Friday, February 15, 2013

Wheres Pikes Apostrophe?

Pikes Peak, Colorado
April 30, 2001
Pikes Peak postcard from the 1930s

There are nearly two dozen places in the United States that are officially named Devils Punchbowl. You will not, however, find a single apostrophe in any of those names. Although placenamers may have thought the devil possessed these places, the United States Board on Geographic Names has determined otherwise. Since 1890, the Board on Geographic Names has discouraged the possessiveness of places by not allowing the genitive apostrophe and the “s”. In fact, the Board has actually removed the apostrophe from geographic names for natural features although they allowed the “s” to remain. Five natural features have been able to keep their apostrophe thanks to official decisions of the Board:  Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Ike’s Point in New Jersey, John E’s Pond in Rhode Island, Carlos Elmer’s Joshua View in Arizona, and Clark’s Mountain in Oregon.

The summit of Pikes Peak in 2001
The first Americans to see Pikes Peak in Colorado were members of the 1806 expedition of Zebulon Pike, Jr. Pike named the mountain Grand Peak with one contributing reason to this name being they could not climb to the summit (it was November and there was a blizzard).  Because he could not climb it, Pike thought the mountain could not be conquered. Here we are in the 21st century, and you can now drive your car to within a few feet of the summit. The 19-mile Pikes Peak Highway is the second highest road in the United States and delivers drivers and their passengers to 14,110 feet and the most visited summit in North America. 

Fourteen years after Pike attempted to climb the summit, a trio of adventurers reached the top in the summer of 1820 and the pursuit for a name of the now-conquered peak began. In 1835 the mountain was being referred to as Pike’s Peak, and this name was solidified with the popular 19th century saying “Pike’s Peak or Bust!” However, Pike’s possession of the name of the mountain was soon to be diluted. By 1901 maps of the area clearly stated Pikes Peak without the apostrophe as shown on the United States Geological Survey Reconnaissance Map for the Pikes Peak Quadrangle. For the past century the mountain has been officially known as Pikes Peak, but Pike’s Peak still pops up every once in awhile from people who still want to claim the peak for Zebulon Pike such as the owners of the Savory Spice Shop and their Pike’s Peak Butcher’s Rub.

Web Links

Board on Geographic Names - FAQs on Domestic Names

Colorado Springs - Pikes Peak, America's Mountain

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