Friday, August 10, 2007

August 10: State Motto Day

On this date in 1821, Missouri was admitted to the union as the 24th state. Originally a part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, Missouri achieved statehood as a slave state. It was the Missouri Compromise of 1820 that settled the controversy about admitting Missouri as a slave state, by admitting Maine as a free state (1).

Known as the "Show Me" state, Missouri's unofficial slogan is the stuff of legend. The story goes that Missouri's U.S. Congressman Williard Duncan Vandiver coined the slogan at a 1899 naval banquet in Philadelphia where he said:

"I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me" (2).

The official state motto of Missouri is Latin: Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto ("Let the Welfare of the People Be the Supreme Law"). In fact, 'English Only' proponents might be surprised to learn that more than half of states in the union have mottos in languages other than English.

Here are the statistics on the polyglot mottos:

Latin: 22
French: 2
Greek: 1
Hawaiian: 1
Spanish: 1
Italian: 1
Native American - Chinook: 1

Six states feature one-word mottos. Only one state, Vermont, has its state's name in its motto, and Florida is the only state with the same motto as the United States of America: "In God We Trust." For a complete list of mottos with English translations visit Wikipedia (3).

Today's Challenge: Motto Mania
The geography pages at include a humor section called "New State Mottos." See if you can match up the state with its "new" motto. When you finish, try creating some of your own mottos.

1. Please Don't Pronounce the "S"

2. As Seen on TV

3. Ask About Our State Motto Contest

4. 2 Billion Years Tidal Wave Free

5. We're Not REALLY An Island

6. Help! We're Overrun By Nerds and Slackers!

7. We Do Amazing Things With Corn

8. First Of The Rectangle States

9. "10,000 Lakes and 10,000,000,000,000 Mosquitoes"

Quote of the Day: I don't give a damn about "The Missouri Waltz" but I can't say it out loud because it's the song of Missouri. It's as bad as "The Star-Spangled Banner." --Harry S. Truman Sources:

1 - The Library of Congress. American Memory. "Today in History: August 10."

2 - Missouri Secretary of State's Office

3 - U.S. State Mottos -

4 - New State Mottos -

1. Illinois 2. California 3. Nebraska 4. Indiana 5. Rhode Island 6. Washington 7. Iowa 8. Kansas 9. Minnesota

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