April 8: Connecticut Becomes “The Constitution State”

 

Connecticut has had its share of diverse nicknames over the course of its nearly 400 years of recorded history — some more flattering than others!

During the American Revolution, the colony and soon-to-be state of Connecticut became known as “The Provisions State” because of its outsized contributions of both men and supplies to the Continental Army.  (It certainly helped that Connecticut’s governor, Jonathan Trumbull, happened to be the only governor out of thirteen who was openly committed to the Patriot cause at the start of the war.)

Sometime during the early 1800s, Connecticut residents’ reputation for upholding traditional mannerisms and genteel decorum  (as well as the state’s tendency to re-elect politicians from the same old, entrenched family trees) earned Connecticut the epithet “The Land of Steady Habits.”

An illustration from a 1891 British guide to American travel, labeling Connecticut “The Land of Steady Habits.”

Later during the 19th century, many clever Connecticans who had traveled throughout the country to peddle their wares earned a less charming reputation for themselves.  Legend has it that these “Yankee peddlers” would swindle unsuspecting customers by selling them jars of whole nutmegs which contained wooden counterfeits at the very bottom of the jar.  By the time the customer used up the genuine nutmegs and discovered the forgeries, the peddler had  packed up and headed out of town, never to be seen again.  In that sense, the nickname “The Nutmeg State” has always had a slightly tongue-in-cheek quality to it; some Connecticut boosters have derided the nickname as an insult to our state’s character, while others find it an amusing homage to our clever Yankee forbears.

A facsimile of the first page of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, written in 1639.

Finally, On April 8, 1959, the Connecticut General Assembly voted on “The Constitution State” as the state’s official nickname.  The appellation is a reference to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, a compact between some of Connecticut’s earliest European settlers written in 1639 and one of the first written constitutions in recorded history.

 

Further Reading

Connecticut’s Nicknames,” Connecticut State Library

Wesley Horton, “The Land of Steady Constitutional Habits,” Connecticut Explored

The Debate over Connecticut as the Constitution State,” National Constitution Center