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Tennessee Facts

Did You Know?...

  • The Cherokee silversmith,Sequoyah,was the only known man in the history of the world to single-handedly develop an alphabet. His syllabus for the Cherokee Nation resulted in the first written language for a Native American people. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore tells his story and is dedicated to the history and culture of Native Americans.
  • The first constitution ever written by white men in America was drafted in 1772 by the Watauga Association at Sycamore Shoals near Elizabethton, Tennessee. Formation of the Watauga Association also marked the first attempt by Americans at complete self-government. The 1772 constitution was based on the Iroquois Federation's laws.
  • Tennessee has produced three U.S. presidents: Andrew Jackson, 1829-37; James K. Polk, 1845-49; and Andrew Johnson, 1865-69. Other famous Tennesseans include frontiersman Davy Crockett, Admiral David Farragut, cavalry officer Nathan Bedford Forrest, U.S. Register of the Treasury James Carroll Napier (appointed 1911 by President William Howard Taft), World War I hero Alvin York, and Cordell Hull (secretary of state under Franklin D. Roosevelt).
  • On August 21, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, thus giving the nation's 17 million women the right to vote.
  • The first abolitionist publications in the country devoted exclusively to the abolition of human slavery, The Manumission Intelligencer and the Emancipator, were published in Tennessee's oldest incorporated town of Jonesborough. Trade, Tennessee in the Northeast corner of the state is the oldest town and has been a pow wow site since the early 1700s.
  • The Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in Nashville introduced to the world the plaintive beauty and tradition of the Negro spiritual which became the basis for other genres of African-American music. It was because of their successful tours to raise funds for the university during the 1870s that Nashville first became known for its music. Other well-known Tennessee musicians include Bessie Smith (Empress of the Blues) from Chattanooga, Memphis musician W. C. Handy (known as "Father of the Blues"), and entertainer Elvis Presley (the "King of Rock 'n' Roll").
  • Tennessee is also known for other musical mediums, including Appalachian, drawn from Irish and Scottish roots. Bill Monroe, the "Father of Blue Grass," and Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt are just some of the early musicians who captured and offered bluegrass to the nation. "Sleepy" John Estes of Brownsville developed a guitar style and songs that catapulted jazz to the forefront of American music. Many country artists, including Tennessee Ernie Ford, Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Loretta Lynn, Minnie Pearl and Dolly Parton, contributed to the popularity of country music that now reaches an international audience. Bristol, Tennessee is the "Birthplace of Country Music." The first recordings were made there in the 1920s by the Carter Family, Jimmy Rogers, Ralph Perr-Victor and the Stonemans.
  • The nation's oldest African-American architectural firm, McKissack and McKissack, and the nation's oldest African-American financial institution, Citizens Savings Bank and Trust Company, are both located in Nashville. Robert R. Church, Sr. of Memphis is purported to be the South's first African-American millionaire.
  • Davy Crockett was not "born on a mountaintop in Tennessee," as the song says. He was born on the banks of Limestone Creek near Greeneville,where a replica of the Crocketts' log cabin stands today.
  • More Civil War battles were fought in Tennessee than any other state except Virginia. The four national military parks in Tennessee are Chickamauga-Chattanooga in Chattanooga, Stones River in Murfreesboro, Shiloh near Savannah, and Fort Donelson near Dover.
  • Tennessee was the first state to be readmitted after the Civil War. East Tennesseans were strongly pro-Union, while West and Middle Tennesseans were primarily on the side of the Confederacy.
  • The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was named for the smoke-like bluish haze that often envelopes these fabled mountains. This 500,000-acre wilderness has 1,400 kinds of flowering plants. The highest point is Clingman's Dome, at 6,643 feet.
  • The Tennessee Aquarium is the largest facility of its kind to focus on fresh water habitat. It features 7,000 animals and 300 species of fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
  • The Ocoee River in southeastern Tennessee is rated among the top white water recreational rivers in the nation and is the site for the Olympic white water canoe/kayak competition in the 1996 Olympics.
  • The worst earthquake in American history occurred in the winter of 1811-12 in northwestern Tennessee. The earthquake caused a vast land area to drop several feet and caused tidal waves on the Mississippi River. The river flowed backward into the depression, creating what is today known as Reelfoot Lake. During the winter months, Reelfoot Lake has the largest population of American bald eagles in the eastern United States.
  • The legendary railroad engineer Casey Jones, who was killed when his train crashed on April 30, 1900, lived in Jackson, Tennessee. Today there is a museum in his honor located in Jackson.
  • Nashville's Grand Ole Opry is the longest continuously-running live radio program in the world. It has broadcast since 1925.
  • Oak Ridge, the secret city created in the 1940s, was instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb. Today, because of constant energy research,it is known as the "Energy Capital of the World." It is the home of the American Museum of Science and Energy.
  • Alex HaleyHaley's Boyhood HomeThe Alex Haley boyhood home in Henning is the first state-owned historic site devoted to African Americans in Tennessee. It was here that the family history handed down by Haley's grandmother and aunts inspired him to write about his ancestors who had been brought to America as slaves.
  • Another touchstone of African-American history is the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain in 1968. The museum preserves the motel and tells the history of the American Civil Rights Movement.
  • Tennessee has more than 3,800 documented caves. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the "Lost Sea" in Sweetwater as the largest underground lake in the U.S.

Tennessee Symbols