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 January 22, 2016
Puke State (Missouri nickname)

People from Missouri were called “Pukes” in the 1800s, and Missouri was called the “Puke State.” As explained in an 1845 issue of the Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle by someone “who was at the christening,” a boatload of Missourians went to work at the lead mines in Galena, Illinois, in 1827—so many that it was said that Missouri had “puked.” It’s possible that many of the Missourians came from Pike County, and that “Pike” helped inspire “Puke,” but that derivation is not found in the earliest historical citations.

“Missourians, Suckers, and Pukes;—the latter name implying natives of Kentucky” was cited in print in 1831. However, there is no other record of a person from Kentucky being called a “Puke.” “Missouri, Pukes” was cited in a short nickname list in 1834.

Missouri was called the “Puke State” by at least 1858, but the “Puke” nickname is historical today. Missouri’s modern nickname is the “Show-Me State”


Google Books
September 1831, New-England Magazine, “The Lead Mines of Upper Missouri,” pg. 224:
About one-fourth of the settlers were foreigners, principally Irish. The rest, as classified by themselves, were Missourians, Suckers, and Pukes;—the latter name implying natives of Kentucky.

19 August 1834, New York (NY) American, pg. 2, col. 2:
NAMES. A writer in the Illinois Pioneer says: that, the following nick-names have been adopted to distinguish the citizens of the following states: --

In Kentucky they’re call’d Corn-Crackers,
Ohio, ....................Buckeyes,
Indiana .................Hoosiers,
Illinois ..................Suckers,
Missouri, ...............Pukes,
Michigan, T. ..........Woolverines.
The Yankees are called Eels.

Google Books
Trip to the West and Texas
By Amos Andrew Parker
Concord, NH: Printed and Published by White & Fisher
1835
Pp. 86-87:
Those of Michigan are called wolverines; of Indiana, hooshers; of Illinois, suckers; of Ohio, buckeyes; of Kentucky, corn-crackers; of Missouri, pukes; &c.

7 November 1835, Gloucester (MA) Telegraph, pg. 2, col. 5:
The Editor of the Louisville Journal, speaking of Mr. Van Buren, asks: “Is it not well understood that he aims to be thought a ‘Buckeye’ in Ohio, a ‘Wolverine’ in Michigan, a “Hooshier” in Indiana, a ‘Corncracker’ in Kentucky, a “Sucker’ in Illinois, and a ‘Puke’ in Missouri? We think he is well entitled to be called a puke in every State.

Google Books
April 1836, The Family Magazine (Cincinnati, OH) , pg. 265, col. 1:
A native of Ohio is called a “Buckeye;” of Michigan, “ Wolverine;” of Indiana, “Hoosier;” of Kentucky, “Com-cracker;” and of Missouri, “Pewk.”

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.

Google Books
The Clockmaker; or The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville
By Thomas Chandler Haliburton
London: Richard Bentley
1838
Pg. 289:
These last have all nicknames. There’s the hoosiers of Indiana, the suckers of Illinoy, the pukes of Missuri, the buckeys of Ohio, the red horses of Kentucky, the mud-heads of Tenessee, the wolverines of Michigan, the eels of New England, and the corn-crackers of Virginia.

Google Books
8 September 1838, New-York (NY) Mirror (New York, NY), pg. 86, col. 2:
These last have all nicknames. There’s the Hoosiers of Indiana, the Suckers of Illinoy, the Pukes of Missouri, the Buckeyes of Ohio, the Red Horses of Kentucky, the Mud-heads of Tennessee, the Wolverines of Michigan, the Eels of New-England and the Corn-crackers of Virginia.

Google Books
The Attaché:
Or Sam Slick in England

By Thomas Chandler Haliburton
Paris: Baudry’s European Library
1843
Pg. 130:
Why, as I am a livin’ sinner that’s the Hoosier of Indiana, or the Sucker of Illinois, or the Puke of Missouri, or the Bucky of Ohio, or the Red Horse of Kentucky, or the Mudhead of Tennesee, or the Wolverine of Michigan, or the Eel of New England, or the Corn Cracker of Virginia?

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.

Chronicling America
23 August 1845, Ripley (MS) Advertiser, pg. 1, cols. 4-5:
NATIONAL NICKNAMES.—It will be seen by the following from an exchange paper that the people of every state have nicknames, and some very curious and ludicrous ones:

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, Clamcatchers; Pennsylvania, Leatherheads; Delaware, Muskrats; Maryland, Craw-Thumpers; Virginia, Beagles; North Carolina, Weasels; Georgia, Buzzards; Louisiana, Creowls; Alabama, Lizzards; Kentucky, Corn crackers; Tennessee, Cottonmanics; 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.

