A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 10, 2011
Origin of “Hawkeye” (Iowa nickname)

A person from Iowa is called a “Hawkeye” and Iowa is called the “Hawkeye State.” The name “Hawkeye” was popularized by author James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), who wrote about frontier hero Natty Bumppo ("Hawk-eye") in the Leatherstocking Tales, such as The Last of the Mohicans (1826). Various letters to newspapers and magazines were signed “Hawk-eye” (or “Hawkeye"), there was a “Hawk-Eye” steamer in 1835, and a colt was named “Hawk Eye” in 1838.

The Wisconsin Territory (1836-1848) included what would be the states of Wisconsin (admitted May 29, 1848) and Iowa (admitted December 29, 1846). A letter from “Hawk-eye” to the Milwaukee (WI) Advertiser on July 21, 1836, suggested:

“That we are willing and desirous hereafter, to be known and distinguished by the style, name and title of “HAWK-EYES” --a term more harmonious to the ear, more brief and convenient, than that of Wisconsians, or Wisconsonians, or Wisconsinites.”

The Advertiser responded below the letter that “we wish to retain our old name (Badgers—ed.), which has obtained the sanction of time.”

James G. Edwards (1801-1851) founded the Fort Madison (IA) Patriot, and wrote on March 24, 1838:

“If a division of the Territory (Wisconsin—ed.) be effected, we propose that Iowans take the cognomen of Hawk-eyes. Our etymology can thus be more definitely traced than that of the Wolverines, Suckers, Gophers &c., and we shall rescue from oblivion a memento, at least, of the name of the old chief (Black Hawk—ed.). Who seconds the motion?”

Edwards did not mention the previous attempt in 1836 to use the “Hawk-eye” name for residents in the Wisconsin Territory, but it’s probable that he had been aware of it when he made his 1838 proposal. Black Hawk (1767-1838), a war leader and warrior of the Sauk American Indian tribe, who lost the Black Hawk War in 1832, died in Fort Madison later in 1838.

Edwards moved his newspaper, the Iowa Patriot, to Burlington in late 1838. Burlington attorney
David Rorer (1806-1884) pushed for the “Hawk-eye” name, and wrote pieces signed “A Wolverine Among the Hawk-eyes” to several newspapers in early 1839. In September 1839, Edwards changed the name of his newspaper to The Hawk-eye and Iowa Patriot, supposedly at the urging of Rerer. However, Mrs. Ellen T. Broadwell, formerly the wife of James G. Edwards, wrote to the Burlington (IA) Daily Hawk-Eye in December 1878 that Rorer took undue credit:

“I here state, most positively, that Mr. Edwards was not even acquainted with Mr. Rorer at the time the first number of the Ft. Madison Patriot was issued, and therefore could not have made any such suggestions as he claims. I am much surprised, after a lapse of forty years, to see such an announcement from Mr. Rorer.”

The athletic teams of the University of Iowa are called the “Hawkeyes.”


Wikipedia: Wisconsin Territory
The Territory of Wisconsin was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 3, 1836, until May 29, 1848, when an eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Wisconsin. Belmont was initially chosen as the capital of the territory. In 1837, the territorial legislature met in Burlington, just north of the Skunk River on the Mississippi, which became part of the Iowa Territory in 1838. In that year, 1838, the territorial capitol of Wisconsin was moved to Madison.

Wikipedia: Hawkeye State
The Hawkeye State is a popular nickname for the state of Iowa. 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, eight years before Iowa became a state.

The two men responsible for the promotion of this nickname are thought to be Judge David Rorer of Burlington and the newspaper publisher, James G. Edwards of Fort Madison and, later, Burlington. Burlington had been established in 1833 after the Black Hawk War of 1832. Mr. Edwards changed the name of his Burlington newspaper, The Iowa Patriot, to The Hawk-Eye and Iowa Patriot in tribute to his friend Chief Black Hawk. Edwards proposed the nickname “Hawk-eyes” in 1838 to “...rescue from oblivian [sic] a momento [sic], at least of the name of the old chief,” Black Hawk. The University of Iowa’s athletic teams are nicknamed the Hawkeyes and feature a mascot named Herky the Hawk.

