Origin of the term "Upstate"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue May 17 19:15:37 UTC 2011

Do you mean apart from or beyond the OED?  (Whose entries are from
the 1989 edition.)

upstate, adv., adj. n.

orig. and chiefly U.S.
  A. adv.

  1. In that part of a state which is (regarded as) higher than
another, or is more remote from the chief centre. Freq. with
reference to the State of New York.
1901    in N. Amer. Rev. Feb. 162   American girls..imported from
small towns up-State.
1938    J. W. Daniels Southerner discovers South 247,   I heard about
it upstate.

2. U.S. slang. In prison.
1934    T. Wilder Heaven's my Destination 23   You get the

B. adj.
   Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of, an area upstate; situated
upstate, rural; also, designating part of a State remote (esp. north)
from a large city, as upstate New York.
1901    Daily Chron. 16 Sept. 3/7   All the up-State constituencies.
1904    Collier's 16 July 16/1   The crews of the up-State college [Cornell].
1935    Amer. Speech 10 107   Pronunciation in upstate New York...
Upstate speech has been studied..by three previous investigators.

  C. n. or ellipt.
   An upstate region; a rural area.
1965 ...

   The part of a State outside a large city, esp. the southern part.
Also as adv.adj. Cf. upstate adv.Used in various parts of the U.S.
with varying local significance.
1909    Daily Maroon (Chicago) 2 Oct. 1/4   Springer, a husky
full-back from down-state.
1932    W. Faulkner Light in August iii. 58   She had gone to visit
her people downstate.

There are a number of Google Books hits for "upstate" from 1900 to
1909 that look genuine, all seemingly for New York State.  Some
possibly from 1841, 1850 (by Jacob Abbot, copyright page seen, author
is right period), and 1857, also New York.  Unfortunately, many false
positives, but the number of 1900s instances provide varying context.

"Down-state" shows in the 1900s decade also, from New York.  And not
surprisingly from Illinois, as early as 1901 (Public policy: A
journal for the correct understanding of public ..., Volume 5).  Too
many "go down State Street" and "broken down state".


At 5/17/2011 01:49 PM, Chris Wholers wrote:
>This may be one of those questions that doesn't have an answer, but I'm
>trying to figure out if there's any documented origin for the term "upstate"
>(and "downstate" as well).  Does anyone have any idea where these terms were
>first used?  Or any hints as to where to look?
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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