For decades, the only state symbols reference of note was State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols by George Earlie Shankle. It’s an awesome reference, but it has some huge shortcomings, and it was first published before World War II—before Alaska and Hawaii were even states.
The other state symbols reference that is now stocked by most libraries is State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide by Benjamin and Barbara Shearer. Though published more recently, it’s still out of date. Moreover, it also has some rather enormous shortcomings, including a striking lack of pictures.
Both of these books can be described as typically stuffy references, particularly the latter.
My State Symbols Book is better than both of those references. Far from a stuffy reference, it’s lavishly illustrated and is much more fun to read. There’s really no need for another state symbols reference, unless you’re a reference librarian or a hard core fan of symbols or Americana.
Geobop’s State Symbols is far bigger than any other state symbols book ever published. I would not describe it as a fun book to read—unless you enjoy reading the details behind the adoption milk and the honeybee by dozens of states. Yet Geobop’s State Symbols is not as stuffy as the books by Shankle and the Shearers.
Top 10 Features ˆ
Below is a list of 10 features that make Geobop’s State Symbols a major improvement over the competition.
- The first reference to properly define state symbols, making it better focused
- The first reference to properly classify state symbols, making it better organized and much more useful
- More information about the symbols
- Illustrated with hundreds of pictures, including the first series of state symbols maps
- Better designed and styled, with an emphasis on navigation
- The first state symbols report cards*
- Educational and provocative, including a campaign for the improvement of the national roster of state symbols
- The most current reference (published in 2022 or 2023 and supported by a website)
- The first state symbols general reference to take advantage of the features that make ebooks more powerful than traditional print publications
- Supported by additional books and a website
* I marked #6 with an asterisk, because I decided to publish the state report cards as a separate book and may therefore delete that material from Geobop’s State Symbols.
1. Definition ˆ
If you want to write a book, it helps to know what you’re talking about.
The books by Shankle and the Shearers collectively have chapters focusing on state apiarists (bee keepers), capitols, governors, license plates, postage stamps and universities. Geobop’s State Symbols begins with the question “what is a state symbol?.” It then focuses on genuine state symbols (which can be quite overwhelming themselves) without getting cluttered by lists of state governors (what, no senators?), universities and beekeepers.
2. Classification ˆ
Pardon the arrogance, but I was the first to undertake the task of classifying state symbols. Wikipedia now uses my basic classification scheme, though my classification system has been refined in this book. Its especially useful when dealing with all those “cultural symbols,” from official foods and beverages to ships, sports and stars.
Amazingly, the most popular state symbols websites have no classification system at all. You really can’t have a solid reference without a good classification scheme.
3. More Information ˆ
If you think state symbols are boring, you’ve been reading the wrong books.
Shankle’s book mentions virtually no ecosymbols other than state flowers, birds and a handful of trees. There’s virtually no mention of “cultural symbols.” The Shearers’ book features chapters focusing on symbols of state (e.g. flags, mottoes) but just three groups of ecosymbols—flowers, trees and birds. After wading through an ocean of stamps, state governors and universities, it features a chapter titled “Miscellaneous Official State and Territorial Designations.” It’s simply a list of additional state symbols with the year each symbol was adopted.
Neither book really digs into the stories behind the symbols, aside from Shankle’s excellent research on state nicknames. To be honest, I have to admit that many state symbols are indeed a big yawn. But if you dig deep enough you can often find some interesting stories, and no one has dug deeper than I have.
4. Pictures! ˆ
Almost unbelievably, the books by Shankle and the Shearers have no pictures other than state flags and seals. Moreover, they’re very low quality images that are grouped together, a common practice in print publications.
Much nicer pictures can be found on websites focusing on state symbols. But this book has gone even further.
Geobop’s State Symbols will tentatively feature more than 1,500 pictures, many of them of very high quality. You can explore galleries of state flags, seals and arms, as well as a gallery of state flag proposals. (However, the latter may not be included in the book, as I am publishing a separate book, Flag Quest, focusing on the campaign for new state flags.)
The pictures in this book are uniquely creative, many grouping symbols together or emphasizing various themes. Of particular note is a series of state maps that illustrate localities associated with symbols.
