In less than 400 years, the United States of America has grown from wild countryside inhabited by native peoples to the world's most powerful industrial nation. The country is made up of 50 states including Alaska in the far north and Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. There are two major mountian ranges, the Appalachians to the east and the Rockies to the west, while much of its center is covered by the gently sloping Great Plains. Vast supplies of coal, oil, and minerals, together with mass immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries, helped business and industry grow fast. Today, American products and culture are recognized throughout the world.
One of the first people to realize that Columbus had not reached Asia was Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci was an Italian trader who lived in Spain. He had sold Columbus many of the things Columbus needed for his trips across the ocean.
Vespucci talked several Spanish sailors into taking him along on their westward voyges. On these trips, he became more certian that the land they saw was not part of Asia. Many of the plants and animals he saw were unknown in Asia, Europe, or Africa. For that reason, he decided this land must be a new continent.
Vespucci wrote much about the new continent. Then a German map maker made a new map of the world. In it he included the continent Vespucci had described. The map maker named it America in honor of Amerigo Vespucci.
People in the U.S. belong to a wide range of different groups and races. Most are descended from immigrants- people who moved there from other parts of the world, such as Europe and Asia. Many African-Americans are descendants of slaves forced to the U.S. in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries. Today, the population is increasingly Hispanic (Spanish speaking), Asian, and African-American. By 2050, these groups will make up more than half the population.
More than 75 percent Americans live in cities the surrounding suburbs. Most people who live in the suburbs own their own homes and travel to work by car. New York is the biggest city, with more than 16 million inhabitants, followed by Los Angeles, and then Chicago. People from different backgrounds mingle in most cities. Often they have their own neighborhoods, with names such as Little Italy or Chinatown.