TR Robertson — I do not know how many remember or took part in this, but there was a time when knowing the states of the United States and their capitals and knowing the nicknames of the states was a part of the curriculum of elementary school or junior high school years. I am not sure if this is still included, probably not in these changing times of education and the quick and easy access to this information on your computers and phones. At any rate, here we go again with more states, alphabetically, and the story behind their nicknames. Add these to your trivia knowledge.
State Nicknames – Louisiana to North Dakota
Louisiana – “The Pelican State” – Over 40,000 pelicans make Louisiana their home. This bird has been a symbol of the state ever since the state was first settled. The Brown Pelican became the state bird in 1966 and the state nickname was an obvious choice. Other nicknames include Bayou State, Creole State and Sportsman’s Paradise (once on the state license plate).
Maine – “The Pine Tree State” – In the early days of settlers in what would become Maine, the tall White Pine trees were ideal for using to build the masts of the early sailing ships. Maine is covered with forests of these trees; seventeen million acres of land is covered in forests. Vacationland is currently used on some of the license plates. Other nicknames are Lumber State and Vacationland.
Maryland – “The Old-Line State” – George Washington referred to the “old line” of the troops from Maryland during the Revolutionary War, making numerous references to their bravery. It is said the states nickname came from Washington himself. Numerous other nicknames include American in miniature, Chesapeake State, Monumental State, Oyster State, Queen state and Terrapin State.
Massachusetts – “The Bay State” – There are five bays along the state’s coastline – Massachusetts Bay, Quincy Bay, Narragansett Bay Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay. The Massachusetts Bay Company also governed this area until 1684. Other names include Baked Bean State, Old Colony State, Codfish State, Pilgrim State, and The Spirit of America are a few of them.
Michigan – “The Wolverine State” – The most popular origin is the name came from the 1835 Toledo War between people in Ohio and Michigan. The Ohioans said the Michiganians were as “vicious and bloodthirsty as wolverines.” The name stuck and the University of Michigan chose the wolverine as their mascot. Some said the state once had numerous wolverines that were hunted to near extinction for their pelts. Other nicknames include The Great Lakes State and The Mitten State.
Minnesota – “The North Star State” – The nickname came from the state motto, “L’Etoile du Nord” – “The Star of the North,” so named by Minnesota’s first governor. Another popular nickname is “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”. Minnesota has over 11,000 lakes. Other nicknames are The Gopher State, State of Hockey, New England of the West and Bread and Butter State.
Mississippi – “The Magnolia State” – Magnolias can be found all over the state and the Magnolia Tree is the state tree and the Magnolia Flower is the state flower. The state is also known as The Bayou State, Hospitality State and The Birthplace of America’s Music.
Missouri – “The Show-Me State” – In 1899, a Missouri Congressman made the following statement in a speech at a naval banquet, “I come from a state that raises corn, and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” This refers to the residents’ conservative, common sense, tenacious and skeptical characteristics. The state is also referred to as the Bullion State and Gateway to the West.
Montana – “The Treasure State” – This refers to the state’s rich mineral reserves and early mining history, such as gold and silver. The state motto is “Oro y Plata” – Spanish for gold and silver. The state is also known as Big Sky Country and The Last Best Place.
Nebraska – “The Cornhusker State” – This reference goes back to the early farming techniques, before machinery, used in harvesting the corn from the vast fields of corn grown in the state. The University of Nebraska is called the Cornhuskers. This state is also called Battle Born State, Sagebrush State and Casino State.
New Hampshire – “The Granite State” – This name is due to the history of New Hampshire as the leader in granite mining nationwide. This state is also known as The Live Free or Die State, Mother of Rivers, and the White Mountain State.
New Jersey – “The Garden State” – This comes from a speech made by Abraham Browning, in 1876, where he referred to the beauty of the state. The name stuck and was made the official state motto in 1954. Other nicknames include the Crossroads of the Revolution, The Cornerstone State and The Suburban State.
New Mexico – “Land of Enchantment” – Searching for nicknames to describe the beauty of the New Mexico landscape, this nickname came from the title of a book by Lilian Whiting and was adopted as the official nickname in 1999. Other nicknames suggested included The Land of the heart’s Desire, The Land Without Law, and The Land of Sunshine.
New York – “The Empire State” – The exact origin is not known, but many believe it refers to the state’s resources and wealth. Some attribute the nickname to a 1785 letter to the New York Common Council, praising New York’s resilience in the Revolutionary War. The state is also referred to as Excelsior State.
North Carolina – “The Tar Heel State” – There is some debate about the origin of this nickname. The state, during and prior to the Civil War was the largest producer of tar, pitch, rosin, and turpentine, all used in the construction of sailing ships of that time. Some feel it refers to the workers at the docks. Another story says Confederate General Robert E. Lee coined the phrase “The Tar Heel Boys” in reference to soldiers from North Carolina and the name stuck later as the nickname for the state. The state has also been called Old North State, Turpentine State and Variety Vacationland.
North Dakota – “The Peace Garden State” – The International Peace Garden sits on the border of North Dakota and the Canadian Province of Manitoba. The DMV of North Dakota placed the name on their license plates in 1956 and it became so popular the state legislature adopted the nickname in 1957. The state has also been known as the Flickertail State, The Roughrider State and Sioux State.