Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

IN HISTORY: South Dakota Designated as Mount Rushmore State pixabay.com photo
November 8, 2017

IN HISTORY: South Dakota Designated as Mount Rushmore State

On November 9, 1992, South Dakota officially dropped its monicker as “The Sunshine State” and became known as “The Mount Rushmore State.” As chronicled by the Black Hills Pioneer, then State Representative Chuck Mateer of Belle Fourche introduced legislation in January of 1992 to change the state’s nickname. Opponents of the legislation including then State Representative Mary Edelen of Vermillion argued that it would make non-residents believe South Dakota to be  “frozen tundra.”

South Dakota had several nicknames prior to being dubbed both “The Sunshine State” and “The Mount Rushmore State.” Perhaps the state’s earliest nickname was the “Coyote State,”  which is believed to have been inspired by a horse race rather than the wild animal. In 1863, a solider from the 6th Iowa Cavalry and another from Company A of the Dakota Cavalry raced horses at Fort Randall. The Iowa soldier’s horse lost by a long shot, which cause an onlooker to remark “that the Dakota horse ran like a coyote,” thus inspiring the state’s nickname.

About 30 years later, South Dakota acquired a new nickname during a drought. The state’s first governor, Arthur C. Mellette, had embarked on a trip to Chicago in search of aid for his state when he ran into a newspaperman and personal friend, Moses P. Handy. Handy asked the governor how his state was faring, to which Mellette replied “Oh, South Dakota is a swinged cat, better than she looks.” Accounts of the incident indicated that Mellette meant “singed” or “burnt” when he said “swinged.” Shortly thereafter, the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper published a story citing Mellette “governor of the swinged cat state.”

Additional historical nicknames assigned to South Dakota can be viewed on the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation’s website.

Related items

  • Rural Residents Receive Broadband Access Via Connect SD Initiative

    The Connect South Dakota initiative, a $5 million state-funded grant program proposed by Governor Kristi Noem in her State of the State and budget address…
  • Rapid City Organization Celebrates Women’s Equality Day

    In 1920, Congress certified the 19th Amendment, giving women in the United States the right to vote – in 1971, Congress declared that August 26th…
  • Hunter Roberts Named SD DENR Secretary

    Republican Governor Kristi Noem announced Tuesday that Hunter Roberts, former policy adviser and current Department of Labor deputy secretary, has been named Secretary of South…

Get Involved!

  • Need more information? Rapid City Public Library associates are standing by to answer your questions! Ask away in the box below during business hours for live feedback.

    For more on this feature, click here.

  • bhkn donate

    Enjoy our work? Donate today to ensure that community members will have access to our wealth of news, history, and data for years to come.

  • 211 logoDid this post inspire you to get involved? Visit our partner 211's Volunteer Database to find volunteer opportunities in your community.

525 University Loop, Suite 202
Rapid City, SD 57701
(605) 716-0058   [email protected]