5. Better Designed and Styled ˆ
If you have a copy of the Shearers’ book in ebook format, look at the table of contents. The 50 states are listed in single columns that take up way too much space. You may not be able to see an entire list on one page even when using the smallest font. Compare that with the state index used in this book (below).
(Note: I linked the states in the table above to pages on this web site.)
I put a lot of work into this book’s navigation, allowing you to navigate it both vertically and horizontally, quickly jumping back and forth between sections, subsections and topics. If you can’t easily return to a location where you clicked a link, it shouldn’t be too hard to find your way back via the table of contents. Of course, you can always do a simple search for a word or phrase, too.
Geobop’s State Symbols also makes abundant use of color-coded tables with footnotes, a valuable resource for researchers.
6. Honest Criticism ˆ
Most books and websites focusing on state symbols are politically correct in the extreme. Afraid to rock the boat, they’re loathe to say anything critical about state symbols.
Geobop’s State Symbols is the first reference to grade each state’s symbols, and there are a lot more F’s than A’s.
Hey, if students are expected to miss recess so they can study for their stupid, corporate-mandated high-stakes test, then legislators should be held accountable for the symbols they adopt.
7. Provocative ˆ
To be brutally blunt, Geobop’s State Symbols is for mature adults. Some of the political commentary is guaranteed to strike a nerve, whether you’re a liberal or conservative.
Some might argue that a good reference should be impartial, unbiased. But Geobop’s State Symbols is more than a reference. It’s also an educational tool, and no rational, ethical person would promote the growing list of official firearms and military symbols as a wholesome trend. Indeed, legislators in various states are increasingly fighting back against the sheer number of state symbols.
More than criticize state symbols, I’m actively campaigning for and against them. I’m one of many people who are lobbying for the replacement of some amazingly shabby state flags with more respectable designs. And why do the corporate media tirelessly harp about racist Confederate symbols when Washington State’s ugly flag depicts a slave owner? Abraham Lincoln, a major Illinois icon, was a major player in the American Holocaust, presiding over the biggest lynching of Native Americans in this country’s history.
8. Current ˆ
Shankle’s book was first published before World War II; it doesn’t even include Alaska and Hawaii! The Shearers’ book was last published in 2002. Many new symbols have been adopted since then.
Making things worse, state symbols are a moving target, with new symbols proposals making headlines almost every week.
Geobop’s State Symbols will include all the state symbols adopted through 2021 (and possibly 2022).
9. Epub ˆ
Shankle’s book wasn’t available as an ebook until I stepped up to the plate. The ebook version of the Shearers’ book is a virtual carbon copy of the print version, with no extra pictures and virtually no special features.
As a long-time web designer, I know how to make effective epubs. Just browse through this book, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
What you’re looking at is essentially a website without ads (except for an occasional promotion of my books) or technical gizmos that can malfunction or slow down loading time. It just works, and no trees were sacrificed.
10. Supported by Other Books and a Website ˆ
Geobop’s State Symbols is part of a series of books focusing on state symbols, most of which will be published by the end of 2022. The books are supported by this website, which is probably the best state symbols web site on the internet already, even though it may not be finished until 2023.
Don’t take my word for it. Grab a search engine and check out the top ranked state symbols websites, then compare them to Geobop’s Symbols.
If I gave the impression that I find all state symbols interesting, let me set the record straight: Many, if not most, state symbols really are pretty boring.
That’s why I describe Geobop’s State Symbols as a somewhat stuffy reference. Actually, a better word might be tedious. There are simply too many redundant and even stupid state symbols designations to document.
Even worse are symbols that are politically incorrect, to put it mildly. Take Tennessee’s official sniper rifle—please.
A long-time political activist, I have lots to say about such symbols, and I don’t mince words. This is a book for mature, intelligent adults, not people who like to mindlessly recite the Pledge of Allegiance while listening to the Star-spangled Yawner.
In summary, the Geobop state symbols project isn’t just better than the competition; it has no competition.
Pricing and Availability ˆ
Geobop’s State Symbols is simply too big to be published as a paper book, and most commercial resellers won’t even sell it as a digital book because of its file size. The book will be published near the end of 2022 or early 2023 and will only be available as an epub/ebook. It will only be sold on my websites and will tentatively be priced at $100.
Unless you’re a reference librarian or an individual with a fanatic interest in state symbols, you would probably be better off choosing My State Symbols Book.