A bizarre 1884 map detailing the “nicknames” of the states – complete with a “hog” for every state, shows that even back then, college football mascots were in the making.
The H.W. Hill & Company of Decatur, Illinois, were makers of hog rings. These apparently were a big deal, because on a map they created, they proudly announced “142,000,000 rings sold!” Their map of the United States contains state nicknames, each illustrated with a pig – all of whom contain one of Hill’s Hog Rings.
The nicknames are all there from today’s football era … Wolverines, Badgers, Buckeyes and Jayhawkers. Even the Hoosiers are represented.
But then there are some odd ones. Like the “Illinois Sucker” and the “Missouri Puke”? Yup.
Where did “Illinois Suckers” get their name? The Riverfront Times explains:
Back in the late 1820s, migrant workers from southern Illinois began traveling up the Mississippi River in the spring to work in the Galena lead mines and then back down the river to their homes in the fall. This, the late Gov. Ford noted, mirrored the migratory patterns of “the fishy tribe called ‘Suckers.’”
But there’s another, less charitable though more interesting explanation. A “sucker” is a sprout off the main stem of a tobacco plant that sucks off nutrients and has to be plucked off so that the plant will thrive. The southern part of Illinois, the late Gov. Ford explained, was originally settled by poor Southerners who “were asserted to be a burthen upon the people of wealth; and when they removed to Illinois, they were supposed to have stripped themselves off from the stem of the tobacco plant, and gone away to perish like the stem of the tobacco plant.”
As it happened, the Galena mines were full of workers from Missouri, too, and they didn’t get along very well with the miners from southern Illinois. “Analogies always abound with those who wish to be sarcastic,” the late Gov. helpfully notes, and so the Missourians started calling the southern Illinoisans “suckers.” Think of it as a precursor to “hoosier.”
So in retaliation for the “Illinois Suckers” nickname that apparently stuck, folks from there started to call the people from Missouri “pukes.” Why? Here’s Gov. Ford again:
It had been observed that the lower lead mines in Missouri had sent up to the Galena country whole hoards of uncouth ruffians, from which it was inferred that Missouri had taken a “Puke,” and had vomited forth to the upper lead mines, all her worse population. From thenceforth, the Missourians were called “Pukes;” and by these names of “Suckers” and “Pukes,” the Illinoians and Missourians are likely to be called, amongst the vulgar, forever.
Now we call Illinois the “Land of Lincoln” and Missouri is the “Show Me State.” Which is too bad, because it would have been really cool to say you were from the “Land of Pukes.”
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