A state seal is an official symbol for a given state. Official flags came later. There were only eight such flags prior to 1900 and Missouri’s wasn’t adopted until 1913, almost 100 years after it became a state.
According to the Missouri Office of the Secretary of State, Missouri now has 29 “official” symbols. For song and dance, we have the “Missouri Waltz” and the square dance. The fiddle is the official musical instrument. The mule and honey bee are the official animal and insect. And thanks to the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis, the ice cream cone is the official dessert.
But what are some of the other, lesser known, “official” symbols and how did they come to be?
On June 16, 1989, the crinoid (Delocrinum missouriensis) became Missouri’s official fossil. With its plant-like appearance, it was called the “sea lily.” A group of Lee’s Summit school students worked their way through the legislative process to make it happen. (RSMo 10.090)
A fourth grade class at Chinn Elementary School in Kansas City suggested the American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), which is the largest frog native to Missouri and found in every county, as the state’s amphibian. It became official on June 5, 2005. (RSMo 10.170)
Another fourth grade class wanted big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) to be the state grass. A major part of Missouri’s tall grass prairies, it sometimes grew tall enough to hide a person on horseback. Thanks to the efforts of students in Truman Elementary in Rolla,, it became official on June 11, 2007. (RSMo 10.150)
The crayfish (also called crawfish and crawdad) became the official state invertebrate on June 21, 2007. Mrs. Janna Elfrink’s elementary school class in Reeds Spring nominated crayfish for the honor because they are an important food source for local fish. There are more than 30 species of crayfish in Missouri, including seven species that occur nowhere else in the world. (RSMo 10.125)
The most recent inclusion to officialdom is the “jumping jack” exercise which 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. This new category was the idea of students at Pershing Elementary in St. Joseph and became official on July 28, 2019. (RSMo 10.115)
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008, She has covered the War Between the States, U.S. history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.firstname.lastname@example.org.