Monday, August 11, 2008

Hoosiers, Suckers, Badgers, Hawkeyes, and Pukes

Tea N. Crumpet, in a comment on my last post, asked, "What's a Hoosier?" That got me musing about state nicknames. The 1860 campaign song, "Lincoln and Liberty" mentions not only Hoosiers, but an Illinois nickname that's rarely heard now.

We'll go for the son of Kentucky,
The hero of Hoosierdom through;
The pride of the Suckers so lucky
For Lincoln and Liberty too!

-"Lincoln and Liberty"

The second stanza tells us that Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, lived for a time in Indiana, and was the pride of Illinois. That's right--Illinoisans were once known as Suckers. The Dictionary of Wisconsin History explains the nickname, by way of its definition of "badger:"

The name 'Badger' state for Wisconsin had its origin in the lead mining districts of southwestern Wisconsin. Miners from the south (Illinois) in the early days were in the habit of working in the lead mines during the summer and returning south for the winter, migrating like suckers [a species of fish], hence the name 'Sucker" state. Those who came from the east, however, could not return to their homes in the winter and made for themselves 'dugouts' in the sides of the bluffs and hills, burrowing like badgers, hence 'Badgers' or permanent residents of the Wisconsin country." From Wisconsin: comprising sketches of counties, towns, events, institutions, and persons, arranged in cyclopedic form, ed. by Ex-Gov. Geo. W. Peck (Madison, Wis., Western Historical Association, 1906).

Perhaps the Suckers were lucky, as they weren't called Pukes. Netstate also traces the origin of the Missouri Puke to the Galena lead mines:

The Puke State: This distasteful name is said to refer to the large gathering of Missourians in 1827 at the Galena Lead Mines. According to George Earlie Shankle, PhD, in State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols, 1938, " many Missourians had assembled, that those already there declared the State of Missouri had taken a 'puke.'

Iowans adopted "Hawkeye" before they could be tagged with something more insulting. Here's part of the Netstate entry:

The Hawkeye State: This popular nickname for the state of Iowa is said to have come from the scout, Hawkeye, in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826. According to the Iowa State web site, "Two Iowa promoters from Burlington are believed to have popularized the name." The nickname was given approval by "territorial officials" in 1838, twelve years after the book was published and eight years before Iowa became a state.

There also seems to be a reference to the Sauk warrior Black Hawk, who died in Iowa. In any case, the Hawkeye nickname seems to have been an effort to pre-empt the adoption of an offensive nickname, such as Puke or Sucker.

Or, perhaps Hoosier. While many Indiana residents, especially in the southern and central parts of the state, take pride in the label, a lot of us in the northern part of the state aren't comfortable with it. The article, "What's a Hoosier?" in the Indiana University Alumni Magazine gives a good overall summary of the term, along with a mention of Senator Dan Quayle's battle with Merriam-Webster to remove the negative definitions of "hoosier" (lower case) from the dictionary. But unlike the Suckers and Pukes, Hoosiers have stood by their nickname, even if it does mean a hick or rube.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Will The "Mother of Vice Presidents" Give Birth Again?

Update: No VP announcement, thought an Obama-Bayh ticket is still possible. One drawback: Republican governor Mitch Daniels is likely to win a second term, thanks to his almost unlimited campaign chest. Should Bayh become VP, Daniels would get to appoint his successor.

Barack Obama is coming to Elkhart Wednesday morning (August 6), and there's speculation that he may announce Indiana Senator Evan Bayh as his running mate. If that's true, he'll be following a hallowed tradition in American politics--a Hoosier vice presidential candidate.

I won't be there--I'll be in Davenport, Iowa, trying to catch up on my sleep, and then heading for work on the second shift at Galesburg, Illinois. But I'll be there in spirit. And just maybe, A Hoosier running mate may be the key to Obama's success.

The first Indiana vice president was Schuyler Colfax of South Bend, who had been Speaker of the House before agreeing to be Ulysses S. Grant's running mate in 1868. He was dropped from the ticket in 1872 because of his connection with the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal. While Colfax was never formally charged, the scandal ended his politcal career; he spent his final years giving lectures about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He died January 13, 1885, of a heart attack, in a Mankato, Minnesota railway station, after walking nearly a mile in minus 30 degree (Fahrenheit) weather.

After the end of Reconstruction, Indiana was one of three swing states. The Democrats controlled the "Solid South" once the black vote had been suppressed, while Republicans could count on New England the Plains, and most of the upper Midwest. Whichever party took New York and either Indiana or Ohio would win the presidency. Indiana, being the smallest of the swing states, was more likely to get the vice presidential candidate.

Thomas Hendricks had been a congressman, senator, and Indiana governor before becoming Grover Cleveland's running mate in 1884. In 1872 he had received 42 electoral votes for president because Horace Greeley, the Democratic candidate, died after the November election, but before the Electoral College met. He ran for vice president in 1876 with Samuel Tilden, who won the popular vote, but lost in the Electoral College in what many believed to be a stolen election. Hendricks was a conservative Democrat with pro-southern views. His legacy as vice president is negligible, as he died just a few months after taking office. Cleveland was defeated in the 1888 election (though winning the popular vote) by Benjamin Harrison--the only Hoosier to win the presidency.

The third Hoosier VP was Charles Warren Fairbanks, the who was a U.S. senator until he became Theodore Roosevelt's vice president in 1904. The "Indiana Icicle," was a contrast to the ebullient president. His reputation as a teetotaler came to an end during his term, as "Lemonade Charlie" was seen drinking a Manhattan cocktail. Thereafter, he was "Cocktail Charlie." His name lives on, perhaps appropriately, in the city of Fairbanks, Alaska. In 1912, he ran for vice president with Charles Evans Hughes. Unfortunately for him, the Democrats nominated another Hoosier for the second office.

Thomas Riley Marshall, of Columbia City, Indiana, served as vice president for both of Woodrow Wilson's terms. As governor of Indiana, he had pushed through a child labor law, opposed Indiana's sterilization law, and opposed capital punishment, but most of his progressive legislation was thwarted in the legislature.

While Wilson kept Marshall on as vice president during his second term, the two men did not get on well; Marshall had little influence on the president. But he had some great one-liners. His most famous was when he was presiding over the Senate. After sitting through an interminable speech about "what this country needs," he is reputed to have said to the clerk, "What this country really needs is a good five cent cigar." Of his home state he said, "Indiana is the mother of Vice Presidents, home of more second-class men than any other state."

After 1920, Indiana became a solidly Republican state. Since the Franklin Roosevelt landslide of 1936, the last time the Hoosier State supported a Democrat for president was in the Johnson landslide of 1964. The only Hoosier VP since Marshall, of course, was Dan Quayle, whom George H. W. Bush chose for his youth and conservatism, not because he was from Indiana.

If Obama does name Evan Bayh as his running mate, Indiana could once again be a swing state. I'm convinced that had Al Gore made Bayh is running mate in 2000, he'd be finishing his second term. Barack Obama would do well to go to the Mother of Vice Presidents for the second spot on his ticket.