From ‘Sunshine State’ to ‘Mount Rushmore State’ Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Florida is known as the “Sunshine State” but South Dakota may have claimed it before Florida.

The first South Dakota flag was made in 1909. One side of the state flag was to include a sun and the words “The Sunshine State” according to the South Dakota Secretary of State website.

Here are the specifications for the flag included on the S.D. SOS website: “The Flag of South Dakota shall consist of a field of blue, one and two-thirds as long as it is wide, in the center of which shall be a blazing sun in gold, two-fifths as wide in diameter as the width of the flag. Above this sun shall be arranged in the arc of the circle, in gold letters, the words ‘South Dakota’ and below this sun in the arc of the circle shall be arranged the words in gold letters, ‘The Sunshine State’, and on the reverse of the blazing sun shall be printed in dark blue the Great Seal of the State of South Dakota. The edges of the flag shall be trimmed with a fringe of gold, to be in proportion to the width of the flag. The staff shall be surmounted by a spearhead to which shall be attached cord and tassels of suitable length and size.”

According to, the pledge to South Dakota state pledge: “I pledge loyalty and support to the flag and state of South Dakota, land of sunshine, land of infinite variety.”

So, the flag with the sun and the pledge with the “land of sunshine” lent to South Dakota being called the “Sunshine State.”

The state also has more sun than its neighbors to the east. Multiple weather data websites said the state averages about 213 sunny days. There are about 200 days in Iowa and about 198 sunny days in Minneapolis, Minnesota. North Dakota has about 201 sunny days.

The 1909 original South Dakota state flag. Image from the South Dakota Secretary of State website.

Sunshine state of the upper Midwest? That’s fair.

But said South Dakota also had another nickname of the “Coyote Sate. ” Coyote as in two syllables, not three.

Thrifty South Dakotans may have led to the loss of the “Sunshine State” nickname.

The two-side flag with the words “The Sunshine State” existed until 1962. Legislators decided that a flag with two distinct sides was too costly to make. It cost residents too much to buy it, so few state flags were flown, according to the S.D. SOS website said.

The flag design was changed in 1963 but “Sunshine State” hung around, apparently.

“In 1992, a measure sponsored by State Rep. Gordon Pederson of Pennington County, South Dakota, changed the wording on the flag to read “The Mount Rushmore State,” the S.D. SOS website said. 

The current South Dakota state flag adopted in 1992. Image from the South Dakota Secretary of State website.

Out with the sun, in with the faces of the famous four.

But perhaps known to South Dakotans by 1992, the Florida Legislature had already taken action 22 years prior to officially adopt the nickname “The Sunshine State.” said the Florida lawmakers passed the measure in 1970. That state is also known as the “Peninsula State” for its shape. Florida has on average 273 sunny days.

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