How Did Minnesota Become The Gopher State?
Growing up in Wisconsin I learned early in school that the Badger State I lived in wasn't named because there were a lot of badgers living there. It in fact was a reference to miners in the southern part of the state that lived in burrows in the ground. They simply dug a temporary hole in the ground and lived there while mining. These burrows resembled badger holes and hence, Wisconsin became known as the Badger State.
I simply never gave much thought as to how other states got their nicknames. Let's take a look.
While we're discussing animals, a reminder to download the free KRFO Radio Ap and following post season Husky baseball and softball wherever you go this spring.
North Dakota is known as the Flickertail State. I just assumed it was some type of native bird. Boy was I wrong. The name Flickertail comes from the movement of the ground squirrel's tail. And North Dakota like many states has plenty of squirrels.
Once again without giving much thought, I simply thought a Hawkeye was some type of bird or a variation of the hawk. There are actually two possibilities in naming Iowa the Hawkeye State. One is that it is a reference to the Indian Chief Black Hawk. Another says it relates to the guide in James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans.
Once again I simply thought Gopher State was a reference to all the gophers living here. In fact it dates back to the early days of Minnesota when the legislature was considering offering a $5 million loan to railroad tycoons to build railroads in the state. A political cartoonist R.O. Sweeney drew a cartoon showing the rich tycoons as rodents or more specifically gophers pulling a wagon with easy to influence politicians. The cartoon referred to the Gopher train and gradually the name Gopher and Minnesota became forever wedded.