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Facts: Nicknames, Mottos and Symbols (redirected from Facts and Information: Nicknames, Mottos and Symbols)

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Nicknames, Mottos and Symbols


The information on nicknames and mottos was taken from an article by Brian Shovers, "From Treasure State to Big Sky: Montana's Naturally Inviting and EZ 2 LUV State Nicknames and Mottos," in the spring 2003 (Vol. 53, No. 1) issue of Montana The Magazine of Western History, pages 58-61.  Additional information is available in the Research Center vertical file, "Montana Mottos." Information on symbols is from Symbols of Montana by Rex C. Meyers and Norma B. Ashby, Montana Historical Society Foundation, 1989. 


Nicknames and Mottos


Treasure State

In 1895 "Treasure State" became the first nickname to gain wide appeal.  It appeared on the cover of a promotional booklet published by the Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor, and Industry.  "Treasure State" was chosen because of Montana's status as the country's foremost producer of metallic treasures - gold, silver, and copper.


Land of Shining Mountains

"Land of Shining Mountains" also appeared in 1895 in the same promotional booklet published by the Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor, and Industry that introduced "Treasure State."  This motto had its origins with brothers Pierre and Chevalier Verendrye, French Canadian fur traders and explorers, who gazed upon the northern Rockies and upped them the "Shining Mountains."  According to Joaquin Miller's 1894 history Montana, Native tribes also referred to the Rockies as "the Shining" because of their snow caps.


Stubbed-Toe State

First seen in the 1922 edition of the World Almanac, the only explanation for Montana as the "Stubbed-Toe State" comes from the Dictionary of Americanisms, which asserts that the nickname refers to the mountainous region of western Montana where the multitude of rocks might pose a hazard to the novice hiker.


Montana: High, Wide and Handsome

Montana: High, Wide and Handsome first appeared in the 1940 on the cover of a Montana Highway Department publicity brochure.  This phrase was also the title of Joseph Kinsey Howard's acclaimed book.  Although the original source of the phrase is unknown, evidence points to C. B. Glasscock, who stated in War of the Copper Kings published in 1935 that "Life in Butte was high, wide, and occasionally handsome."


Big Sky Country

Big Sky Country was adopted as a Montana nickname in 1961 and is based on the book by A. B. "Bud" Guthrie.  In the summer of 1961 Jack Hallowell hosted writer John Weaver of Holiday magazine, who asked to meet Guthrie.  During their meeting Hallowell casually asked if Guthrie would object to the state advertising departing using "Big Sky" to promote tourism.  Guthrie granted his permission on the spot.  Ironically, the title of the classic novel of the American fur trade originated with Guthrie's editor, Bill Sloane, because Guthrie submitted his manuscript without a title.  Guthrie had sent biographical notes, including the exclamation--"standing under the big sky I feel free"--that his father made during his first day in Montana."


Montana - Naturally Inviting

In 1985 state promoters developed "Montana - Naturally Inviting" as a replacement to "Big Sky County," as they feared that state advertising using that slogan would be confused with advertising for Chet Huntley's Big Sky Resort south of Bozeman.


Montana - Unspoiled, Unforgettable

"Montana - Unspoiled, Unforgettable," was adopted by the State Tourism Advisory Council in 1988.



"EZ 2 LUV," which was based upon a Montana State University student's license place, was adopted by the state tourism office in 1995.




Animal - Grizzly Bear

  • The state animal was chosen by school children throughout the state. They nominated over 74 different animals and then had primary and general elections to chose the candidates. The grizzly bear was named the state animal on April 7, 1983.


Ballad - Montana Melody

  • In 1983 this song by LeGrande and Carleen Harvey was named the state ballad. The intent of the legislation was to replace the state song, but a compromise was made and Montana Melody was named the state ballad.


Bird - Western Meadowlark

  • In 1930 school children were asked which bird best represented Montana and overwhelmingly chose the Meadowlark. The 1931 Legislature agreed.


Fish - Blackspotted Cutthroat Trout

  • Added by the 45th legislature in 1977. Campaign started by Norma B. Ashby.


Flower - Bitterroot (Lewisia Rediviva)

  • 1895 Legislature sanctioned this symbol. Mary Long Alderson was the person most responsible for getting Bitterroot as the state flower.


Fossil - Duck-billed Dinosaur

  • Naming a dinosaur as the state fossil would bring awareness to the fact that Montana is one of the best places in the world for important dinosaur discoveries. The bill adding the state fossil was signed into law on February 22, 1985.


Gemstones - Sapphire and Agate

  • These gemstones were added in 1969.

Grass - Bluebunch Wheatgrass

  • Bluebunch wheatgrass occurs throughout the state and was named the state grass in 1973 by the 43rd legislature.


Song - Montana

  • Lyrics by Charles C. Cohan and Melody by Joseph E. Howard
  • Song was written in 1910. Governor Sam C. Ford and the legislature made it the state song on February 20, 1945.


State Seal and State Flag

  • Information about the state seal and the state flag can be found at the Montana Secretary of State website.


Tree - Ponderosa Pine

  • In the spring of 1908, Helena school children held a referendum on which tree best represented the state. Ponderosa Pine was chosen, but it was not until 1949 that the Legislature agreed.


 Montana Historical Society Research Center

 225 North Roberts, P.O. Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201, 406-444-2681, 406-444-2696 (fax).



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