Wikipedia: The Last of the Mohicans
The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 is a historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper, first published in February 1826. It is the second book of the Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy and the best known.
(...)
Style and themes
A notable feature of the novel is that Cooper uses more than one name for many of the characters and groups of people. For example, Nathaniel Bumppo refers to himself as Natty. The Mohicans call him Hawkeye, and the French and their Huron allies use the term La Longue Carabine (Long Rifle) for both Bumppo and his rifle, Kildeer.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
hawk-eye n.  (a) U.S. colloq. appellation of a native or inhabitant of Iowa, popularly called the ‘Hawk-eye State’; (b) (a person with) a keen eye like that of a hawk. cf. hawk’s eye n. 1 also transf.
1823 J. F. Cooper Pioneers I. xviii. 261 See, Hawk-eye!
1826 J. F. Cooper Last of Mohicans II. xii. 198, I am the man‥that got‥the compliment of Hawk-eye from the Delawares.
1833 Tennyson Poems 119 Your hawk~eyes are keen and bright.
1839 (title) Hawk-eye and Iowa Patriot.
1845 in R. H. Thornton Amer. Gloss. (1912) II.  Corn-crackers, Potsoppers, Hard Heads, Hawk Eyes, Rackensacks, etc.

February 1832, American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine, “Buck Hunt,” pg. 290:
HAWK-EYE.
(One of several letters by a person of this name.—ed.)

16 January 1835, Nashville (TN) Republican, pg. 3, col. 5:
STEAMBOAT REGISTER.
... Hawk-Eye ...

21 July 1836, Milwaukee (WI) Advertiser, pg. 5, col. 4:
“The HAWK-EYES.”
MR. EDITOR:
(...)
“A HAWK-EYE.”
1st. Resolved,—That having been endowed with the right of self-government, and thereby absolved from all political dependence on Michigan, we renounce all right and claim to the appellation “Wolvereens.”
2nd. Resolved,—That we are willing and desirous hereafter, to be known and distinguished by the style, name and title of “HAWK-EYES” --a term more harmonious to the ear, more brief and convenient, than that of Wisconsians, or Wisconsonians, or Wisconsinites.
Milwaukee, July 10, 1836.
[It is easily to be perceived that our friend “A Hawk Eye” has not long been a resident of Wisconsin,—if he had been, he would know that we have long possessed the honorable cognomen of Badgers. The inhabitants of the western part of Wisconsin, are or were, when the name was given engaged in digging Led Ore—hence from the habits of the=at animal, of boroughing in the earth during the day, we are called Badgers. Therefore, being opposed to all changes or innovations in old or long established names or customs, and having a great aversion to all long names, whether belonging to men in their individual or public capacity, we wish to retain our old name, which has obtained the sanction of time.]

30 July 1836, Chicago (IL) American, pg. 2, col. 5:
The ladies of Wisconsin have determined and decreed, that now and ever hereafter they will be known as “Hawk Eyes.” Look out for your “Chickens” neighbor “Wolverines.” The “Suckers,” “Hoozers” and “Buckeyes” must also be on the alert.

23 August 1836, American Traveller (Boston, MA), pg. 2, col. 3:
The ‘Gothamites,’ ‘Pukes,’ “Bay State boys,’ ‘Granite boys,’ ‘Green Mountain boys,’ ‘Chickens,’ ‘Buckeyes,’ ‘Wolverines,’ ‘Suckhers,’ ‘Hooziers,’ ‘&c. &c. &c.’ will hereafter be compelled to yield the palm to the ladies of Wisconsin, who now and henceforth are determined to be known as the Hawk Eyes.

13 September 1836, Daily Commercial Bulletin and Missouri Literary Register (St. Louis, MO), pg. 2, col. 4:
The “Gothamites,” “Pukes,” “Bay state boys,” “Granite boys,” “Green Mountain boys,” “Chickens,” “Buckeyes,” “Wolverines,,""Suckers,""Hooziers,"&c. &c. &c., will hereafter be compelled to yield the palm to the ladies of Wisconsin, who now and henceforth, are determined to be known as the Hawk Eyes.

