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Minnesota, The Gopher State #TBT

Without Bribes We Might Have Been The Beaver State

Next week the Gophers play the Beavers. But if things had turned out differently 159 years ago the game very well may have been the Beavers vs the Beavers.

How did Minnesota (and the U of M) get its nickname the Gophers? It’s from a railroad scandal all the way back in 1857. The resulting satirical cartoon cemented Gopher as the state nickname. Here is a deeper dive from the MNHS collection.

Engraving by Robert O Sweeny, 1857

Engraving on paper by Robert O. Sweeny, 1857. It is a political cartoon made in opposition to a proposed amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution allowing the state to issue $5,000,000 worth of bonds to assist the construction of railroads. The cartoon shows ten men under the tracks with $10,000 bags of gold weighting down their necks, each of which represent legislators bribed into passing the act. On the tracks is a train of cars drawn by nine gophers with human heads, each representing various advocates of the act. This widely spread cartoon is credited with giving Minnesota the nickname of "The Gopher State". Before this, the popular choice was to call Minnesota the Beaver State.