The United States was formed from thirteen British colonies in 1776. Many of these colonies had been around for well over 100 years including the first colony of Virginia which was founded in 1607. See below for a map of the thirteen original colonies.
What is a colony?
A colony is a region of land that is under the political control of another country. Usually the controlling country is physically far away from the colony, as was the case with England and the American colonies. Colonies are typically founded and settled by people from the home country, however, there may also be settlers from other countries. This was especially true of the American colonies which had settlers from all over Europe.
The Thirteen Colonies
Here is a list of the thirteen colonies with the year they were founded in () and a note on how they were founded.
Virginia (1607) - John Smith and the London Company.
New York (1626) - Originally founded by the Dutch. Became a British colony in 1664.
New Hampshire (1623) - John Mason was the first land holder. Later John Wheelwright.
Massachusetts Bay (1630) - Puritans looking for religious freedom.
Maryland (1633) - George and Cecil Calvert as a safe haven for Catholics.
Connecticut (1636) - Thomas Hooker after he was told to leave Massachusetts.
Rhode Island (1636) - Roger Williams to have a place of religious freedom for all.
Delaware (1638) - Peter Minuit and the New Sweden Company. British took over in 1664.
North Carolina (1663) - Originally part of the Province of Carolina. Split off from South Carolina in 1712.
South Carolina (1663) - Originally part of the Province of Carolina. Split off from North Carolina in 1712.
New Jersey (1664) - First settled by the Dutch, the English took over in 1664.
Pennsylvania (1681) - William Penn and the Quakers.
Georgia (1732) - James Oglethorpe as a settlement for debtors.
Why were the colonies established?
Queen Elizabeth wanted to establish colonies in the Americas in order to grow the British Empire and to counter the Spanish. The English hoped to find wealth, create new jobs, and establish trade ports along the coast of the Americas.
Each colony, however, has its own unique history on how it was founded. Many of the colonies were founded by religious leaders or groups looking for religious freedom. These colonies included Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Other colonies were founded purely in hopes of creating new trade opportunities and profits for investors.
The colonies are often divided up into three regions including the New England Colonies, the Middle Colonies, and the Southern Colonies.
New England Colonies
Interesting Facts about the Thirteen Colonies
Other American British colonies that never became states include the Lost Colony of Roanoke and Plymouth Colony (which became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony).
Life was difficult for the early colonists. Less than half of the first settlers survived the first winter at both Jamestown (Virginia) and at the Plymouth Colony.
Many of the colonies were named after the rulers of England including the Carolinas (for King Charles I), Virginia (for the Virgin Queen Elizabeth), and Georgia (for King George II).
Massachusetts was named after a local tribe of Native Americans.
England also had colonies north of the Thirteen Colonies including Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
New York City was originally called New Amsterdam and was part of the Dutch colony of New Netherland.