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Idaho, also known as the ‘Gem State’ is located in northwestern U.S. It’s one of the largest states in terms of area and also the least populous of the U.S. states.
The state was named by a lobbyist called George Willing who suggested the name Idaho when Congress was trying to develop a new territory in the area near Rocky Mountains. Willing said that Idaho was a Shoshone word which meant ‘Gem of the Mountains’ but it turned out that he had made it up. However, this wasn’t discovered until the name was already in common use.
Idaho is well known for its scenic mountain landscapes, miles of wilderness, outdoor recreation areas and potatoes, the state crop. Idaho has thousands of trails for hiking, biking and walking and is an extremely popular tourist location for rafting and fishing.
Idaho has adopted several important state symbols since it became the 43rd U.S. state in 1890. Here’s a look at some of the most common symbols of Idaho.
Flag of Idaho
The state flag of Idaho, adopted in 1907, is a blue silk flag with the state seal displayed in its center. Under the seal are the words ‘State of Idaho’ in gold block letters on a red and gold banner. The image of the seal is a general representation and not as detailed as the official great seal of the state.
The North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) conducted a survey on the designs of all the 72 U.S. state, U.S. territorial and Canadian provincial flags combined. Idaho ranked in the bottom ten. According to NAVA, it wasn’t unique enough because it had the same blue background as several other U.S. states and the wording made it difficult to read.
State Seal of Idaho
Idaho is the only one of the U.S. states to have its official great seal designed by a woman: Emma Edwards Green. Her painting was adopted by the state’s first legislature in 1891. The seal features many symbols and here’s what they represent:
- A miner and a woman – representing equality, justice and liberty
- The star – representing a new light in the galaxy of states
- The pine tree in the shield – symbolizes the state’s timber interests.
- The husbandman and the sheaf of grain – refers to the agricultural resources of Idaho
- Two cornucopias – representing the state’s horticultural resources
- The elk and moose – the animals protected by the state’s game law
In addition, there’s also the state flower growing at the woman’s feet and ripened wheat. The river is said to be the ‘Snake’ or ‘Shoshone River’.
State Tree: Western White Pine
The western white pine is a massive coniferous tree that grows up to 50 meters in height. While it’s related to the eastern white pine, its cones are larger and its leaves last longer. This tree is extensively grown as an ornamental tree and occurs in the mountains of the western U.S. Its wood is straight-grained, evenly textured and soft which is why it’s used in a range of industries, from wooden matches to construction.
It’s said that the best and largest western white pine forests are found in the northern area of Idaho. This is why it’s often called the ‘Idaho white pine’ or the ‘soft Idaho white pine’. In 1935, Idaho designated the western white pine as its official state tree.
State Vegetable: Potato
The potato, a native American plant, is currently the most extensively grown tuber crop that originated in what we now know as Southern Peru. Potatoes are highly versatile in cooking and they’re served in several forms.
Potatoes are extremely popular in America, with the average American consuming up to 140 pounds of potatoes each year in its processed and fresh forms. The state of Idaho is famous around the world for its high-quality potatoes and in 2002, this root vegetable became the official vegetable of the state.
State Song: Here We Have Idaho
The popular song ‘Here We Have Idaho’ has been the official state song of Idaho since it was first adopted in 1931. Composed by Sallie Douglas and written by McKinley Helm, a student from the University of Idaho, and Albert Tompkins, the song was copyrighted under the title ‘Garden of Paradise’ back in 1915.
‘Here We Have Idaho’ won the annual university prize in 1917 and became the alma mater of the university after which the Idaho Legislature adopted it as the state song.
State Raptor: Peregrine Falcon
The peregrine falcon is known to be the fastest animal on Earth when on its hunting dive. It’s known for soaring to a great height and then diving steeply at speeds up to 200m/h.
These birds are ferocious predators, and intelligent birds that have been trained for hunting for thousands of years. They feed on medium-sized birds, but they also occasionally enjoy a meal of small mammals including hares, squirrels, mice and bats. Peregrines live mostly in river valleys, mountain ranges and coastlines.
The peregrine falcon was officially adopted as the state raptor of Idaho in 2004 and is featured on the state quarter as well.
State Gemstone: Star Garnet
The garnet is part of a group of silicate minerals that have been used for thousands of years as abrasives and gemstones. All types of garnet have similar crystal forms and properties, but star garnets are different in their chemical composition. While garnets can be found easily throughout the United States, star garnets are incredibly rare and said to have been found in only two places in the world: in Idaho (U.S.A) and in India.
This rare stone is usually a dark plum or purple color, with four rays in its star. It’s considered to be more precious than star sapphires or star rubies. In 1967, it was named the official state gem or stone of the state of Idaho.
State Horse: Apaloosa
Regarded as a hardy range horse, the appaloosa is one of the most popular horse breeds in the U.S. It’s well known for its colorful, spotted coat, striped hooves and white sclera around the eye.
Some say that the appaloosa breed was brought to America by the Spanish Conquistadors back in the early 1500s, while others think that they were brought by Russian fur-traders.
The appaloosa was adopted as the official state horse of Idaho in 1975. Idaho offers a custom-made license plate with an appaloosa horse on it and it was the first U.S. state to do so.
State Fruit: Huckleberry
The huckleberry is a small, round berry that looks similar to the blueberry. It grows in forests, bogs, on subalpine slopes and lakes basins of the U.S. and has shallow roots. These berries were traditionally gathered by the Native Americans for use as traditional medicine or food.
A versatile fruit, the huckleberry is popularly used in foods and beverages such as jam, candy, ice cream, pudding, pancakes, soup and syrup. It was also used to treat heart ailments, infections and pain. The huckleberry is the official fruit of the state of Idaho (designated in 2000) as a result of the efforts of 4th grade students from the Southside Elementary School.
State Bird: Mountain Bluebird
Commonly seen in the mountains of Idaho, the mountain bluebird is a small thrush that prefers open and colder habitats than other bluebirds. It has black eyes, and a light underbelly while the rest of its body is a brilliant blue color. It eats insects like flies, spiders and grasshoppers and also feeds on small fruits.
The female mountain bluebird builds its nest without any help from the male. However, sometimes, the male pretends that he’s helping her but he either drops the material on his way or doesn’t bring any at all.
This lovely little bird was named the official bird of the state of Idaho back in 1931 and is considered a symbol of impending happiness and joy.
State Dance: Square Dance
The square dance is an extremely popular folk dance in the U.S., designated the official dance of 28 states, including Idaho. It’s performed by four couples standing in a square formation and was named the ‘square dance’ so that it could be easily distinguished from other comparable dances like the ‘contra’ or the ‘longways dance’.
Because of the increased popularity of the dance, the state legislature of Idaho declared it the official folk dance in 1989. It remains an important symbol of the state.
The State Quarter
The commemorative state quarter of Idaho was released in 2007 and is the 43rd coin to be released in the 50 States Quarters Program. The reverse of the quarter features a peregrine falcon (the state raptor), above the outline of the state. The state motto can be seen inscribed near the outline, reading ‘Esto Perpetua’ meaning ‘May It Be Forever’. At the top is the word ‘IDAHO’ and the year 1890 which was the year Idaho achieved statehood.
The design for the state quarter was recommended by Governor Kempthorne who stated that it reflected the esteem and traditional values of the Idahoans. Therefore, from three designs that were considered, this one was approved by the Department of the Treasury and was released the following year.
Check out our related articles on other popular state symbols: