North Carolina
(In Detail) (Full size)
State nickname: Tar Heel State

Other U.S. States
Capital Raleigh
Largest City Charlotte
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water
 - % water
Ranked 28th
139,509 kmē
126,256 kmē
13,227 kmē
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 11th
Admittance into Union
 - Order
 - Date

November 21, 1789
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
34°N to 36°21'N
75°30'W to 84°15'W
240 km
805 km
2,037 meters
215 meters
0 meters
ISO 3166-2:US-NC

North Carolina is a southern state in the United States. North Carolina was one of the thirteen colonies that revolted against British rule in the American Revolution. It is bordered by South Carolina on the south, Georgia on the southwest, Tennessee on the west, Virginia on the north, and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. It was named in honor of King Charles I of England.

USS North Carolina was named in honor of this state.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Law and Government
3 Geography
4 Economy
5 Demographics
6 Important Cities and Towns
7 Education
8 Professional Sports Teams
9 Miscellaneous Information
10 External Links


Originally inhabited by a number of native tribes, including the Cherokee, North Carolina was the first American territory the English attempted to colonize. Sir Walter Raleigh, for whom the state capital is named, chartered two colonies on the North Carolina coast in the late 1580s, both ending in failure. The demise of one, the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island, remains one of the great mysteries of American history.

By the late seventeenth century, several permanent settlements had taken hold in the Carolina territory, which encompassed present-day South Carolina and Tennessee as well. In 1712, North Carolina became a separate colony. It reverted to a royal colony seventeen years later. In April 1776, the colony became the first to instruct its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence from the British crown.

On November 21, 1789, North Carolina ratified the Constitution to become the twelfth state in the Union. Between the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, North Carolina worked to establish its state and local governments. In 1840, it completed the state capitol building in Raleigh, still standing today. In mid-century the state's rural and commercial areas were further connected by construction of a 129 mile wooden plank road, known as a "farmer's railroad," from Fayetteville in the east to Bethania (northwest of Winston-Salem).

Divided on whether to support the North or the South in the Civil War, North Carolina seceded from the Union in 1861.

Over the past century, North Carolina has grown to become a leader in agriculture and industry. The state's industrial output--mainly textiles, chemicals, electrical equipment, paper and paper products--ranked eighth in the nation in the early 1990s. Tobacco, one of North Carolina's earliest sources of revenue, remains vital to the local economy. Recently, technology has become a driving force in the state, especially with the creation of the Research Triangle Park between Raleigh and Durham in the 1950's.

North Carolina has had three constitutions:

  • 1776: This one was ratified December 18, 1776, as the first constitution of the independent state. The Declaration of Rights was ratified the preceding day.
  • 1868: This was framed in accordance with the Reconstruction Acts after North Carolina was readmitted into the Union. It was a major reorganization and modification of the original into fourteen articles.
  • 1971: This is a minor consolidation of the 1868 constitution and subsequent amendments.

Law and Government

capital of North Carolina is Raleigh and its governor is Mike Easley (Democrat). Its two U.S. senators are John Edwards (Democrat) and Elizabeth Dole (Republican).

Executive Branch

The governor, lieutenant governor, and eight elected department heads form the Council of State; together with ten appointed department heads, they form the state's cabinet. The current cabinet (as of January 2004) consists of:

Elected cabinet members:
  • Secretary of State: Elaine Marshall
  • Attorney General: Roy A. Cooper III
  • Commissioner of Agriculture: W. Britt Cobb, Jr (interim)
  • Commissioner of Insurance: James E. Long
  • Commissioner of Labor: Cherie K. Berry
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction: Michael E. Ward
  • State Treasurer: Richard H. Moore
  • State Auditor: Ralph Campbell, Jr