Brooklyn Newsstand
16 September 1845, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, pg. 2, col. 1:
ORIGIN OF THE TERMS “SUCKERS” AND “PUKES.”—It is generally known throughout Yankeedom, that the citizens of Illinois pride themselves in the euphonious soubriquet of “Suckers,” and the Missourians in that of “Pukes,” by the origin of those nicknames is little known. Now to relieve some future antiquarian from the complexity and labor of investigating their origin, we would state that we met a gentleman the other day who was at the christening, and that therefore, there can be no dispute about what we are going to state. If, however, any one should have the temerity to call our statement in question, we pledge ourselves to produce living testimony, to their utter confusion, and a triumphant vindication of our statement. Let nobody dare to contradict us, then. The gentleman alluded to, gave the following as the origin of the above soubriquets. Soon after the discovery of the led mines on the upper Mississippi, the people of South Illinois, who had been mining in the less productive mines of South Illinois, would go to the upper mines in the spring, and as the Galena country had the reputation of horrid cold winters, they would return to the south in the fall. These migratory movements, as the corresponded in time with the ascent and descent of the suckers in the river, suggested to the miners who were fast anchored at Galena the soubriquet of wuckers, which they applied to these transient persons, and as they were all Illinoisians, the term soon became applied indiscriminately to the people of Illinois. So much for the term “Sucker.”

One fine day in Spring, when the time had arrived for the Suckers to appear, a steamboat arrived at Galena, crowded like a pigeon rost, with men. THe shout was soon raised that the “Suckers” were coming, but on the landing of the boat the men proved to be Missourians; which, when the miners discovered, they remarked that they thought the “Suckers” had come, but instead of that it now appeared that Missouri had puked, and the nick-name of “Pukes” was ever afterward applied to Missouri miners. From this circumstance originated the name of “Pukes” which is now generally applied to the Missourians.—Missourian.

Google Books
A History of Illinois:
From Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847

By Thomas Ford
Chicago, IL: Published By S. C. Griggs & Co.
1854
Pp. 68-69:
Analogies always abound by those who desire to be sarcastic; so the Illinoians, by way of retaliation, called the Missourians “Pukes.” It had been observed that the lower lead mines in Missouri had sent up to the Galena country whole hoards of uncouth ruffians, from which it was inferred that Missouri had taken a “Puke,” and had vomited forth to the upper lead mines, all her worse population. From thenceforth, the Missourians were called “Pukes;” and by these names of “Suckers” and “Pukes,” the Illinoians and Missourians are likely to be called, amongst the vulgar, forever.

21 August 1858, , “Nicknames,” pg. 406, col. 2:
Missouri, the “Puke State.”

Google Books
The United States Democratic Almanac and Political Register
New York, NY: Published by Parsons and Chapin
1859
Pg. 42, col. 1:
Popular Names of States and Cities.
(...)
Missouri, the Puke State.

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; Missouri, Pukes; Mississippi, Tad-Poles; Florida, Fly up the Creeks; Wisconsin, Badgers; Iowa, Hawkeyes; Oregon, Hard Cases.

1 December 1865, The Rescue (Sacramento, CA), “National Nicknames,” pg. 3, col. 3:
... Missouri, Pukes: ...

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.
(...)
MISSOURI—The Bullion State, the Puke State. Pukes.

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

Compiled by Malcolm Townsend
Boston, MA: D. Lothrop Company
1890
Pg. 71:
NICKNAMES OF THE STATES.
Missouri...Puke...This inelegant application took place in 1827 at the Galena Lead Mines, where throughout the mining craze so many Missourians had assembled, that those already there declared that the State of Missouri had taken a “puke.”

California Digital Newspaper Collection
1 November 1890, Sacramento (CA) Daily Record-Union, pg. 1, col. 7:
Why Are Missourians Called Pukes ?
When lead ore was discovered in 1827, near the present city of Galena, Ill., a great number of Missouri people docked to the vicinity, hoping to profit by being early in the mining districts. They were successful in their expectations, and occupied many of the best claims, and so numerous were they on the mining grounds that men from the East, finding themselves shut out, declared that the State of Missouri had taken a puke and emptied all the population into Illinois. The coarse appellation became popular, and the people of Missouri have ever since gone by the name of Pukes.

Google Books
Universal Dictionary of the English Language
Edited by Robert Hunter and Charles Morris
New York, NY: Peter Fenelon Collier, Publisher
1898
Pg. 5344:
Missouri. Pukes (a name applied to the Missourians who came to the Galena lead-mines during the mining excitement there in 1827).

OCLC WorldCat record
Puke lawin’ : law makin’ and law breakin’ in Missouri especially
Author: Daniel Breck
Publisher: St. Louis, Mo. : Mound City Press, 1933.
Edition/Format: Print book : English

Google Books
Names & Nicknames of Places & Things
By Laurence Urdang
New York, NY: New American Library
1988, ©1987
Pg. 208:
Puke State, the
A nickname of Missouri, possibly from a corruption of Pikes, a word used in California to refer to white migratory workers believed to have come from Pike County, .. Missouri; or because so many Missourians showed up at the Galena, Illinois, lead mines in 1827 that those already there stated “the state of Missouri has taken a ‘puke.’”

Google Books
Focus on American English & Culture
By Pierfranca Forchini
EDUCatt - Ente per il diritto allo studio universitario dell’Università Cattolica
2014
Pg. 47:
Missouri has been known as the Iron Mountain State, Bullion State (from around 1848, and possibly an allusion to the nickname of Missouri senator Benton, who was known as “Old Bullion"), the Lead State, the Ozark State, the Puke State (possibly a corruption of “Pike”, as there is a Pike COunty in Missouri, and another just across the river in Illinois), the , and the Pennsylvania of the West.

Posted by Barry Popik
Nicknames of Other PlacesI'm From Missouri. Show Me; Puke State • Friday, January 22, 2016 • Permalink