range of dynamic images.
This collection gives us an insight into how Americans have lived their lives — and how they engage with their community and others. Below, 51 images that help show how Americans spend their time.
All captions by National Geographic.
Alabama, 2014: “Showplace of the South” — and indeed it was when those doors first opened in 1927. Birmingham’s Alabama Theatre was Paramount’s showcase movie palace, beckoning patrons from across the Southeast into its plush, gold-leafed Moorish Revival interior.
Alaska, 1956: Wreathed in a penumbra of luxurious fur, the winner of the 1955 Miss Arctic Circle contest stands beneath a blue sky at the annual Fourth of July celebration in Kotzebue, Alaska.
Arizona, 1955: At Hopi Point Overlook, Arizona, afternoon shadows repaint the Grand Canyon’s ever-changing landscape. “Forms unrivaled by the mountains,” the 19th century explorer John Wesley Powell said of his encounter with the canyon, “colors that vie with sunsets.”
Arkansas, 1946: Arkansas travelers luxuriate in a new tourist court on the ridges of the Blue Ozarks — part of the state’s postwar shift from agriculture to a more varied economic mix.
California, 1963: The Western Hemisphere’s first daily-operating monorail glides noiselessly over a “nuclear” sub on its 2.5-mile journey through Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.
Colorado, 1953: Taking a pause from ski-in-the-sun fun, a woman peers across the snowy Rockies. In the 1950s, Colorado became a winter sports capital for a nation with more time for health and leisure.
Connecticut, 1936: Connecticut Hall, built in 1752 and wreathed in ivy, provides the backdrop for Yale students relaxing at the university’s Old Campus.
Delaware, 1982: No arguments when the umpire is a tire. Any pitch in the hole is an automatic strike — whether or not the batter is smoking — by the rules of this pickup game in the fishing village of Leipsic.
Florida, 1994: Punting through Florida’s Everglades in their seminole canoes, Glen Simmons and Don Edwards note the changes over the decades. “I used to see a million birds in one look,” Simmons told writer Alan Mairson in the April 1994 Geographic. “Blackened the skies for hours.”
Georgia, 1988: Messages of positivity grace the streetscape in Sweet Auburn, Georgia, birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. and traditional center of Atlanta’s black community.
Hawaii, 196: Surfers wait for waves on Mākaha Beach, on the leeward side of Oahu, Hawaii.
Idaho, 1900: Boatmen on an Idaho river. The long rudder oar was used to help guide the boat through rapids on rivers like the Snake or the Salmon.
Illinois, 1950s: Perched atop the City of Broad Shoulders, tourists gaze down on the Chicago River from the roof of the Tribune Building.
Indiana, 1952: Monumental reminder of a simple childhood, the courtyard at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial near Lincoln City, Indiana, marks the place where the future 16th president grew from a 7-year-old boy to a 21-year-old man.
Iowa, 1991: It’s a long home run to the Mississippi River at John O’Donnell Stadium in Davenport, Iowa, home to the Quad Cities Angels. The club has played in the Midwest League, one of the lower rungs of the baseball ladder, since 1960. But Davenport has had minor league teams going all the way back to 1879.
Kansas, 1949: Lunchtime at the Future Farmers of America state convention on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan.
Kentucky, 1964: A National Parks Service guide addresses visitors to Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest cave system at 390 miles of known passageway. Standing on the same rock in 1876, actor Edwin Booth delivered Hamlet’s soliloquy, giving the chamber its name: Booth’s Amphitheater.
Louisiana, 2007: Trumpeter Kenneth Terry and the New Birth Brass Band play at Preservation Hall in Louisiana, two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. “What we do in New Orleans you can’t find anyplace else,” Terry told Geographic writer Joel K. Bourne Jr. “The jazz we play comes from the soul.”
Maine, 1968: Autumn’s golden glory surrounds children returning from school in Wiscasset, Maine.
Maryland, 1972: Burlesque legend Blaze Starr reigns over Baltimore’s bawdy “block” of strip clubs and grindhouses. Characters like Starr, John Waters, and Divine drew the attention of the world to their city, the quirky metropolis of Maryland.
Massachusetts, 1970: Children romp through a field of Queen Anne’s lace on Nantucket. The windmill in the distance, built in 1746 from the timber of wrecked ships, is the oldest still functioning in the United States.
Michigan, 1944: The start of a new shift draws some of Michigan’s River Rouge plant’s 150,000 Ford workers past the company docks and onto the factory floor.
