News & Politics

Four Other Failed Statehood Attempts

If the District’s push doesn’t pan out, residents can take comfort that they weren’t the first to fail.

Gay Head cliff on Martha's Vineyard. Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith.

State of JeffersonStatehood2

In late 1941, counties on the Oregon/California border considered leaving, until the Pearl Harbor attack turned organizers’ attentions to more pressing concerns.


Upset about a Continental Congress decision awarding their corner of the Ohio Valley to Pennsylvania, a group of erstwhile Virginians sought to break away. In 1782, Pennsylvania made advocating for “Westslyvania” punishable by death.

Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard

After legislators gerrymandered the islands into a district dominated by Cape Cod, residents marched on Beacon Hill announcing their intention to depart Massachusetts.

South Jersey

In 1980, a newspaper columnist proposed that this region secede from the Garden State. It was a joke. But locals decided they liked the idea: Six counties south of Trenton held nonbinding referendums—and five of them approved the measure.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.