Ever wonder why the Middle Atlantic states are not in the Mid-Atlantic of the East Coast?

Ever wonder why the Middle Atlantic states are not in the Mid-Atlantic of the East Coast?

Have you ever wondered why in the United States the term “Middle Atlantic” includes only northeastern states and not states which are actually located in the Middle Eastern Atlantic region?

There is an NCAA Division I (FCS) athletic conference called the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).

In 1969,  an ad hoc group of innovators long associated with intercollegiate athletics met in Durham, North Carolina to discuss the feasibility of organizing a new NCAA athletic conference. After selecting a proposal and adopting a program, seven institutions agreed to become the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Delaware State University
Howard University (District of Columbia)
Morgan State University (Maryland)
North Carolina A&T State University
North Carolina Central University
South Carolina State University
University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Not one of the founding MEAC universities is located in what is defined as the Middle Atlantic. Even though the majority of states are actually located in the Middle Atlantic.

Today, the MEAC includes the following universities:
Bethune Cookman University (Florida)
Coppin State University (Maryland)
Delaware State University
Florida A&M University
Hampton University (Virginia)
Howard University (District of Columbia)
Morgan State University (Maryland)
Norfolk State University (Virginia)
North Carolina A&T State University
North Carolina Central University
Savannah State University (Georgia)
South Carolina State University
University of Maryland Eastern Shore

There are many businesses and organizations based in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland that have the name “Mid-Atlantic” as part of their names. Yet, when looking at an official map of the Middle Atlantic States, these three states are not located within the federal government’s designated Middle Atlantic Region.

Here is your answer to why North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia are not classified as Middle Atlantic States


U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Census Bureau

The recognition of geographic regions goes back to the colonial period of American history. By the 18th century, the names New England, the Middle Colonies, and the South had come to refer to major sections of the Atlantic seaboard. Each of these regions encompassed several adjacent colonies or areas of settlement. The regional designations reflected particularities of location, climate, topography, economic systems, ethnic composition of the settlers, and systems of local government.

One early use of these areas in a statistical compilation dates from before the American Revolution, when the British Government grouped the North American colonies into major colonial regions to summarize foreign trade information. These regions were New England, Middle Colonies, Upper South, and Lower South.

These colonial groupings were the forerunners of the State combinations that appear in the census publications. In fact, the area called New England in colonial times has maintained its geographic identity to the present day.

Much the same is true of the Middle Colonies; except for Delaware, which is now in the Census Bureau’s South Atlantic Division.

New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania remain the component States of the Middle Atlantic Division.

On a smaller scale, there were other regional designations that appeared in the geographic structure of later censuses; names such as tidewater, coastal plain, piedmont, and the back country were known and in general use even before the American Revolution. These groupings were of interest from the standpoint of statistical presentations because they referred to relatively homogeneous subareas within several colonies (or States). Such geographic subdivisions appeared in several U.S. publications, often as county groupings that represented areas having similar physical and socioeconomic characteristics.

Regional Designations in Early U.S. Censuses
Although 13 States were in place by the time of the first U.S. census in 1790, they were treated as judicial districts in census publications and for purposes of data collection. The published data made no use of State combinations. Instead, the summary table listed the 13 States (Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia) and three districts (Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont) under one heading, “Districts.” Two territories (Territory Northwest of River Ohio, and Territory South of River Ohio) also were under the heading of “Districts” but below the grand totals for the 16 areas listed above.

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