The United States is not unfamiliar with the idea of partitions. In the first century of our nation’s history, Kentucky, Maine, and West Virginia were all created from partitions of existing states. Although none have occurred since then, there have been several failed campaigns for partitions. This typically occurs when a certain region’s interests clash with the policies of the state overall or the country.
In the 1930s, one such proposal that gained traction was the state to be named Absaroka. This new state would have included South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The idea behind Absaroka was a rejection of the New Deal policies of the 1930’s with the plan being for the new state to secede from the United States. Sheridan, Wyoming was to be the capital and A.R. Swickard, a former baseball player and one of the founders of Absaroka as an idea, appointed himself it’s governor. The movement’s traction gradually died out and no such proposals for a similar state have been made since.
While there have been no petitions for the combination of states, there have been petitions for the division of states. There have been a multitude of petitions to make the upper peninsula of Michigan into an individual state. The separation of the upper peninsula from the mainland has resulted in a culture and economy far removed from the rest of the state. Proposals have been made in 1858, 1897, 1959, and 1962. The most recent attempt was made in the 1970s, when residents of the peninsula wished to protect their mining and lumber industries from environmentalist policies. Despite this, no action was taken to attempt for its statehood.
One of the attempts that came closest to completing partitioning occurred with California and Oregon in 1941. Jefferson’s Territory, which is what they were trying to create, would encompass the northernmost region of California and southern Oregon. The regions included were typically rural, with populations that felt their interests were not being represented in their state governments. Statehood for Jefferson was going to be voted on, but it was delayed indefinitely due to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Despite occurring 80 years ago, the movement never truly died out in California, and still has lingering support to this day. However, while originally a union of California and Oregon counties, modern proposals typically do not involve Oregon as its southern counties have grown to oppose the idea.
The underlying issue remains the same for these theoretical states: a dissatisfaction with state and national policies. The continued relevance of Jefferson for many Northern Californians may make it a reality within our lifetime.