Appointed cabinet members:
  • Secretary of Administration: Gwynn T. Swinson
  • Secretary of Commerce: Jim Fain
  • Secretary of Corrections: Theodis Beck
  • Secretary of Crime Control & Public Safety: Bryan E. Beatty
  • Secretary of Cultural Resources: Lisbeth C. Evans
  • Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources: William G. Ross
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services: Carmen Hooker Odom
  • Secretary of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention: George Sweat
  • Secretary of Revenue: Norris Tolson
  • Secretary of Transportation: Lyndo Tippett

See List of North Carolina Governors

Legislative Branch

The North Carolina General Assembly consists of two houses, a 50-member Senate and a 120-member House of Representatives. For the 2003-2004 session, the current President Pro Tempore is Democrat Marc Basnight; House co-speakers are Democrat James B. Black and Republican Richard T. Morgan.

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court of North Carolina is the state's highest apellate court. Numbering seven justices, its current members are:


List of North Carolina counties; List of cities in North Carolina; List of unincorporated communities in North Carolina.

The State of North Carolina is included between the parallels 34° and 36°30' north latitude, and between the meridians 75°30' and 84°30' west longitude.

A Rainy Day in the Smokies

Its western boundary is the crest of the Smoky Mountains, which, with the Blue Ridge, forms a part of the great Appalachian system, extending almost from the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River to the Gulf of Mexico; its eastern is the Atlantic Ocean. Its mean breadth from north to south is about one hundred miles; its extreme breadth is one hundred and eighty-eight miles. The extreme length of the State from east to west is five hundred miles. The area embraced within its boundaries is fifty-two thousand two hundred and eighty-six square miles.

The climate of North Carolina is mild and equable. This is due in part to its geographical position; midway, as it were, between the northern and southern limits of the Union. Two other causes concur to modify it; the one, the lofty Appalachian chain, which forms, to some extent, a shield from the bleak winds of the northwest; the other, the softening influence of the Gulf Stream, the current of which sweeps along near its shores.

The result of these combined causes is shown in the character of the seasons. Fogs are almost unknown; frosts occur not until the middle of October; ice rarely forms of a sufficient thickness to be gathered; snows are light, seldom remaining on the ground more than two or three days. The average rainfall is about fifty-three inches, which is pretty uniformly distributed throughout the year. The climate is eminently favorable to health and longevity.

The State falls naturally into three divisions or sections -- the Western or Mountain section, the Middle or Piedmont section, and the Eastern or Tidewater section. The first consists of mountains, many of them rising to towering heights, the highest, indeed, east of the Rocky Mountains. It is bounded on the east by the Blue Ridge and on the west by the Smoky Mountains. The section inclosed within these limits is in shape somewhat like an ellipse. Its length is about one hundred and eighty miles; its average breadth from twenty to fifty miles. It is a high plateau, from the plane of which many lofty mountains everywhere rise, and on its border the culminating points of the Appalachian system -- the Roau, the Grandfather and the Black -- lift their heads to the sky. Between the mountains are fertile valleys, plentifully watered by streams, many of them remarkable for their beauty. The mountains themselves are wooded, except a few which have prairies on their summits, locally distinguished as "balds." This section has long been one of the favorite resorts of the tourist and the painter.

The Middle section lies between the Blue Ridge and the falls where the rivers make their descent into the great plain which forms the Eastern section of the State. Its area comprises nearly one-half of the territory of the State. Throughout the greater part it presents an endless succession of hills and dales, though the surface near the mountains is of a bolder and sometimes of a rugged cast. The scenery of this section is as remarkable for quiet, picturesque beauty, as that of the Western is for sublimity and grandeur.

The Eastern section is a Champaign country; relieved, however, by gentle undulations. Its breadth is about one hundred miles. Its principal beauty lies in its river scenery and extensive water prospects.

