15 Fun Facts About Tennessee

Tennessee: The birthplace of country. The home of mini golf. The origin of the “King of the Wild Frontier.” The Volunteer State has long played a pivotal role in the foundation of America. From the development of Anglo-Saxon civilization to playing an important part in agriculture, the list of fascinating information about Tennessee is far more than just 15, but here are our favorites!   

1. Record attendance for the 1982 World’s Fair

Known initially as the Knoxville International Energy Exposition, the 1982 World’s Fair was held in Knoxville on a site between downtown and the University of Tennessee. There were some kinks: Hotels were not allowed to take reservations in advance and the sheer  number of people made the event more crowded than expected. Eleven million people showed up. It was a record at the time.

2. The development of the first atomic bomb

During World War II, a group of elite scientists assembled in Oak Ridge, to conduct one of the most controversial research projects ever undertaken. The goal was simple but the process complex: Build an atomic bomb. The p          roject employed 129,000 people. 84,500 were construction workers while the other employees were plant operators and military personnel.                  

3. The two wars that gave Tennessee its nickname

Tennessee wasn't always known as the Volunteer State. The name came during the War of 1812 in the Battle of New Orleans when thousands of Tennessee soldiers volunteered for the fight. They would go on to play a crucial role. Later, the nickname was reinforced in the Mexican war when the government asked for 2,800 Tennesseans to fight and 30,000 volunteered.  

4. “Good ‘til the Last Drop”

The Maxwell House coffee company has a famous slogan: "Good ‘til the Last Drop."  According to Maxwell House, the slogan originated from President Teddy Roosevelt. In 1907, he was visiting The Hermitage   on the estate of Andrew Jackson and was served Maxwell House coffee. After he was finished, he said the coffee was “good to the last drop.”  

5. “Tanasqui,”

It may surprise you that the origin of the word "Tennessee" did not come from the Anglo-Saxon culture. In fact, the word "Tennessee" originates from the Cherokee word "Tanasqui," which means "meeting place." It was the name of a historic Cherokee village in Monroe County , where many Indian and New World travelers met for political purposes.        

6. The legend of the "King of the Wild Frontier"

Davy Crockett is one of the most legendary Tennesseans, even nearly two centuries after his death. His exploits became famed as his titles ranged from pioneer to soldier to statesman. The truth is, he didn't grow up on a mountaintop. He  grew up in Morristown in a log house—and you can see it remade today.

7. Grand Ole Opry: The Longest Running Radio Broadcast

The Grand Ole Opry began in 1925 as a one-hour "barn dance" and became the longest-running radio broadcast in U.S. history. Legends in country music participated in the Grand Ole Opry, from Hank Williams to Garth Brooks, and the broadcast showcases a mix of country music classics and contemporary stars.            

8. The (real) birthplace of country music

Nashville has the title now of the Country Music Capital of the World but Bristol, a city on the border of Tennessee and Virginia, is country music's birthplace. Folk music had been popular in Bristol for years before a record agent discovered the town in 1927. The early Bristol recordings laid the groundwork for much of country music played today.          

9. The Great Smoky Mountains: Salamander Capital of the World

Sure, the Great Smoky Mountains has wonderful hiking trails, gorgeous views, and pristine rock formations. But the draw for some are the salamanders. The Great Smoky Mountains is known as the salamander capital of the world, with 30 species in the area. Diversification is especially pronounced in the southern part of the Appalachian mountains.  

10. Reelfoot Lake: Turtle Capital of the World

Located in the northwest portion of Tennessee, Reelfoot Lake is a shallow natural lake that was formed during the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes. It is more like a swamp than a lake but it is known for its population of turtles. The "Turtle Capital of the World" features sliders, stinkpots, mud turtles, and map turtles. 

11. Strange Laws: Illegal to lasso a fish

There's a bizarre law in Tennessee. Apparently, if you want to catch a fish, you can do many things but not lasso it. Speculation about the reasons for the passing of this law range from humanitarian to bizarre but the law itself speaks to a different day and age. Maybe it’ll be purged from law books; it’s been less than a decade since a Nashville law prohibiting minors from playing pinball machines was removed.

12. The invention of mini golf

While the waters are muddied surrounding the designer of the first mini golf course, a Tennessee man helped popularize it. In 1927, Garnet Garter patented his mini golf design, while he had built years earlier in Lookout Mountain to bring business to his hotel. This led to the first National Tom Thumb Open mini golf tournament in 1930.                 

13. Birthplace of the first female spectator

Hattie Caraway was born in Bakerville, Tennessee, receiving her bachelor's degree in 1896 from a Tennessee college. She became a pioneer and trailblazer for women's rights, becoming the first woman to serve a full term in the senate starting in 1932. While patronized sometimes in the press, she made a mark on various committees and changed the idea of what women could or could not do.

14. Andrew Johnson: The Man Who Achieved Too Much

Known as the president during the Reconstruction Era, Andrew Johnson was quite involved in politics. Like, very involved. He served as the military governor, governor, representative, and senator for the state of Tennessee before becoming vice-president, and then president. Some would call him an overachiever. 

15. The Father of the Blues drafting songs on Beale Street

W.C. Handy is known as the "Father of the Blues." While he may not have created the genre, he certainly popularized it, taking the blues to a national stage. He wrote many of those blues classics while spending time on Beale Street in Memphis, giving the street some additional cultural history. A park on Beale Street is named after him today.

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Bri Fletcher

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