Written By: Bill Syken

The rules for putting together this photo collection were simple: choose one, and only one, classic LIFE photo per state.

The one-photo limit created tough choices, because states are diverse places. Candidates for Massachusetts, for example, included a Cape Cod family vacation, an MIT classroom, and a touch football game at the Kennedy compound, among other possibilities. The photo that was finally chosen was an Alfred Eisenstaedt picture of Cape Cod fishermen, but you could argue that any of the above choices would be equally representative.

And the same is true for so many other states. Questions recurred: Do you emphasize city life or country life? The historic or the everyday? Do you favor the landscape or the people living in it?

As a whole these picture attempt, collectively, to do it all. The hope is that, when scrolling through all 51 photos at once (Washington D.C. is included), the viewer feels the sweep of the country’s variety and abundance. We have skiers in Vermont, juke joint patrons in South Carolina, commuters in Connecticut and showgirls in Nevada. While ties often went to the pictures featuring people outside and enjoying their environment, is there anything more wonderfully New Hampshire than the skepticism of a man listening to a primary speech with a weariness that captures what residents of the Granite state must endure every four years?

This exercise could be done a hundred times over, always producing different results—for California, maybe show the Academy Awards or the beach instead of the Golden Gate Bridge. Or for Pennsylvania, choose a photo from either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, rather than couple cavorting a heart-shaped tub at a Poconos resort.

But that couple is having fun, and so are we. Please enjoy.

Children searched for creatures in tidal pool during ebb tide along the coast of Maine, 1943.

BERNARD HOFFMAN/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Voters listened to a candidate’s pitch in advance of the 1952 New Hampshire presidential primary.

Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

A child learned to ski in the Stowe area of Vermont, 1957.

George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Three Gloucester, Massachusetts fishermen putting in to harbor to mend nets in Cape Cod, 1940.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Sailing school in Newport, Rhode Island, 1959.

Peter Stackpole/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

A father is greeted by his family after returning home from work, Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Children playing in water during a heat wave in New York City, 1953.

New York City heat wave, 1953.

Peter Stackpole The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Workers building an overpass for the brand new New Jersey Turnpike, 1951.

Andreas Feininger.The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Newlyweds at a Poconos resort in Pennsylvania, 1970.

GEORGE SILK/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

From a photo essay on life in Delaware, 1938.

PETER STACKPOLE/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, 1937.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963.

Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the crowd during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963.

Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Cave exploration in West Virginia, 1946.

Albert Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

North Carolina, 1944.

GABRIEL BENZUR/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

A night out at a juke joint, S. Carolina, 1956.

A night out at a juke joint in Greenville, South Carolina.

Margaret Bourke-White The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (sitting in golf cart) enjoys a round of golf at Augusta National in Georgia, 1956.

ROBERT W. KELLEY/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Miami Beach, Florida, 1940.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Selma, Alabama, 1968.

HENRY GROSKINSKY/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Springtime in Mississippi, 1949.

Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Johnny Cash fished in a lake near his Tennessee home, 1969.

Michael Rougier/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

A mountain farm family, Kentucky, 1944.

Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

High school seniors nearing graduation, Mansfield, Ohio, 1941.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/ Life Pictures/Shutterstock

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 1939.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Henry Ford II in 1948, posing at the Ford plant with newest model Ford car and models A and T, created by his father and grandfather.

Gjon Mili/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Stunt man Jack Wylie soars over the Chicago River, 1958.

Stunt man Jack Wylie soared over the Chicago River, 1958.

Al Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis approached completion, 1965.

ROBERT W. KELLEY/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

An Arkansas country music festival, 1972.

Michael Mauney/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

A woman and two children celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans, 1938.

WILLIAM VANDIVERT/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Eugene "Mercury" Morris, West Texas State, 1968.

Football player Eugene “Mercury” Morris, West Texas State, 1968.

Bob Gomel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Oklahoma, 1942. Agriculturists work on the region's catastrophic on erosion problem.

In Oklahoma in 1942, agriculturists worked on the region’s catastrophic erosion problem.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

The Pawnee Acre Community building during a Wednesday night social, Kansas, 1952

Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Route 30 Nebraska, USA, 1948.

Route 30 in Nebraska, 1948.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A farm boy with his prize bull, Iowa, 1948.

Bob Landry/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Beer plant workers on a beer break, Milwaukee, 1949.

Frank Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Men being hauled across a frozen lake in a seigh, drawn by two horses, in Northwest Angle, Minnesota, 1950.

GEORGE SILK/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Mount Rushmore, 1940.

Construction on Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, 1940, a year before its completion.

Alfred EisenstaedtThe LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Pheasant hunters, North Dakota, 1946.

Wallace Kirkland/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Students played in front of their one-room school at Rygate, Montana, April 1941.

Hansel Mieth/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Jackson Hole 1948

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 1948.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Aspen, Colorado, 1947.

Peter Stackpole/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, 1948.

W. Eugene Smith/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Route 66, Arizona, 1947.

Route 66, Arizona, 1947

Andreas Feininger The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Native Americans herd sheep in southeastern Utah, 1947.

Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Lumber workers in Idaho, 1940.

Hansel MiethThe LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

The Seattle World’s Fair, 1962.

Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

A deer cooling his heels along the Oregon seashore, 1960.

A deer cooled his heels along the Oregon seashore, 1960.

Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Las Vegas, 1955

Las Vegas, 1955.

Loomis DeanThe LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Golden Gate Bridge, photographed from a helicopter, 1952.

The Golden Gate Bridge, photographed from a helicopter in 1952.

Margaret Bourke-White/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

A 49th star was added to the American flag when Alaska joined the union, 1958.

Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Surfing in Hawaii, 1963.

Surfer Rick Grigg caught a ride at Banzai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, 1963.

George Silk The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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