By Bobby Shipman and Elizabeth Normen
Do your friends call you by a nickname? Nicknames are shorter names than your real one that are easier to say. Sometimes it describes something about the person. Sometimes it is meant as a joke. Sometimes the person doesn’t like the nickname their friends give them!
The State of Connecticut has nicknames, too. Our official state nickname is The Constitution State. It’s on all Connecticut license plates. It was adopted by the General Assembly in 1959. But not everyone likes it.
The state has other nicknames. Some have really funny stories. And not everyone likes them either!
THE CONSTITUTION STATE
Fundamental Orders, 1639. Connecticut State Library
In 1639 in Hartford, Reverend Thomas Hooker preached a sermon to his followers. The new Connecticut Colony needed a government if it was going to last long. A lawyer named Roger Ludlow used the sermon to write the Fundamental Orders.
Many years later a historian argued that this was the first written constitution. People liked the idea. It made Connecticut special. The General Assembly adopted it as our official nickname in 1959. But other historians, including our current state historian, disagree. They point out there were other written constitutions before ours.
The new nickname was adopted to try to replace the old one, “Nutmeg State,” which many people did not like.
THE NUTMEG STATE
Nutmegs are seeds from the fruit of a nutmeg tree. When grated it makes a spicy powder. It’s used in foods like pumpkin pie. It doesn’t grow in Connecticut! It grows in a few places in southeast Asia and Grenada in the Caribbean.
See a video of nutmeg fruit and its seed HERE.
In the colonial period, nutmeg was hard to get. People could buy it from a Yankee peddler. Yankee peddlers were travelling salesmen who were mainly from Connecticut. They went from door to door selling their wares. They sold all sorts of goods—pans, lanterns, clocks, and more. Nutmeg was easy to carry. But it was rare. The peddlers began carving fake nutmegs out of wood! Customers didn’t know they had been tricked until the peddler was far down the road.
Connecticut became known as “The Nutmeg State.” Some people thought it made us sound clever. Others thought it made us sound like cheats.
THE PROVISION STATE
During the American Revolution, the Patriots needed supplies. What we didn’t make ourselves, we got from England. But England was now the enemy. Connecticut was a small state. Even so, it provided the Continental Army with more food and cannons than any other state.
THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS
This nickname began in the early 1800s. In some ways Connecticut had not changed much in 150 years. Generations of the same few families ran the state. In 1808 President John Adams said, “Half a dozen, or, at most, a dozen families, have controlled that country when a colony, as well as since it has been a state.” The Congregational Church was still very influential.
If you liked the way Connecticut was, “Land of Steady Habits” was a compliment. But if you didn’t, it was meant to point out that nothing ever changed!
More and more people wanted a change. Finally change came in 1818. New people were voted into state office. A state constitution was finally adopted. It modernized our state government. But the nickname stuck.
Connecticut’s nicknames tell a lot about the state. They are all over 100 years old. Many of the nicknames are based on things that no longer exist or aren’t completely true. But our nicknames are full of history.
Bobby Shipman is a fifth grader at Tariffville School in Simsbury. Read his other stories on WhereILiveCT.org.
The Connecticut State Library https://ctstatelibrary.org/CT-nicknames
“Are We the Constitution State?” Connecticut Explored
“Nutmeg Adds Spice, But Is It Nice?” Connecticut Explored
“Connecticut As the Provision State,” American Democracy Project, Western Connecticut State University
“The Standing Order: Connecticut’s Ruling Aristocracy, 1639 – 1818,” Connecticut Explored