7 January 1837, The Times (Hartford, CT), pg. 4, col. 1:
ADDRESS, OF THE CARRIER OF
THE TIMES
JANUARY, 1837
(...)
The sons of Kentucky like “Hawk-Eye” of sight,
WIth their dread rifles levelled are first in the fight; ...

Google Books
24 March 1838, Fort Madison (IA) Patriot, pg. 2:
If a division of the Territory (Wisconsin—ed.) be effected, we propose that Iowans take the cognomen of Hawk-eyes. Our etymology can thus be more definitely traced than that of the Wolverines, Suckers, Gophers &c., and we shall rescue from oblivion a memento, at least, of the name of the old chief (Black Hawk—ed.). Who seconds the motion?
("Gophers" probably refers to Arkansas, not Minnesota.—ed.)

6 December 1838, The Evening Star (New York, NY), pg. 2, col. 2:
We understand that James G. McKinney, Esq. has sold his splendid colt, Hawk Eye, to Messrs. Bradley & Steele, for the sum of $3000. (...)—Lexington (Ky.) Observer.

13 August 1839, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “A Letter from Galena,” pg. 2, col. 4:
“The immigration to Iowa is increasing—it is immense; but still there are “fair fields and broad lands” sufficient for millions, yet unoccupied. It certainly is a beautiful country, rich in soil and salubrious in climate.—This is a pretty fair admission, a ‘Hawk Eye’ (a resident of Iowa) would say, for a Sucker to make.”

OCLC WorldCat record
The Hawk-eye and Iowa patriot.
Publisher: Burlington, I.T. [Iowa] : James G. Edwards, 1839-
Edition/Format: Newspaper : English

Chronicling America
14 September 1839, Maumee City (OH) Express, pg. 2, col. 2:
The Hawk-eyes, as the Ioways call themselves, threaten an appeal to the last of human tribunals—to wit, fisticuffs, ...

5 October 1839, Wisconsin Enquirer (Madison, WI), pg. 3, col. 1:
The Iowa Patriot, has added Hawk Eye to its title, and it now appears as the Hawk Eye and Iowa Patriot.

20 May 1840 Wisconsin Enquirer (Madison, WI), pg. 2, col. 1:
A WESTERN ORATOR: GO IT HAWK EYES!—THe following extracts from an address to the voters of Des Moines county (Iowa Territory) are full of the true spirit of independence: ..

Google Books
April 1845, Cincinnati Miscellany (Cincinnati, OH), pg. 240, col. 1:
Ohio, Buckeyes.
Indiana, Hoosiers.
Illinois, Suckers.
Missouri, Pewks.
Mississippi, Tadpoles
Arkansas, Gophers.
Michigan, Wolverines.
Florida, Fly up the Creeks.
Wisconsin, Badgers.
Iowa, Hawkeyes.
N. W. Territory, Prairie Dogs.
Oregon, Hard Cases.

22 May 1845, Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), pg. 4, col. 2:
From Cist’s Cincinnati Advertiser.
Fancy Names.

(...)
Iowa, Hawkeyes, ...

Chronicling America
4 July 1860, The Spirit of Democracy (Woodsfield, OH), “National Nicknames,” pg. 1, col. 7:
The inhabitants of Maine are called Foxes; New Hampshire, Granite Boys; Massachusetts, Bay Staters; Vermont, Green Mountain Boys; Rhode Island, Gun Flints; Connecticut, Wooden Nutmegs; New York, Knickerbockers; New Jersey, Clam Catchers; Pennsylvania, Leather Heads; Delaware, Muskrats; Maryland, Claw Thumpers; Virginia, Beagles; North Carolina, Tar Boilers; South Carolina, Weasels; Georgia, Buzzards; Louisiana, Creowls; Alabama, Lizards; Kentucky, Corn Crackers; Ohio, Buckeyes; Michigan, Wolverines; Indiana, Hoosiers; illinois, Suckers; Mississippi, Tad-Poles; Florida, Fly up the Creeks; Wisconsin, Badgers; Iowa, Hawkeyes; Oregon, Hard Cases.

