Key Facts About the Thirteen Original Colonies

Fun Facts and Founding Dates

American Flag with Thirteen Stars Painted On Wood, United States
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The United States of America started out with the 13 original colonies. Located along present-day U.S.'s northeast coastline, the colonies belonged to the British Empire and were found between the 17th and 18th century.

By the 1700s, the British government controlled its colonies, including the 13 original colonies of the U.S., under a mercantilist system. Over time, the 13 colonies became frustrated with this unfair economic system that mainly benefited the British and administered a process of taxation without representation.

Each colony was set up in a way so that by the mid-1700s, each colony had a strong capacity for self-government and even had local elections. The colonies started collaborating with each other which led to a shared sense of American identity. Together, they declared independence in 1776 which led to the American Revolutionary War.

Read on to glean quick facts about each of the 13 colonies. You can also view facts about the 13 American colonies as a chart.


The first permanently settled English colony in North America,.Virginia was founded in 1607 by London Company. Later, it became a royal colony in 1624. In terms of economic success, tobacco was Virginia's first profitable export.


The Pilgrims were the first English settlers in Massachusetts. The Pilgrims were more radical Puritans who wanted to separate from the Church of England and practice religion the way they believed it should properly be practiced.

They arrived at Plymouth on the famous Mayflower in 1620. Massachusetts became a royal colony in 1691.

New Hampshire

Captain John Mason who lived in Hampshire County, England was granted land in the New World in 1623. This land would become New Hampshire. Mason sent settlers to the new territory to create a fishing colony.

It became a  royal colony in 1679.


Maryland was named in honor of Henrietta Maria, who was the queen consort of Charles I. The colony was founded in 1634 by Lord Baltimore, Cecil Calvert. The Calvery family was Catholic, and intended Maryland to be a haven for Catholics and was the first colony to have a freedom of religion act.


Founded around 1635, Connecticut was founded by a group of men led by Thomas Hooker. These men actually came from the colony of Massachusetts, but they were looking for new land to settle on in search or more freedom and financial opportunities.

Rhode Island

Rhode was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams. A prosperous colony, Rhode Island was a big proponent of independence and even severed ties with the British before the Declaration of Independence.


Founded by Peter Minuit and the New Sweden Company in 1638, Delaware was actually a Dutch colony first. It was later annexed by the British Empire.

North Carolina

North Carolina became a colony in 1663 with a Royal Charter from Charles II, but it was actually first settled in 1587 by John White and a group of settlers. The lost colony of Roanoke was located in this territory.

South Carolina

Originally a part of North Carolina, South Carolina became its own colony in 1729.

New Jersey

New Jersey was founded in 1664 by Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Divided into East and West Jersey in 1674, it was reunited in 1702 when it becomes a royal colony. New Jersey was the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights. 

New York

New York was founded in 1664. It was originally a Dutch colony, and it become a royal colony in 1685.


Part of what is now called Pennsylvania was actually first a part of New Sweden as it was founded by Swedish settlers in 1638. This territory was surrendered to the Dutch in 1655 after an invasion, but Swedes and Finns continued to arrive in the area. In 1682, William Penn who was a Quaker established Pennsylvania as a colony. William Penn was adamant about freedom of religion in Pennsylvania in order to protect Quakers from persecution.


Georgia was founded in 1732 by James Edward Oglethorpe and became a royal colony in 1752. As a British colony, Georgia was unique because there was no local governor. Instead, the colony was ruled by a Board of Trustees located in London.