The cultivated productions of the Mountain section are sweetcorn, wheat, oats, barley, hay, tobacco, fruits and vegetables. Cattle are also reared quite extensively for market. In the Middle section are found all the productions of the former, and over the southern half cotton appears as the staple product. In the Eastern section cotton, corn, oats and rice are staple crops, and the "trucking business" (growing fruits and vegetables for the Northern markets), constitutes a flourishing industry. The lumber business, and the various industries to which the long-leaf pine gives rise, tar, pitch and turpentine, have long been, and still continue to be, great resources of wealth for this section. Of the crops produced in the United States all are grown in North Carolina except sugar and some semi-tropical fruits, as the orange, the lemon and the banana. The wine grapes of America may be said to have their home in North Carolina; four of them, the Catawba, Isabella, Lincoln and Scuppernong, originated here.

The physical characteristics of the State will be better understood by picturing to the mind its surface as spread out upon a vast declivity, sloping down from the summits of the Smoky Mountains, an altitude of near seven thousand feet, to the ocean level. Through the range of elevation thus afforded, the plants and trees (or what is comprehended under the term flora) vary from those peculiar to Alpine regions to those peculiar to semi- tropical regions.

The variety of trees is most marked, including all those which yield timber employed in the useful and many of those employed in the ornamental arts. Indeed, nearly all the species found in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains, are found in North Carolina. Her wealth in this respect will be appreciated when the striking fact is mentioned that there are more species of oaks in North Carolina than in all the States north of us, and only one less than in all the Southern States east of the Mississippi. This range of elevation affords also a great variety of medicinal herbs. In fact, the mountains of North Carolina are the 'storehouse' of the United States for plants of this description.

The mountains of North Carolina may be conveniently classed as four separate chains: the Smoky, forming the western boundary of the State; the Blue Ridge, running across the State in a very tortuous course, and shooting out spurs of great elevation; the Brushy (which divides, for the greater part of its course, the waters of the Catawba and Yadkin), beginning at a point near Lenoir and terminating in the Pilot and Sauratown Mountains; and an inferior range of much lower elevation, which may be termed, from its local name at different points, the Uwharrie or Oconeechee Mountains beginning in Montgomery county and terminating in the heights about Roxboro, in Person county.

Each of these mountain ranges is marked by distinct characteristics. The Smoky chain, as contrasted with the next highest -- the Blue Ridge -- is more continuous, more elevated, more regular in its direction and height, and rises very uniformly from five thousand to nearly six thousand seven hundred feet.

The Blue Ridge is composed of many fragments scarcely connected into a continuous and regular chain. Its loftier summits range from five thousand to five thousand nine hundred feet. The Brushy range presents, throughout the greater part of its course, a remarkable uniformity in direction and elevation, many of its peaks rising above two thousand feet. The last, the Oconeechee or Uwharrie range, sometimes presents a succession of elevated ridges, then a number of bold and isolated knobs, whose heights are one thousand feet above the sea level.

There are three distinct systems of rivers in the State: those that find their way to the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi, those that flow through South Carolina to the sea and those that reach the sea along our own coast. The divide between the first and the second is the Blue Ridge chain of mountains; that between the second and third systems is found in an elevation extending from the Blue Ridge, near the Virginia line, just between the sources of the Yadkin and the Roanoke, in a south-easterly direction some two hundred miles, almost to the sea-coast below Wilmington. In the divide between the first and second systems, which is also the great watershed between the Atlantic slope and the Mississippi Valley, a singular anomaly is presented, for it is formed not by the lofty Smoky range, but by the Blue Ridge -- not, therefore, at the crest of the great slope which the surface of the State presents, but on a line lower down. On the western flank of this lower range the beautiful French Broad and the other rivers of the first section, including the headwaters of the Great Khanawha, have their rise. In their course through the Smoky Mountains to the Mississippi they pass along chasms or "gaps" from three thousand to four thousand feet in depth. These chasms or "gaps" are more than a thousand feet lower than those of the corresponding parts of the Blue Ridge.

The rivers of the second system rise on the eastern flank of the Blue Ridge. These rivers -- the Catawba and the Yadkin, with their tributaries stretching from the Broad River, near the mountains in the west, to the Lumber near the seacoast -- water some thirty counties in the State, a fan-shaped territory, embracing much the greater portion of the Piedmont section of the State.

