University of Iowa

HAWKEYES & HERKY THE HAWK

The state of Iowa has made claim to the nickname “Hawkeyes” since the early 1800’s and in 1948, began the search for a mascot image to match the name. Dick Spencer, a Professor of Journalism and former Look Magazine artist, sketched a smiling hawk wearing an Iowa sweater. A contest was held to name the bird; the winner being “Herky,” as a reference to the powerful Greek God Hercules. Herky first appeared as a costumed mascot in 1959 at a football game.

There are two possible scenarios as to where the nickname originated. The most widely known is that the term “Hawkeye” was borrowed from the James Fenimore Cooper novel The Last of the Mohicans, where a main character is given the name “Hawkeye” by the Delaware Indians. The connection is not clear as to why Iowans began referring to themselves as “Hawkeyes,” given that the novel takes place in and around upstate New York. But in 1838, 12 years after the book was published, the nickname was popularized.

The second theory is that the name “Hawkeyes” is a tribute to the famous Indian Chief Black Hawk, who led the Sauk and Fox tribes and lived in what is present day eastern Iowa.

The University of Iowa first put a face to their nickname in 1948 with the first Herky the Hawkeye mascot.