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Truth or Consequences, New Mexico ­– The Real Story Behind the Name

kxlly, Flickr

With a name like Truth or Consequences and an isolated location in the American West, you could be forgiven for thinking that this New Mexican town got its name from some bloody gunfight or a hard-nosed sheriff who wanted to urge potential visiting troublemakers to go elsewhere. The real story, though, is a bit stranger.

Hot Springs

When Spanish-speaking settlers first put roots down in this part of what is now the state of New Mexico, the area went by several different names, like “Little Cottonwoods” and “Mud Spring.” Of course, these names came from the fact that there were a lot of cottonwood trees and some very nice hot springs around. Eventually, as English speakers took over the location, the name of the town was changed to “Hot Springs.”

Named for a Game Show

In the 1940s and 1950s, ‘Truth or Consequences’ was a popular radio game show, then a television show, aired across the nation. Around the time of the program’s 10th anniversary, the original host of the program, Ralph Edwards, made the unusual offer to broadcast the show from a town that officially changed its name to Truth or Consequences.

Hot Springs, New Mexico, responded to the offer and held a special election to see if the town’s citizens would be amenable to a name change. The town’s mayor and the Chamber of Commerce quickly set up the vote, and the motion passed. On March 31, 1950, Hot Springs, N.M., became Truth or Consequences, N.M. The very next day (April Fool’s Day), Ralph Edwards and his support staff arrived in town and broadcast the ‘Truth or Consequences’ game show.

The Truth or Consequences Fiesta

Truth or Consequences, also known as ‘T or C,’ holds a festival every year, now called Ralph Edwards Day to commemorate the town’s name change and the historic broadcast. Ralph Edwards used to show up every year, along with famous guests, to help promote the town during the fiesta. Even after his death in 2005, the annual springtime party still goes on.

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