Oregon has been called the “Web-foot State” because it rains so much in the state, only animals with webbed feet were said to be able to live there. “The land of the ‘Web-foot’” has been cited in print since at least June 1862, “web-foot country” from October 1869 and “web foot state” from December 1873.
The historian Hubert Howe Bancroft’s History of Oregon. 1886-88 (see below) details a story that “web-foot” was “said to have originated in a sarcastic remark of a commecial traveller,” but this story has not been confirmed by documentary evidence.
The Web-foot State
Anyone who’s been to Oregon will surely understand that this nickname comes from the amount or rain that falls in the state, most of it in the western 1/3 of the state. Precipitation can average from 40 to more than 180 inches a year in some areas.
14 June 1862, Weekly Oregonian (Portland, OR), “From our Salmon River Correspondent,” pg. 1, col. 6:
You enter east of the Cascades a new world. The land of the “Web-foot” is now behind you.
23 October 1869, Idaho Statesman (Boise City, Idaho Territory), pg. 2, col. 1:
The Oregonian and the Web-foot country generally seem to have been so long dependent on California for material benefits that they seem entirely willing to play second fiddle on matters of opinion as well.
13 December 1873, The Elevator (San Francisco, CA), pg. 2, col. 1:
OREGON.—The colored citizens of the web foot State held a Convention on the 11th ult. to appoint delegates to the National Convention, and elect a State Executive Committee.
23 December 1874, Milwaukee (WI) Journal of Commerce, pg. 1, col. 8:
THE WEB-FOOT STATE.
THE RESOURCES AND ATTRACTIONS OF THE REMOTEST CORNER OF THE GREAT REPUBLIC.
Compiled by John P. Mains
San Francisco, CA: L. P. McCarty, Publisher
NICKNAMES OF STATES AND THEIR INHABITANTS.
OREGON—Webfeet, Hard Cases.
3 May 1881, The Daily Bee (Omaha, NE), “State Nicknames,” pg. 3, cols. 4-5:
... Oregon, Web Foot or Hard Case; ...
Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft:
History of Oregon. 1886-88 (Vol. II)
By Hubert Howe Bancroft
San Francisco, CA: A.L. Bancroft
The term “web-foot” had no yet been applied to the Oregonians. It became current in mining times, and is said to have originated in a sarcastic remark of a commecial traveller, who had spent the night in a farm-house on the marshy banks of the Long Tom, in what is now Lane County, that children should be provided with webbed feet in that country. “We have thought of that,” returned the mistress of the house, at the same time displaying to the astonished visitor her baby’s feet with webs between the toes. The story lost nothing in the telling, and Web-foot became the pseudonyme for Oregonian.
An Index to the United States of America
Compiled by Malcolm Townsend
Boston, MA: D. Lothrop Company
NICKNAMES OF THE STATES.
Oregon...Web-foot Country...Through excessive rain in the winter months, the climate at that season is best appreciated by the “web-foot” animals.
The Pacific Coast Scenic Tour, from southern California to Alaska, the Canadian Pacific railway, Yellowstone Park and the Grand Cañon
By Henry Theophilus Finck
New York, NY: C. Scribner’s Sons
But, oddly enough, there is less rain in the Puget Sound region than in Oregon, the “web-foot” State.
The Significance of Names
By Leopold Wagner
New York, NY: Thomas Whittake
Oregon is The Web-Foot State, owing to the humid climate of its coast counties; also The Sunset State, referring to its westerly situation.
7 September 1893, Cleveland (OH) Leader, pg. 4, col. 5:
... Oregon, “Web-foot Country”, and “Beaver State”; ...
Universal Dictionary of the English Language
Edited by Robert Hunter and Charles Morris
New York, NY: Peter Fenelon Collier, Publisher
Oregon. Beaver State (from the number of beavers). The Web-foot Country (from the excessive winter rains).
The United States and Their Industries
By William Henry Parr Greswell
London: G. Philip & Son
Oregon is called “The Web-foot State,” because of its moist climate, which suits ducks and geese and all web-footed birds. It has also been called “The Sunset State,” because it reaches a more westerly point than others.
24 March 1901, Daily Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), “Nicknames of People,” pg. 3, col. 3:
Oregon, Web-foot; Hard cases.