The rivers of the third system are the Chowan, the Roanoke, the Tar, the Neuse and the Cape Fear, usually navigable some for fifty and others to near one hundred miles for boats of light draught. Of these the three last have their rise near the northern boundary of the State, in a comparatively small area, near the eastern source of the Yadkin. The Chowan has its rise in Virginia, below Appomattox Court House. The principal sources of the Roanoke, also, are in Virginia, in the Blue Ridge, though some of its head streams are in North Carolina, and very near those of the Yadkin. Only one of these rivers, the Cape Fear, flows directly into the ocean in this State; the others, after reaching the low country, move on with diminished current and empty into large bodies of water known as sounds.

The great rivers of these three systems, with their network of countless tributaries, great and small, afford a truly magnificent water supply. Flat lands border the streams in every section; they are everywhere exceptionally rich, and in the Tidewater section, of great breadth. In their course from the high plateaus to the low country all the rivers of the State have a descent of many hundred feet, made by frequent falls and rapids. These falls and rapids afford all unlimited motive power for machinery of every description; and here many cotton mills and other factories have been established, and are multiplying every year.

The sounds, and the rivers which empty into them, constitute a network of waterway for steam and sailing vessels of eleven hundred miles. They are separated from the ocean by a line of sand banks, varying in breadth from one hundred yards to two miles, and in height from a few feet above the tide level to twenty-five or thirty feet, on which horses of a small breed, called "Bank Ponies," are reared in great numbers, and in a half wild state. These banks extend along the entire shore a distance of three hundred miles. Through them there are a number of inlets from the sea to the sounds, but they are usually too shallow except for vessels of light burden. Along its northern coast the commerce of the State has, in consequence, been restricted; it has, however, an extensive commerce through Beaufort Harbor and the Cape Fear River.

The sounds, and the rivers in their lower courses, abound with fish and waterfowl. Hunting the canvas-back duck and other fowls for the Northern cities is a regular and profitable branch of industry; while herring, shad and rock-fishing is pursued, especially along Albemarle Sound, with spirit, skill and energy, and a large outlay of capital.

Major geographic features include the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west, the Piedmont region of the south central portion of the state, and Cape Fear, Cape Hatteras, and the Outer Banks off the eastern coast.


The state's 1999 total gross state product was $259 billion, placing it 12th in the nation. Its 2000 Per Capita Personal Income was $27,194, 30th in the nation. North Carolina's agricultural outputs are poultry and eggs, tobacco, hogs, milk, nursery stock, cattle, and soybeans. Its industrial outputs are tobacco products, textile goods, chemical products, electric equipment, machinery, and tourism.


According the 2000 census, North Carolina's population was 8,049,313.

Important Cities and Towns

Small towns/areas with interesting names:


Colleges and Universities

  • Appalachian State University
  • Barber-Scotia College
  • Barton College
  • Belmont Abbey College
  • Bennett College
  • Brevard College
  • Campbell University
  • Catawba College
  • Chowan College
  • Davidson College
  • Duke University
  • East Carolina University
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Elon University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • Gardner-Webb University
  • Greensboro College
  • Guilford College
  • High Point University
  • Johnson C. Smith University
  • Lees-McRae College
  • Lenoir-Rhyne College
  • Livingstone College
  • Louisburg College
  • Mars Hill College
  • Meredith College
  • Methodist College
  • Montreat College
  • Mount Olive College

Professional Sports Teams

  • Minor League Baseball teams
    • Charlotte Knights
    • Durham Bulls
    • Kinston Indians
    • Winston-Salem Warthogs
    • Burlington Indians
    • Carolina Mudcats
    • Kannapolis Intimidators
    • Greensboro Bats
    • Asheville Tourists
    • Hickory Crawdads

Miscellaneous Information

State Bird:
Cardinal Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
State Flower: Dogwood Scientific Name: Cornus florida
State Motto: Esse quam videri (To be, rather than to seem)


External Links