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For decades, the only state symbols reference of note was State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols by George Earlie Shankle. It’s an awesome reference, but it has some huge shortcomings, and it was first published before World War II—before Alaska and Hawaii were even states.
The other state symbols reference that is now stocked by most libraries is State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide by Benjamin and Barbara Shearer. Though published more recently, it’s still out of date. Moreover, it also has some rather enormous shortcomings, including a striking lack of pictures.
Both of these books can be described as typically stuffy references, particularly the latter.
My State Symbols Book is better than both of those references. Far from a stuffy reference, it’s lavishly illustrated and is much more fun to read. There’s really no need for another state symbols reference, unless you’re a reference librarian or a hard core fan of symbols or Americana.
However, My State Symbols Book includes a series of annotated lists of the symbols of each of the 50 states. That feature alone is probably all the reference most people would need.
Top 10 Features ˆ
Below is a list of 10 features that make My State Symbols Book a major improvement over the competition.
- The first reference to properly define state symbols, making it better focused
- The first reference to properly classify state symbols, making it better organized and much more useful
- Most accurate state symbols lists available
- Lavishly illustrated
- Better designed and styled, with an emphasis on navigation
- Novel arrangement, with each state’s symbols painting a picture of that state
- Educational and provocative, including criticism of many symbols
- The most current reference (published near the end of 2022 and supported by a website)
- The first state symbols general reference to take advantage of the features that make ebooks more powerful than traditional print publications
- Supported by additional books and a website
1. Definition ˆ
If you want to write a book, it helps to know what you’re talking about.
The books by Shankle and the Shearers collectively have chapters focusing on state apiarists (bee keepers), capitols, governors, license plates, postage stamps and universities. Geobop’s State Symbols begins with the question “what is a state symbol?.” It then focuses on genuine state symbols (which can be quite overwhelming themselves) without getting cluttered by lists of state governors (what, no senators?), universities and beekeepers.
2. Classification ˆ
Pardon the arrogance, but I was the first to undertake the task of classifying state symbols. Wikipedia now uses my basic classification scheme, though my classification system has been refined in this book. Its especially useful when dealing with all those “cultural symbols,” from official foods and beverages to ships, sports and stars.
Amazingly, the most popular state symbols websites have no classification system at all. You really can’t have a solid reference without a good classification scheme.
3. Most accurate lists of state symbols ˆ
To be honest, no one can really keep up with the continuing deluge of new state symbols. However, I think I do a better job than most. Combined with the classification system I developed, my symbols lists rock.
Incidentally, Wikipedia’s lists of state symbols rates a D at best. Wikipedians have a habit of manufacturing symbols that don’t even exist.
4. Pictures! ˆ
Almost unbelievably, the books by Shankle and the Shearers have no pictures other than state flags and seals. Moreover, they’re very low quality images that are grouped together, a common practice in print publications.
Much nicer pictures can be found on websites focusing on state symbols. But this book has gone even further.
Geobop’s State Symbols will tentatively feature more than 1,500 pictures, many of them of very high quality. You can explore galleries of state flags, seals and arms, as well as a gallery of state flag proposals. (However, the latter may not be included in the book, as I am publishing a separate book, Flag Quest, focusing on the campaign for new state flags.)
The pictures in this book are uniquely creative, many grouping symbols together or emphasizing various themes. Of particular note is a series of state maps that illustrate localities associated with symbols.
5. Better Designed and Styled ˆ
If you have a copy of the Shearers’ book in ebook format, look at the table of contents. The 50 states are listed in single columns that take up way too much space. You may not be able to see an entire list on one page even when using the smallest font. Compare that with the state index used in this book (below).
(Note: I linked the states in the table above to pages on this web site.)
I put a lot of work into this book’s navigation, allowing you to navigate it both vertically and horizontally, quickly jumping back and forth between sections, subsections and topics. If you can’t easily return to a location where you clicked a link, it shouldn’t be too hard to find your way back via the table of contents. Of course, you can always do a simple search for a word or phrase, too.
Geobop’s State Symbols also makes abundant use of color-coded tables with footnotes, a valuable resource for researchers.
6. Novel Arrangement ˆ
Did you know that some of Maryland’s most prominent state symbols complement the colors of its state flag? Or that some of Kansas’ most familiar symbols share the colors brown and yellow?
Nebraska’s relative paucity of familiar symbols makes it a tough state to design a flag for. The symbols of some northeastern states commemorate the Revolution, while a number of Southern symbols commemorate the Civil War.
These patterns aren’t discussed in most state symbols references.
7. Provocative ˆ
Some might argue that a good reference should be impartial, unbiased. But My State Symbols Book is more than a reference. It’s also an educational tool, and no rational, ethical person would promote the growing list of official firearms and military symbols as a wholesome trend. Indeed, legislators in various states are increasingly fighting back against the sheer number of state symbols.
More than criticize state symbols, I’m actively campaigning for and against them. I’m one of many people who are lobbying for the replacement of some amazingly shabby state flags with more respectable designs. And why do the corporate media tirelessly harp about racist Confederate symbols when Washington State’s ugly flag depicts a slave owner? Abraham Lincoln, a major Illinois icon, was a major player in the American Holocaust, presiding over the biggest lynching of Native Americans in this country’s history.
8. Current ˆ
Shankle’s book was first published before World War II; it doesn’t even include Alaska and Hawaii! The Shearers’ book was last published in 2002. Many new symbols have been adopted since then.
Making things worse, state symbols are a moving target, with new symbols proposals making headlines almost every week.
My State Symbols Book will include all the state symbols adopted through 2021 (and possibly 2022).
9. Epub ˆ
Shankle’s book wasn’t available as an ebook until I stepped up to the plate. The ebook version of the Shearers’ book is a virtual carbon copy of the print version, with no extra pictures and virtually no special features.
As a long-time web designer, I know how to make effective epubs. Just browse through this book, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
What you’re looking at is essentially a website without ads (except for an occasional promotion of my books) or technical gizmos that can malfunction or slow down loading time. It just works, and no trees were sacrificed.
10. Supported by Other Books and a Website ˆ
My State Symbols Book is part of a series of books focusing on state symbols, most of which will be published by the end of 2022. The books are supported by this website, which is probably the best state symbols web site on the internet already, even though it may not be finished until 2023.
Don’t take my word for it. Grab a search engine and check out the top ranked state symbols websites, then compare them to Geobop’s Symbols.
Wait a minute … ˆ
Those top 10 features look awfully similar to the top 10 features I listed for Geobop’s State Symbols. How can both books be the first refrence to properly classify state symbols?
It’s complex. You see, both books are joined at the hip. Moreover, I developed my classification scheme before I began working on either book. It was one of the ingredients that made my website GeoSymbols so successful.
I began working on Geobop’s State Symbols before I came up with the idea of creating a spinoff, My State Symbols Book. Although the two books are very different, they are also very similar in some respects. Both include as section with lists of each state’s symbols, for example.
In a nutshell, Geobop’s State Symbols is much bigger and has more information and more pictures. However, most people would probably find it a little tedious, largely because it documents a lot of symbols that are frankly boring.
My State Symbols Book focuses largely on the more prominent and interesting symbols, making it more enjoyable to read. It is still a formidable reference, thanks in part to those lists of symbols in the appendix.
In summary, the Geobop state symbols project isn’t just better than the competition; it has no competition.