25 July 1864, Indianapolis (IN) Daily Journal, “National Nick-Names,” pg. 4, col. 2:
Iowa...Hawkeyes

1 December 1865, The Rescue (Sacramento, CA), “National Nicknames,” pg. 3, col. 3:
... Iowa, Hawkeyes; ..

Google Books
Annual Statistician—1876
Compiled by John P. Mains
San Francisco, CA: L. P. McCarty, Publisher
1876
Pg. 90:
NICKNAMES OF STATES AND THEIR INHABITANTS.
(...)
IOWA—The Hawkeye State.

24 November 1878, Burlington (IA) Daily Hawk-Eye, “The Hawkeye State: How Iowa Received Its Title,” pg. 4, col. 4:
30 November 1878, Burlington (IA) Hawkeye, “The Hawkeye State: How Iowa Received Its Title,” pg. 4, col. 5:
The name “Hawkeye” was first given to the resident of Iowa in 1839, and was first suggested by Judge Rorer of this city. The first mention of the name was in the Fort Madison Patriot in 1838, a paper published by James G. Edwards, the founder of THE HAWKEYE, at the suggestion of Judge Rorer. Mr. Edwards proposed in his paper that the people of Iowa adopt the name of “Hawkeye.” This was done to prevent dozens of other states giving us a more opprobrious title. something similar to that by which the people of Missouri are frequently designated even to this day. The name was not adopted at this time, however, but early in 1839, after Mr. Edwards had moved his paper to Burlington the question was again discussed, and it was decided to write a series of letters to the papers then published in Iowa, and in which the people of Iowa were to be called “Hawkeyes.” Judge Rorer, James G. Edwards and H. W. Starr were the principal parties to the transaction, and it was voted that Judge Rorer should write the letters. They were so written by him and were copied by Hon. Shepherd Leffler, so that the handwriting would not be known. These letters bore the signature of “A Wolverine among the Hawkeyes” and frequently referred to the people of Iowa as “Hawkeyes.” The first letter appeared in the Dubuque Visitor and others in the several papers then published in the territory. As they contained many criticisms of prominent men, and the public officers of the territory they created much interest, and the name “Hawkeyes” was ever after adopted to designate the people of Iowa. In a short time after this Mr. Edwards changed the name of his paper to THE HAWKEYE, in honor of the people of Iowa. This history of the name we procured from Judge Rorer,who had the honor of giving Iowa the title of the Hawkeye State.

6 December 1878, Burlington (IA) Daily Hawk-Eye, pg. 5, cols. 4-5:
THE HAWKEYE STATE.
Whence Was the Term “Hawkeye” Derived?—A Controverted Point.
Understanding that Mrs. Ellen T. Broadwell, formerly the wife of James G. Edwards, the founder of the HAWKEYE did not concur in the editorial conclusions in a recent number of this paper as to the source of the term “Hawkeye,” as applied to Iowa, we sought for some additional facts upon the subject. In our former article we stated:

“The name “Hawkeye” was first given to the resident of Iowa in 1839, and was first suggested by Judge Rorer of this city. The first mention of the name was in the Fort Madison Patriot in 1838, a paper published by James G. Edwards, the founder of THE HAWKEYE, at the suggestion of Judge Rorer.”

Mrs. Broadwell thinks the above will give rise to a general misapprehension of the facts. She makes the following statement, which will be quite interesting to all the old settlers:

“I here state, most positively, that Mr. Edwards was not even acquainted with Mr. Rorer at the time the first number of the Ft. Madison Patriot was issued, and therefore could not have made any such suggestions as he claims. I am much surprised, after a lapse of forty years, to see such an announcement from Mr. Rorer.”

Google Books
U. S.
An Index to the United States of America

Compiled by Malcolm Townsend
Boston, MA: D. Lothrop Company
1890
Pg. 68:
NICKNAMES OF THE STATES.
(...)
Iowa...Hawkeye...Traced to an Indian chief named “Hawkeye,” who proved a terror to travelers on the border, in early days.

Google Books
Universal Dictionary of the English Language
Edited by Robert Hunter and Charles Morris
New York, NY: Peter Fenelon Collier, Publisher
1898
Pg. 5343:
Iowa. The Hawkeye State (from a noted Indian chief of that name).

