The United States Mint has embarked on a campaign to create a special quarter for each state. One new quarter is released every 10 weeks, starting in 1999 and going until 2008. They are released in the order in which each state was admitted to the Union. Each quarter shares the same front design: the head of George Washington, the words "Liberty", "United States of America", "Quarter Dollar", and "In God We Trust". It also has a P for the Philadelphia mint or a D for the Denver mint. Both mints make each quarter.
The back is where the quarters are different. Each one has the name of the state, the year the quarter was issued, the year of statehood, the words E Pluribus Unum, and a special design unique to that state. Each state is free to make up its own design for the back of its state quarter.
All information was gathered both from looking at the quarters themselves and from the US Mint website (http://www.usmint.gov). When I needed particular information (what bridge is that on the Rhode Island quarter?), I had to refer to the US Mint site for specifics.
Quarters released in 1999
The first quarter issued under this program, it features a man on horseback with the words "Caesar Rodney" beside it. He is already well-discussed in his own node, so read that for more information. The words "The First State" are on the other side of the horse, reminding us all how Delaware beat the rest of us to ratification. (Like their license plates don't do that enough already.)
The "Commonwealth", a fourteen foot tall statue atop the Pennsylvania capitol, is the main attraction on this quarter. Many of the features of the statue are symbolic, but I won't get into that here. There's also an outline of the state (a feature which many other quarters use), an image of a keystone (the state nickname is "The Keystone State"), and the state motto: "Virtue Liberty Independence". Pennsylvania was the second state to ratify the Constitution and so is the second quarter issued.
The center of this quarter is a picture of Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War. This allowed Washington to invade Trenton. Below this picture are the words "Crossroads of the Revolution".
This quarter features an outline of the state, with a peach in the center and the words "Wisdom, Justice, Moderation" around everything. That's the state motto of Georgia. There are also Live Oak branches on either side of the state outline, which is the official state tree.
While the peach is often associated with Georgia, it is South Carolina that has the gigantic peach-shaped water tower.
The Connecticut state quarter bears a picture of the Charter Oak, already discussed in another node. One thing I've noticed is that this appears to be the most common of the state quarters in circulation, as I've encountered many more of them than any other state.
Quarters released in 2000
Massachusetts is another state to prominently feature an outline of the state in its design. In front of the outline is a Minuteman, a member of a very small group of irregulars who were influential during the Revolutionary War as they helped battle the British. In particular, this Minuteman is actually the statue of the same name which stands in Concord, MA. Off to the side are the words "The Bay State". Massachusetts is the only state whose design contest was limited to children.
This quarter shows the famous Maryland Statehouse, featuring the largest nailless wooden dome in the country. It is also the only building to be serve as both a state capital and the national capital (for a short time). This is where the Treaty of Paris was signed. The quarter also bears branches of the White Oak, the official state tree, around the outside and the words "The Old Line State". This nickname was given following the skill of Maryland soldiers in the Revolutionary War.
The South Carolina quarter contains many of the official state symbols - the Carolina Wren (state bird), the Yellow Jessamine (state flower), and the Palmetto Tree (state tree). It also has an outline of the state with a star over the location of Columbia, the capital. Finally, the words "The Palmetto State" are written inside the outline.
This New England state's quarter has The Old Man of the Mountain as its most prominent feature. This is a big rock formation on Mt. Cannon in northern New Hampshire which looks like a face if viewed from the proper angle. There's also the state motto, "Live Free or Die", and nine stars around the edge. New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, hence the nine stars.
Virginia's design focuses on Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the country. It shows the three ships Susan Constant, Godspeed, and the Discovery which brought settlers. The quarter also bears the words "Jamestown 1607-2007" indicating that one year before the state quarters program is completed, Jamestown will be 400 years old. Or something like that.
Quarters released in 2001
Most prominent is the outline of the state of New York, with the Statue of Liberty standing in front. Visible on the state outline is the Hudson River and the Erie Canal, both major waterways in New York. The words "Gateway to Freedom" are off to the side, indicating how New York was viewed by the millions who came to the United States through Ellis Island. Finally, there are eleven stars around the edge of the coin, signifying this as the eleventh state to be admitted.
North Carolina's quarter is controversial because of the picture on it. It features the Wright Brothers on the first successful flight of their airplane at the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk. The phrase over the picture is "First Flight".
While it's true that the Wright Brothers did make the first flight in North Carolina, they did the majority of their work at their bike shop in Ohio. Consequently, Ohio often claims to be the state which gave birth to the flying age. North Carolina makes the same claim, even though it was only the site of the flight.
Rhode Island's quarter shows off one of the few things in the state - its abundant beaches and places for sailing. In particular, the quarter shows the Pell Bridge and a sail boat in Narragansett Bay. The words "The Ocean State" sit right above the middle of the bridge.
Vermont's quarter features Camel's Hump Mountain in the background, with maple trees in front. A man is carrying sap buckets away from the trees. Vermont is well-known for its maple syrup production which is where the image of the maple trees comes from. On the right side of the coin are the words "Freedom and Unity", which may or may not be the state motto (our Vermont node is lacking).
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is probably best known for its horses and horse racing (though they have some damn good caves too). So it's no surprise that their quarter shows a horse standing behind a fence, with the Federal Hill mansion in the background. It was at this house where Stephen Foster wrote the official state song, My Old Kentucky Home. These words are also written towards the top, just above the horse's head.
Quarters released in 2002
This quarter celebrates the reputation Tennessee has gained for music. There are three musical instruments in the center - a guitar, trumpet, and fiddle. These represent the country, blues, and Appalachian styles, respectively. There are also three stare around the instruments which represent the same thing. A banner with the words "Musical Heritage" is hung under the instruments.
This quarter features the words "Birthplace of Aviation Promises" with prominent pictures of the Wright Brothers' airplane and an astronaut. The astronaut is present because both Neil Armstrong and John Glenn are both Ohians. This is all over a state outline. I had a feeling Ohio would put the Wright Brothers on their quarter, just like North Carolina did. :)
Unlike most other state quarters, Louisiana's doesn't have an outline of the state. Instead, it has an outline of the entire country with a big shaded in section and the words "Louisiana Purchase" beside it. It also bears the pelican (the state bird) and a horn with some music notes. The horn symbolizes the jazz music which has made New Orleans famous throughout the world.