by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation
Today is Start Your Own Country Day. I wish I’d known this sooner, I would have gotten a head start on my apartment annexation plans – all hail Katelandia. In honor of this exciting and highly unsuccessful celebration, here’s a little history on the holiday and Colorado’s own brushes with secession. While Colorado never tried to become its own country, several attempts were made to change the state.
Start Your Own Country Day was created during the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. The motivation behind the holiday was to honor “those free spirited souls who dared to hope and believe in a better world where they too could declare any land their own.”
Since Colorado is a state full of free spirited souls, it’s not surprising that over the years a few of them have felt the urge to branch out. According to Wikipedia, in the 1950s the San Luis Valley region of Colorado proposed leaving the state and joining with New Mexico. Costilla County is also cited as having wanted to “break loose” in 1973. In the mid-1930s, the Walsenburg World-Independent proposed that Huerfano County secede. The suggestion was the project of Sam T. Taylor, sports editor at the paper. Taylor went on to be a senator, but only ever of Colorado as his suggestion of secession failed to catch on.
Colorado may have only a few secession initiatives compared to other states (hi, Texas!), but if some other suggestions had succeeded, Colorado might have been located someplace else entirely.
In 1854, the California State Assembly passed a plan to divide the state into thirds, with the southern counties becoming the State of Colorado. Sadly, it never happened. In 1859, the Pico Act was introduced into the California legislative session to divide the state in two. While possibly not entirely legal, the proposal was embraced and the plan was to create a Territory of Colorado out of the six counties below the thirty-sixth parallel. The bill passed, the state senate approved it, and the governor signed off on it. However, Congress still had to approve and, as the southern states were already threatening their own secession, Congress had little patience for California’s request. When Civil War broke out a year after the Pico Act was introduced, California’s request for separation was forgotten.
Finally, if George Etzel Pearcy had his druthers, most of the state of Colorado would have been known as San Luis. In 1973, Pearcy, a California State University geography professor, proposed re-surveying state lines to create 38 states. The new configuration would redistribute the number of big cities per state so that fewer cities would compete for the same state’s tax revenue, leaving more money for each state’s constituents. To avoid arguments over what state names would be kept and which dropped, Pearcy suggested new state names based on geographic and cultural features common to each region. In the interest of fairness even Hawaii, which would stay just as it was, would get a new name.
Pearcy had some support for his plan, but the proposed 38 States was ultimately rejected in Washington D.C.
It seems that, for now, Colorado will remain unified (with the exception of The People’s Republic of Boulder). That may anger some people, but just remember this: as long as no counties leave, we’re still one of the easiest states to draw.
And always remember, if you want to start your own country, you’re going to need a flag.
Images: Associated Content, Strange Maps, Mappery