15 Things You Might Not Know About South Carolina
1. When South Carolina's state government was established, John Rutledge was chosen as its first leader. He is one of two men to have held the government title of “President of South Carolina” before the state government’s leader became known as a “governor” in 1779. The first governor of South Carolina? John Rutledge.
2. South Carolina is probably your thyroid gland's favorite state. Prior to becoming the Palmetto State, South Carolina was known as the Iodine State, and then the Iodine Products State – it was even printed on the license plates.
3. The state flag of South Carolina features a white palmetto tree on an indigo background. The palmetto was added in 1861 to the existing white crescent of the original 1775 version as a tribute to Colonel William Moultrie's 1776 defense of a palmetto-log fort against a British attack. The crescent is a reproduction of a silver emblem worn on the caps of flag designer Moultrie’s Revolutionary War soldiers.
4. The first opera performed in the United States debuted in Charleston in 1735. The opera performed was not South Carolina's official state opera, Porgy and Bess. Rather, it was the comic ballad opera Flora which, in addition to the eponymous Flora, features such characters as Sir Thomas Testy and Tom Friendly.
5. Tap dancer Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates was born in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. Despite losing his leg in a cotton gin accident as a boy, Bates became a well-known dancer, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show more than 20 times. His signature move was known as the “Imitation American Jet Plane” and involved his jumping in the air and landing on his peg leg with his other held up behind him.
6. Shag dancing, which is the official South Carolina state dance, is thought to have originated in Myrtle Beach. Shag is a descendent of the Jitterbug in the dance family tree. The Little Apple is Shag’s dance grandparent.
7. But please plan on doing your shagging Monday through Saturday; it is illegal for dance halls to operate on Sundays in South Carolina.
8. Major League pitcher Bill Voiselle wore number 96 – making him the only Major League baseball player ever to wear the name of his hometown (Ninety Six, South Carolina) as his uniform number.
9. Morgan Island, off the coast of South Carolina, is home to a large population of rhesus monkeys. The monkeys were originally moved to the island in 1979 for research purposes and are owned by the National Institutes of Health.
10. Don’t forget that Sumter is home to the world’s largest ginkgo farm – 1,200 acres full of potential memory improvement.
11. The state snack food of South Carolina is boiled peanuts.
12. The Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum is located in Aiken, South Carolina. Some of the best-named inductees in the Hall of Fame: Politely, Relaxing, Lamb Chop, Late Bloomer, and Christmas Past.
13. If you’re looking for the first boll weevil found in South Carolina, you can find it on display at the Pendleton District Agricultural Museum, where you can also find pre-1925 farm equipment, Cherokee artifacts and a replica of the McCormick reaper.
14. Step aside, Loch Ness Monster. South Carolina's Lake Murray reportedly has its very own water monster known as “Messie.” Sightings have been frequent enough for the South Carolina Fish and Wildlife Department to start a file to keep track of the spottings. According to an official charged with keeping track of reports, “I’ve talked to ten or twelve people that have seen it. They were reputable, not on drugs or drinking.”
15. Let’s just hope Messie never gets hungry enough to launch a summer attack on Lake Murray’s Bomb Island, where upwards of 750,000 purple martins roost each late summer afternoon. Designated as an official bird sanctuary, no one is allowed on the island during those months, not even Messie.