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The Hawkeyes and Herky

The University of Iowa borrowed its athletic nickname from the state of Iowa many years ago. The name Hawkeye was originally applied to a hero in a fictional novel, The Last of the Mohicans, written by James Fenimore Cooper. Author Cooper had the Delaware Indians bestow the name on a white scout who lived and hunted with them.

In 1838, 12 years after the book was published, people in the territory of Iowa acquired the nickname, chiefly through the efforts of Judge David Rorer of Burlington and James G. Edwards of Fort Madison. Edwards, editor of the Fort Madison Patriot, moved his newspaper to Burlington in 1843 and renamed it the Burlington Hawkeye. The two men continued their campaign to popularize the name and were rewarded when territorial officials gave it their formal approval.

The Hawkeye nickname gained a tangible symbol in 1948 when a cartoon character, later to be named Herky the Hawk, was hatched. The creator was Richard Spencer III, instructor of journalism. The impish hawk was an immediate hit and he acquired a name through a statewide contest staged by the UI Athletic Department. John Franklin, a Belle Plaine alumnus, was the man who suggested Herky.

Since his birth 55 years ago, Herky has symbolized intercollegiate athletics at the University of Iowa and epitomized university life. He even donned a military uniform during the Korean War and became the insignia of the 124th Fighting Squadron.

During the mid-1950s, Herky came to life at a football game as the Iowa mascot with a black leather head and gold felt feathers. Since then, Herky has become a familiar figures at intercollegiate athletic events of all types on the UI campus.