29 April 1938, Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, “Questions of Readers Answered” by Frederic J. Haskins, pg. 18, col. 1:
Q. Was Bob Burdette responsible for Iowa’s being called the Hawkeye State? C. C. H.
A. The name Hawkeye was first given to the residents of Iowa in 1839, and was suggested by Judge Rorer of Des Moines. The first mention of the name was in the Fort Madison Patriot, a paper published by James G. Edwards. later, Mr. Edwards moved his paper to Burlington and changed its name to the Burlington Hawkeye. Bob Burdette, as a reporter on the Hawkeye, helped to popularize the expression.

Google News Archive
3 March 1957, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, “What’s in Big Ten Nickname?” by Cleon Walfoort, pt. 3, pg. 3, col. 2:
“Hawkeyes" Early Settlers
It once was commonly accepted theory that Iowa’s “Hawkeyes” honored Black Hawk, the Sauk chief who fought to keep his people’s hunting ground. Lesser thinkers assumed it had something to do with a bird. But the historical department of the state finally got around to some official research and came through impressively.

“The individual originally called ‘Hawkeye’ was a white (Pg. 4, col. 2—ed.) man,” it decided, “not an Indian. It was a nickname applied to early settlers of the Iowa district long after its first appearance in American literature as that of a heroic character in James Fennimore Cooper’s ‘Leather Stocking Tales.’”

According to Cooper’s story, the Delaware Indians bestowed the name of “Hawkeye” upon the white scout or trapper who lived and hunted with them and shared their perils in war against the Iroquois and Hurons. Adoption of “Hawkeye” was diligently promoted by Judge David Rorer of Burlington and when editor James G. Edwards moved his newspaper from Fort Madison to Burlington in 1838 he changed its name from “Patriot” to “Hawkeye.”

Nowhere is there any serious mention of the hawk, but university athletic insignia portrays Herkimer or :Herky” the hawk as a beady eyed, belligerent bird wearing a football helmet at a rakish angle.

Des Moines (IA) Register
Iowa 101: The world’s largest Iowa history course
How Did Iowa Become the Hawkeye State?

(...)
Richard Acton. “What’s in a Name?” Palimpsest (Fall 1989), 114-120.

26 November 1989, The Hawk Eye (Burlington, IA), “Editor’s Note: Iowa’s nickname given life in Burlington” by Bill Mertens, pg. 4A, cols. 3-6:
Whether Rorer or Edwards was the father of the state’s nickname, it is clear that Burlington’s role in the formation of Iowa and the name by which its people are still known was significant.

The Hawk Eye
published online: 7/10/2011
The name that stuck
- DALE ALISON
While issuing his newspaper in Fort Madison, James Edwards befriended an old man who would drop by the newspaper office.

It was Black Hawk, the one-time leader of the Sac and Fox tribes who waged war on the United States six years earlier. Black Hawk resettled along the Des Moines River in what would become Van Buren County, and made periodic visits into the Fort Madison settlement.

Edwards saw him as a proud man befitting a special honor.

In his first newspaper, which predated Clarke and Jacobs’ journal by nearly four months, Edwards wrote:

“If a division of the Territory be effected, we propose that Iowans take the cognomen of Hawk-eyes. Our etymology can thus be more definitely traced than that of the Wolverines, Suckers, Gophers &c., and we shall rescue from oblivion a memento, at least, of the name of the old chief. Who seconds the motion?”

Burlington attorney David Rorer worked behind the scenes to rally support for Edwards’ idea. He wrote anonymous letters to other territorial papers suggesting the nickname be adopted.

On Sept. 5, 1839, Edwards rechristened his newspaper, now in Burlington, The Hawk-Eye and Iowa Patriot, and wrote:

“Every state and territory has its peculiar cognomen. Universal consent has confirmed the one by which Iowa is distinguished.

“It may not be generally known by what means this name was given her. To enlighten all who are ignorant on this subject, and to show that we have an undoubted right to make use of it to our advantage, we copy the following editorial paragraph from the Fort Madison Patriot of March 24, 1838, a paper conducted by our humble self.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Other ExpressionsOrigin of "Hawkeye" (Iowa nickname) • Saturday, December 10, 2011 • Permalink