Hawkeye State

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The Hawkeye State is a nickname for the state of Iowa. According to the state's tourism web site, "Two Iowa promoters from Burlington are believed to have popularized the name."[1] The nickname was given approval by territorial officials in 1838, eight years before Iowa became a state.

The men responsible for the promotion of this nickname are thought to be Judge David Rorer of Burlington and newspaper publisher James G. Edwards. The city of Burlington had been established in 1833 after the previous year's Black Hawk War. Edwards changed the name of his Burlington newspaper, The Iowa Patriot, to The Hawk-Eye and Iowa Patriot in tribute to friend Chief Black Hawk, a Sauk leader. Edwards proposed the nickname "Hawk-eyes" in 1838 to "...rescue from oblivion a memento, at least, of the name of the old chief", Black Hawk.[2] The University of Iowa's athletic teams are nicknamed the Hawkeyes and feature a mascot named Herky the Hawk.

The University of Iowa borrowed its athletic nickname from the state of Iowa. The name Hawkeye was originally applied to a hero in a fictional novel, The Last of the Mohicans, written by James Fenimore Cooper; the author had the Delaware Indians bestow the name on a white scout who lived and hunted with them.

In 1838, 12 years after the book was published, people in the territory of Iowa acquired the nickname, chiefly through the efforts of Judge David Rorer of Burlington and James G. Edwards of Fort Madison. Edwards, editor of the Fort Madison Patriot, moved his newspaper to Burlington in 1843 and renamed it the Burlington Hawkeye. The two men continued their campaign to popularize the name and were rewarded when territorial officials gave it their formal approval.

The Hawkeye nickname gained a tangible symbol in 1948 when a cartoon character, later to be named Herky the Hawk, was hatched. The creator was Richard Spencer III, instructor of journalism. The impish hawk was an immediate hit and he acquired a name through a statewide contest staged by the UI Athletic Department. John Franklin, a Belle Plaine alumnus, was the man who suggested Herky.[3]


  1. ^ "State Symbols: Iowa Tourism Map, Travel Guide, Things to Do: Travel Iowa". Iowa Economic Development. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  2. ^ The history of Des Moines County, Iowa. 1879. p. 425.
  3. ^ University of Iowa Athletics Archived 2012-10-19 at the Wayback Machine