Minnesota, 1976: A gang of gobblers struts down Tenth Street, just one of many climaxes of the King Turkey Day Festival in Worthington. The celebration is held each September to mark Minnesota’s place as the nation’s biggest turkey-producing state.
Mississippi, 1973: A young baller goes aloft for a skyhook in Jones Village, an unincorporated community in the Mississippi Delta.
Missouri, 1976: Trotters and buggies circumambulate the Kemper Arena floor at the annual Royal Horse Show in Kansas City.
Montana, 1925: From his vantage point high above Montana’s Cabinet National Forest, a U.S. Forest Service worker plots the location of a fire somewhere in its 2 million acres of wilderness.
Nebraska, 1978: In Cherry County, Nebraska, the day begins at School 100 with the raising of the flag by the school’s lone teacher and its only two students. One-room schoolhouses abounded in the vast, sparsely peopled Sandhills region.
Nevada, 1974: Far from the glitz of Nevada’s Las Vegas and Reno, the Golden Club in Austin offers its patrons simple hospitality.
New Hampshire, 1982: New Hampshire locals shovel the hockey rink on the Whitefield Common, flooded by the town so they can play the winter game.
New Jersey, 1960: One of the Boardwalk’s 2,000 wicker-covered roller chairs, and its iron-legged pusher, provide a leisurely ride for three visitors to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
New Mexico, 1957: Picnickers gather at Great White Sands, New Mexico, where snowy-soft gypsum forms a 140,000-acre sandbox. Curving shields protect picnic tables from the blowing wind and glaring sun.
New York, 1977: West 138th Street in New York City’s Harlem on Memorial Day, closed to traffic and open to the neighborhood’s inhabitants.
North Carolina, 1980: Preacher and faithful shake with the fervor of true religion at a Charlotte tent revival in North Carolina. According to a 2016 survey, 66 percent of state residents say they pray daily, one of the highest such figures in the nation.
North Dakota, 1950: “Time!” a cowboy signals with upraised arms, having just completed his halfhitch knot at the North Dakota state calf-roping championship in Dickinson.
Ohio, 1978: Motorboat’s helmswoman maneuvers through traffic between Put-In Bay and the Bass Islands on Lake Erie’s west end.
Pennsylvania, 1932: Narrow vista on Broad Street. Philadelphians come and go through an archway at City Hall.
Rhode Island, 1995: Divers find another use for Newport, Rhode Island’s Cliff Walk, an activity that has nothing to do with extravagant mansions.
South Carolina, 1953: Azaleas burgeon in full bloom at Magnolia Gardens in South Carolina. The Charleston arboretum was opened to the public in 1870, on the grounds of a plantation founded in 1676.
South Dakota, 1930s: Lincoln’s face emerges from naked stone at South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his crew began carving the monument in 1927. It was completed in 1941 by Borglum’s aptly named son, Lincoln.
Tennessee, 1978: Relaxed and ready, the country star Hank Snow waits backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the Tennessee Capital and “Music City, U.S.A.”
Texas, 1974: “If there is an image of mine that captures the wide-open West that has so enraptured me,” Allard wrote in the October 2010 Geographic, “it is this one of a West Texas cowboy at full gallop.”
Utah, 2006: A speedboat follows a snaking route through Reflection Canyon, Utah, a journey made possible by the damming of the Colorado River in 1963.
Vermont, 1927: Vermont’s Echo Lake, smooth as glass on a cloudy day, awaits the passage of a lone canoe.
Virginia, 1939: Getting some ink in Norfolk, Virginia, back when sailors were tattoo parlors’ best, and virtually only, customers.
Washington, 1960: Couture al fresco, models promenade in a fashion show on Main Street, Spokane, Washington.
Washington D.C., 1951: Like a grand patriotic confection, the Mayflower Hotel plays host to the annual banquet of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
West Virginia, 1971: A worker in the Union Carbide lunchroom in Anmoore, West Virginia, a town so poor that the chemical company’s own spokesman called it “the place that God forgot.” Ash from Union Carbide smokestacks blackened clothes and peeled paint, all while the company paid a mere $9,000 a year in taxes — the dark side of West Virginia’s industrial legacy.
Wisconsin, 1977: Open doors of welcome invite revelers to a barn dance at Volksfest, an annual celebration of Swiss Independence Day in New Glarus, Wisconsin.
Wyoming, 1940: Wyoming’s Old Faithful, queen geyser of Yellowstone National Park, shoots its 5,000 or more gallons of scalding water skyward with delightful regularity. In 1938 it averaged one eruption every 66.5 minutes; by 2015 that average was up to 90 minutes, but it never missed a show, and still blasts boiling water up to 185 feet into the air.
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