Cornhusking is a term for the manual husking, or stripping, of husks from fresh corn. Before the advent of husking machinery, farmers husked their corn by hand. The "Cornhuskers" was the nickname for the University of Nebraska sports teams, named by sportswriter Charles S. Sherman in 1900. In 1945, Nebraska took the sports teams' name as the state nickname to honor the state's major agricultural industry — corn. Nebraska's bounty of agriculture did not come easy for the state, and behind the "Cornhusker State" nickname is a story of Nebraskan persistence and determination.
Nebraska is located in the center of the contiguous Unites States, a vast, flat land once perceived as part of the great central plain desert. Even the rivers are flat in the state; the name Nebraska comes from the Native American word nebrathka, meaning "flat water." The dusty, empty, monotonous landscape showed little promise for agriculture. Pilgrims traveling through the territory on their way west commonly made mention of Chimney Rock, a natural rock formation that seemed to be one of Nebraska's only notable landmarks.
The Homestead Act of 1862 changed Nebraska from a flatland range into a thriving agricultural state. Fields of wheat and corn and tree orchards flourished from advanced farming methods, better tools, irrigation and stubborn tenacity of Nebraskans. Undeterred by severe weather, natural disasters, insect plagues and wildfires, Nebraskans persisted their plantings, determined to make Nebraska the bread basket of the country. They planted wheat and the most important food staple — corn, which led toward the nickname "Cornhusker State." As Nebraska's prosperity grew, Nebraskans sought patriotic state symbols, a state motto and other state emblems to express their history and pride of citizenship.
The first official state nickname for Nebraska was the "Tree Planters State." It brought attention to the nearly miraculous transition of the desert plains to acres of trees planted by homesteaders. J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska City founded National Arbor Day in 1872. Then in 1895, the Nebraska Legislature officially deemed Nebraska as "Tree Planters State."
By the 1940s, Nebraska was booming with maize. The state latched on to the University of Nebraska's athletic nickname, judging it to be an appropriate name for the state as well. The State Legislature repealed the "Tree Planters" nickname in 1945 and deemed "Cornhusker State" the new official state nickname. The "Cornhusker State" nickname referred to the importance the crop held in the state, both as a food staple for human consumption and as grain for Nebraska cattle, which was another important industry for the state.