What's in a Name?
When a new name, The Arkansas Traveler, was chosen to replace The University Weekly in 1920, some students grumbled about the disreputable connotation the new name might evoke.
The name “Arkansas Traveler” harkens to Arkansas’s early statehood days. Sandford Faulkner, a politician and plantation owner, told the self-effacing story of getting lost in the Arkansas backwoods, coming across a squatter’s cabin, and trying to get help from the man. Part of the story relates that the squatter played the first half of a fiddle tune over and over, trying to remember the second half while avoiding straight answers to Faulkner's questions. Faulkner eventually offered to play the "turn of the tune" and gained the squatter's immmediate admiration and bountiful help.
Faulkner’s early version of the story made himself the butt of the joke. The story quickly gained popularity and was retold nationally in varying forms through the nineteenth century until it became a sarcastic jibe against the backwardness of Arkansas, the traveler being presented as an educated outsider and the Arkansawyer being portrayed as an illiterate hillbilly.
By the 1920s, resentment of the “Arkansas Traveler” image had softened. With a hog as a mascot, though, the inferiority complex of university students kicked instinctively into high gear when the name was proposed for the student newspaper. The editor, Curry B. Freeman, was unfazed:
It is not difficult to understand why some should see disgrace... and why others should object so strongly to a reminiscent of frontier days. The students are urged to get away from the idea that razorbacks and travelers are worthy of the dignity attached to their name. The ridiculous application of rural wit to the name of a great state has been discontinued, almost forgotten and only serves to remind people of the unscholarly attainments of previous generations. Such titles as the Longhorn, the Sooner, the Jayhawker, the Tar Bady [sic], the Haymakers and The Arkansas Traveler recall to memory certain states or particular institutions, and do not, as most people suppose, convey misleading impressions. The citizens of Arkansas have no cause to be humiliated when the name Arkansas Traveler is mentioned in their presence.
Robert A. Leflar. The First 100 Years: Centennial History of the University of Arkansas
Jeannie Whayne, Thomas A. Deblack, George Sabo III, and Morris S. Arnold. Arkansas: A Narrative History. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2002), 115.
The Arkansas Traveler. February 24, 1921. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Foundation Inc., 1971), 141.