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Missouri Cultural Symbols

I wish I could say Missouri’s roster of ten official cultural symbols—which include the ever redundant milk and English—stink, but they actually take us for a ride. But is it a real journey or just a carnival ride?

Cultural Symbols  
Monument Gateway Arch 2021
Dessert ice cream cone 2008
Sport archery 2022
Exercise jumping jacks 2014
Historical Dog Old Drum 2017
Wonder Dog Jim the Wonder Dog 2017
Tartan 2019
Musical Instrument fiddle 1987
American Folk Dance square dance Redundant Symbol 1995
Language English Redundant Symbol 1998
Missouri Cultural Symbols

Archery, jumping jacks, and ice cream cones are all novel state symbols, but is their association with Missouri more than coincidental? The official musical instrument is the fiddle, which also represents three other states. St. Louis’ famous Gateway Arch, dubbed the official monument, is more significant.

The ice cream cone and jumping jacks were apparently born in Missouri, so there. The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri was the birthplace of the ice cream cone. The “jumping jack” exercise was invented by Missouri’s own Army General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. He used it as a training drill for cadets at West Point in the late 1800s.

Whether or not this is a cool symbol is a matter of opinion. Some people regard jumping jacks as a symbol of America’s seemingly mindless military. It seems to be at odds with the skeptical Missouri mule.

Of course, people were hunting game with arrows long before the United States existed. However, one enterprising Missourian, Holless W. Allen, put Missouri on the map in 1966 when he patented the compound bow. Missouri is also home to some prestigious archery museums.

Dynamic Doggy Duo ˆ

Dynamic Doggy DuoOld Drum is on the left. (Jim the Wonder Dog: By David Wilson, CC BY 2.0Link
Note: I cropped this picture and added a gradient on the left.)

It’s hard to imagine Missouri’s mule being upstaged by another animal. Yet the mule and fox-trotting horse may have met their match in a pair of dogs adopted in 2017.

There was an earlier attempt to adopt Seaman, a Newfoundland who gained fame as a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. However, an even more famous dog was named Missouri’s official historical dog. The dog was named Old Drum, and he’s associated with the famous words “man’s best friend.”

Sadly, the story begins with Old Drum’s death. He was shot by one Leonidas Hornsby, who suspected him of killing his sheep. The dog’s owner, Charles Burden, sued Hornsby. In the courtroom, Burden’s lawyer, George Graham Vest, delivered a famous tribute.

“Gentlemen of the jury, the best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter whom he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us—those whom we trust with our happiness and good name–may become traitors in their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world—the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous—is his dog.

“Gentlemen of the jury, a man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow, and the snow drives fiercely, if only he can be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

“If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace, and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.”

It is sometimes said that this famous speech is the origin of the phrase “man’s best friend.” However, other people have said similar things at earlier dates.

* * * * *

Missouri also has an official wonder dog named Jim. It’s a symbol that could give a Missouri mule a heart attack.

Sam Van Arsdale was an avid hunter who was given Jim as a gift. Jim was said to be an ugly dog who was given to Arsdale as a joke. He didn’t appear too promising when Arsdale trained him for bird hunting.

But Arsdale decided to take Jim along on a hunt one day. To his amazement, Jim had an eerie talent for scouting quail. Some sources claim he became known as “hunting dog of the century.”

After that, things got even stranger.

It was said that Jim the Wonder Dog could make predictions. He could predict the winner of a horse race or baseball game. In fact, he reportedly picked the winner of the Kentucky Derby seven years in a row. Jim could even predict if someone’s unborn baby was a boy or girl.

Jim was reportedly studied by psychologists who were amazed at his magical abilities.

Of course, a reasonable person would be suspicious of these stories. Was Jim really a magic dog, or was his master simply a con man, similar to Bill Gates? Sadly, crime often does pay. Bill Gates is still making billions of dollars by lying to people and exploiting them.

But was Jim’s owner really a bad guy, or did he just like practical jokes? In fact, Jim’s adoption may have been a practical joke, too. Who knows?

Miracle Tartan ˆ

Missouri joined a growing list of states with official tartans in 2019.

State Tartan

The design was reportedly inspired by the eastern bluebird, the Missouri mule, and the crescent moon and bear depicted on the state seal. Overall, the design stands for vigilance and justice, valor, purity, steadfastness, hope, and strength.

A picture and more detailed description can be seen at

But forget Missouri’s official tartan; my tartan has a special connection with Jim the Wonder Dog.

Missouri GeoTartan

The design is similar to my Mississippi tartan except that the dark broad bands are gray instead of blue, representing the nickname Lead State and be extension the nickname Show Me State. White represents the blossoms of Missouri’s state flower and tree, the hawthorn and dogwood.

Thin blue stripes represent Missouri’s rivers and lakes, particularly the Missouri River, along with the state bird, the eastern bluebird.

Here’s where it gets weird: If you stare at the intersection of two white lines for ten minutes, the ghost of Jim the Wonder Dog will deliver a secret message to your cell phone!

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