The Origin and Meaning of the Missouri Nicknames
The history, origin and meaning of each of the state's nicknames are as follows:
The Show Me State
The origin of the official Show Me nickname is unclear but the most credible is attributed to a speech by Missouri's U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served in the US House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. In his speech Vandiver declared, "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me." The "Show Me" phrase is now used to convey the resolute, conservative, nonconforming character of the Missourians.
The Bullion State
The Bullion name originated with Thomas Hart Benton (1782 – 1858) the first U.S. Senator from Missouri who was nicknamed "Old Bullion". Thomas Hart Benton was a dedicated supporter for hard currency in terms of gold and silver rather than the use of banks and paper money.
Gateway to the West
The Gateway nickname first originated at the time of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Missouri earned the nickname "Gateway to the West" because it served as a major departure point for expeditions heading to the West in the 1800's. St. Louis was a major supply point for the groups of settlers who headed west to start a new life. The town of St. Charles in Missouri was the starting and end point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which departed up the Missouri River in 1804 to explore the western territories to the Pacific Ocean.
The Cave State
There are more than 6,400 known caves in Missouri. In the Mark Twain books a Missouri cave featured in the plots concerning Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The Mark Twain Cave was dedicated to the author's name.
The Ozark State
The Ozark name refers to the beautiful Ozark Mountains, known to locals simply as "the Ozarks". The Boston Mountains. are the highest and most rugged section, with several peaks more than 2,000 ft (610 m) high. The Ozarks are rich in lead and zinc and this brings us to the next Missouri nickname.
The Lead State
The first recorded instance of lead mining in Missouri was by French explorers in the early 1720s. For most of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, Missouri was the global leader in lead production.