The Full Wiki

Territories of the United States: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Political divisions of the United States as they were from 1868 to 1876, including nine organized territories and two unorganized territories.

Territories of the United States are one type of political division of the United States, administered directly by the federal government of the United States and not any part of a U.S. state. These territories were created to govern newly acquired land while the borders of the United States were still evolving. Territories can be classified by whether they are incorporated (part of the United States proper) and whether they have an organized government (through an Organic Act or constitution passed by the U.S. Congress). The organized incorporated territories of the United States existed from 1789 to 1959, through which 31 territories applied for and achieved statehood. The U.S. had no unincorporated territories (also called "overseas possessions" or "insular areas") until 1856 but continues to control several of them today.


Incorporated and unincorporated territories

An incorporated territory of the United States is a specific area under the jurisdiction of the United States, over which the United States Congress has determined that the United States Constitution is to be applied to the territory's local government and inhabitants in its entirety (e.g., citizenship, trial by jury), in the same manner as it applies to the local governments and residents of the U.S. states. Incorporated territories are considered an integral part of the United States, as opposed to being merely possessions.[1]

All territory under the control of the federal government is considered part of the "United States" for purposes of law.[2] From 1901 - 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of opinions known as the Insular Cases held that the Constitution extended ex proprio vigore to the territories. However, the Court in these cases also established the doctrine of territorial incorporation. Under the same, the Constitution only applied fully in incorporated territories such as Alaska and Hawaii, whereas it only applied partially in the new unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.[3][4]

In the contemporary sense, the term "unincorporated territory" refers primarily to insular areas. There is currently only one incorporated territory, Palmyra Atoll, which is not an organized territory. Conversely, a territory can be organized without being an incorporated territory, a contemporary example being Puerto Rico.

See organized incorporated territories of the United States and unincorporated territories of the United States for timelines.

Classification of current U.S. territories


Incorporated organized territories

None since 1959.

Incorporated unorganized territories

Location of the insular areas:      The USA      incorporated unorganized Territory      unincorporated organized territory      Commonwealth status      unincorporated unorganized territory
  • Palmyra Atoll is privately owned by the Nature Conservancy and administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is an archipelago of about 50 small islands about 1.56 square miles (4 km²) in area that lies about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) south of Honolulu. The atoll was acquired by the United States in the 1898 annexation of the Republic of Hawaii. When the Territory of Hawaii was incorporated on April 30, 1900, Palmyra Atoll was incorporated as part of that territory. However, when Hawaii became a state in 1959, Palmyra Atoll was explicitly separated from the state, remaining an incorporated territory but receiving no new organized government.

There are in addition also "territories" that have the status of being incorporated but that are not organized:

  • U.S. coastal waters out to 12 nautical miles
  • U.S. flag vessels at sea.

Unincorporated organized territories

Unincorporated unorganized territories

Islands in South Pacific

Islands in Americas

There is also a special kind of unincorporated unorganized territory:

  • Certain parcels in foreign countries held by lease, such as military bases, depending on the terms of a lease, treaty, or status of forces agreement with the host country.
  • Guantanamo Bay, uninhabited

Classification of former U.S. territories & administered areas

Former incorporated organized territories of the United States

See Organized incorporated territories of the United States for a complete list.

Former unincorporated territories of the United States (incomplete)

Former unincorporated territories of the United States under military government

  • Puerto Rico (April 11, 1899–May 1, 1900): civil government operations began
  • Philippines (April 11, 1899–July 4, 1901): civil government operations began
  • Guam (April 11, 1899–July 1, 1950): civil government operations began

Areas formerly administered by the United States (incomplete)

Other zones

See also


  1. ^ Definitions of insular area political organizations, Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior,, retrieved 2007-11-14 
  2. ^ See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(36) and 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(38) Providing the term “State” and "United States" definitions on the U.S. Federal Code, Inmigration and Nationality Act. 8 U.S.C. § 1101a
  3. ^ CONSEJO DE SALUD PLAYA DE PONCE v JOHNNY RULLAN, SECRETARY OF HEALTH OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO Page 6 and 7, The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico,, retrieved 4 February 2010 .
  4. ^ The Insular Cases: The Establishment of a Regime of Political Apartheid" (2007) Juan R. Torruella,'lL.283(2007).pdf, retrieved 5 February 2010 .
  5. ^ Okinawa Reversion Agreement - 1971, The Contemporary Okinawa Website. Accessed 5 June 2007.
  6. ^ Agreement Between the United States and Cuba for the Lease of Lands for Coaling and Naval stations, The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, February 23, 1903,, retrieved 2008-04-02 
  7. ^ Campbell Robertson; Stephen Farrell (December 31, 2008), Green Zone, Heart of U.S. Occupation, Reverts to Iraqi Control, The New York Times, 

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address