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Italy's Contribution To Place Names on the US Map - Northern Italy: Milan

Updated on June 25, 2014

Big Map of Italy

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Italy and the World

The Italian peninsula has contributed much to the entire world, since at least the days of the Roman Empire. As a nation, it has also contributed much to the United States, including lending more than a few of its place names. This is as thorough a listing as could be researched, but it is by no means definitive. That said, let’s start at the top of the peninsula, with Italy’s version of New York City, Milano.


Map of Milan, Italy 1922

Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper (Il Cenacolo) is located in Milan, Italy.
Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper (Il Cenacolo) is located in Milan, Italy. | Source

Milano, Italy

The original Milano is located in Lombardy. It is the heart of Italy’s financial sector. Tourists can gaze upon the now-restored Last Supper (Il Cenacolo) by Leonardo Da Vinci on the wall of the dining hall in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in this city where Leonardo was also Ducal Engineer. As Ducal Engineer, he oversaw the expansion and continuous improvement of Milano's canals, Il Naviglio, which today has been covered-up in many places. Milano is also the fashion center of Italy - and, some say, of the world!

The Milans of the US

There are no fewer than five towns or cities named Milan in the United States:

Milan, Indiana (IN)

Milan, Michigan (MI)

Milan, New Hampshire (NH)

Milan, New York (NY)

Milan, Tennessee (TN)

Milan, IN

Milan, Indiana is located in Ripley County; it is the second largest town in that county, with a population of 1,816 souls, according to the 2010 US Census Data. Unlike its Italian counterpart, Milan, Indiana is a town, not a city. Like its Italian counterpart, however, it is an old town, by American standards; it was founded in 1836, some say by German settlers (though, according to the town website, they may have been settlers from the Lombardy region of Italy) with grape and wine-making interests. But Milan, Indiana’s real claim to fame is the 1954 basketball team, when their small high school team won the State Championship. They lived and brought home the American dream!

Milan, MI

Milan, Michigan is a city close to Ann Arbor. Although it is a city, it is small, with an estimated 5,000 souls in 2003. Originally founded in 1831, and named Tolanville after the founder’s son-in-law, Tolan, it remained a village until 1967 when it was incorporated as a city. Milan, Michigan’s historical claim to fame is that Henry Ford ran a coil manufacturing plant for the Model-Ts here. A man-made lake was created here, and named after Ford. The Ford Power Plant energized this industrial town in the 1930s. It is close to Ann Arbor, but to this day is still equated with a rural way of life, with many farms just on the outskirts of town. However, that does not mean that Milan, Michigan is dull. Anything but! It is home to the Milan Dragway, a ¼ mile IHRA sanctioned dragstrip. It is a street racer’s dream! Indeed, it was featured in the October 2009 edition of Automobile magazine (follow this link to read the article about Street Racing at the Dragway: http://www.automobilemag.com/features/racing/0911_street_racers_reunion_milan_dragway/viewall.html).

Milan, NH

Milan, New Hampshire is up in the North Woods section of New Hampshire, near Berlin. It is still a very small town of 1,337 souls according to the 2010 US Census results displayed on the town’s web page. This Milan is deceptive because it was not named after the Italian city at all! Rather, it was originally founded in 1771 as Paulsbourg, named after the governor’s cousin. The town was incorporated in 1824 and, according to the wikipedia entry, its name was changed to Milan after Milan Harris. Milan Harris was a member of the Harris family, whose claim to fame was establishing one of the first wool mills in America. Because it has no relation to the Italian city of the same name, the town’s name is pronounced completely differently, like /my len/ (I’m using the usual English phonetics of a long i sound for the y and short sound of e in ‘len;’ the bolded syllable is where the accent falls).

Milan, NY

Milan, New York is a little town about 80 miles from Midtown Manhattan.Milan, New York is a little town about 80 miles from Midtown Manhattan. Like its New Hampshire namesake, this Milan is pronounced with a long ‘i’ sound. Also, according to Wikipedia, no one is quite sure how or why the name Milan was chosen. The fact is that, like most towns in the Northeast, it has existed in some form or another since the 1700s. Today, it maintains its rural character, with farms and an abundance of conservation land for hiking. It also is still the least populated town in its county. Claim to fame? Perhaps the fact that the median income exceeds that of New York City itself? City dwellers seem to be discovering the beauty of Milan as a weekend getaway, or perhaps a place to retire, right in their own backyard!

Milan, TN

Milan, TN is also a rural town, located in the western part of the state; although it’s the second largest city in its county (Gibson), it’s small, too, with about 8,000 souls. Its name, too, is pronounced with a long ‘i.’ While it is generally thought that it takes its name from Milano, Italy, local lore has it that when a railroad surveyor asked an early settler “Whose land is this?” the settler answered “My land.” Milan is home to the Milan Arsenal, which manufactures grenades and mortar shells. It is also home to the University of Tennessee’s Research and Education Center, which conducts agricultural research. The West Tennessee Agricultural Museum is located in Milan, offering free admission to exhibits depicting the life of early settlers to the region as well as later farm equipment and artifacts. The Museum hosts the Fall Folklore Jamboree on its grounds. The Jamboree features re-enactments of the life of early settlers and gospel and bluegrass musicians from around the region. Kids can even pick and gin their own cotton!

© 2012 Everymom/Language Development Company

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    Anahi Pari-di-Monriva 5 years ago from Massachusetts

    I, too, love museums, Apostle Jack, and travel in general! I also tend to love place names and wonder where they come from, no matter where I happen to be! Thanks for your comment!

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    Apostle Jack 5 years ago from Atlanta Ga

    I love Museums.I think i would very much enjoy the places you name.I love to sight see,and discover new things and different ways of life.Thanks for sharing and caring.