Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Well-Tuned Facts About Tennessee

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

If it weren't for America's 16th state, we wouldn't have cotton candy, Mountain Dew, or—gasp!—Dolly Parton. Below, 25 facts you should file away about Tennessee.

1. Mountain Dew was invented there. The popular neon soft drink was originally developed by brothers Ally and Barney Hartman as a mixer, something to cut the acrid taste of homemade moonshine. Pepsi bought the Hartman brothers' lemon-lime concoction in 1964.

Bellczar via WikimediaCommons // CC BY-SA 3.0

2. Theodore Roosevelt coined the Maxwell House slogan “good to the last drop” after tasting a cup of coffee in Nashville. Except he probably didn’t. And it may not have even been Maxwell House Coffee. Confused? Here’s the deal: For decades, Maxwell House has claimed that in October 1907, Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed a particularly amazing cup of their java at Andrew Jackson’s estate near Nashville. Upon finishing it, TR smacked his lips and said, “Ahhh... good to the last drop!” Now, if you think a perfect advertising campaign dropped from the lips of one of the most popular presidents ever sounds too good to be true, you’re likely right.

Though he was in Nashville in October 1907 and was known to enjoy vast quantities of coffee, there’s no proof that he uttered any such thing. What’s more, the now-defunct Fit-For-A-King coffee once claimed the coffee Teddy enjoyed that day was actually their brand, and what he really said was, “This is the kind of stuff I like to drink, by George, when I hunt bears!” 

3. Tennesseans are sometimes referred to as “Butternuts.” The seemingly odd nickname dates back to the Civil War, when soldiers from the state wore tan uniforms that resembled the color of the winter squash.

4. Residents are often also called “Volunteers,” and the state nickname is “The Volunteer State.” That story also has wartime origins—so many men from the area fought in the War of 1812 that newspapers referred to them as “the volunteers from Tennessee.” The name caught on.

5. Love a good game of putt-putt? Thank a Tennessean. Garnet Carter patented “Tom Thumb Golf” in the late 1920s. While other putting greens and mini courses existed before then, Carter’s was the first to incorporate small obstacles like gnomes and hollowed out tree trunks, which were meant to complement his “Fairyland Inn” in Chattanooga.

6. Another concoction from Chattanooga: The MoonPie. Legend has it that the marshmallowy treat was invented in 1917 after the owner of the Chattanooga Bakery asked a coal miner what kind of snack he’d like to pack in his lunchbox. Something with graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow, the miner said. Then the baker wondered how big the pastry should be. The miner held his hands up to the sky and framed the moon.

Evan-Amos via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

7. Motorists traveling through the Cherokee National Forest may find themselves passing through the so-called Shortest Tunnel in the World. Backbone Rock in the Appalachian Mountains stood between a train route from Damascus, Virginia, and Shady Valley, Tennessee, so workers blasted a hole in the rock in 1901. They realized after the fact that they had forgotten to leave room for a train’s smokestack and had to hand-chisel enough space for it to pass through. It did the trick, and soon, the Beaver Dam Railroad was able to haul 100,000 boards every day for the Tennessee Lumber and Manufacturing Company. The train route eventually closed, however, and the 20-foot tunnel was repurposed for the highway.

8. The cotton candy machine was invented by a dentist from Nashville. Perhaps trying to generate more cavities to fill, dentist William Morrison and candymaker John C. Wharton co-created the cotton candy machine in 1897. They debuted their device at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where it was an immediate hit: They sold 68,655 boxes for 25 cents each.

9. Up until recently, Patrick’s Pub and Grill in Copperhill, Tennessee, straddled the Tennessee/Georgia state line—and due to state laws, the Georgia side of the bar was dry. The layout of the pub also allowed people to grab a bite to eat in Tennessee, then pop over to Georgia to use the bathroom. The gimmick apparently wasn’t enough to keep the place open, however, and it closed sometime in 2015.

10. There have been so many songs written about Tennessee that it has 10 official state songs—including one state rap. The first song, “My Homeland, Tennessee,” was adopted in 1925. “Rocky Top,” arguably the most famous, was adopted in 1982. Here’s Dolly Parton’s rendition:

11. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the U.S. With more than 10 million visitors per year, it bests the Grand Canyon (4.8 million), Yosemite (4 million), and even Yellowstone (3.5 million).

12. President James K. Polk and First Lady Sarah Polk are buried at the state capitol building, mostly because no one knew what else to do with them. When Polk died in 1849, he was buried on the grounds at Polk Place, his estate in Nashville. But not long after First Lady Sarah Polk passed away in 1891, the heirs to Polk Place sold the grounds to a developer. The bodies had to go somewhere, so someone suggested that the government do something to honor the 11th president. State officials found a spot for the Polks on the capitol grounds.

Stacy Conradt

13. You probably know the opening lyrics to the Davy Crockett song, even if you don’t know a single word after that. That first line, “Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee” is partially true—David Crockett really was born in what is now Tennessee, but it wasn’t a state at the time. And his birthplace wasn’t on a mountaintop, but on a relatively flat stretch of land. But what might be most surprising to some people is that Davy Crockett was a real person, not an American tall tale. Crockett represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives before dying during the defense of the Alamo in 1836.

14. Memphis is home to one of the five most-visited private homes in the United States. Elvis Presley’s former home, Graceland, hosts more than 500,000 visitors annually. Tourism varies by year, but Graceland is usually second only to the White House, which often sees more than 100,000 visitors every month.


15. Tennessee hosts the world’s longest-running radio show—you probably know it better as the Grand Ole Opry. The show went on the air as the “WSM Barn Dance” in 1925. It was later deemed “The Grand Ole Opry” by show host George Hay, and it’s still on the air more than 90 years later.

16. At 4.5 acres, the Lost Sea in the Craighead Caverns near Sweetwater, Tennessee, is the largest non-subglacial underground lake in the U.S. Visitors can cross the lake in a glass-bottomed boat, but there’s no bottom in sight—in fact, there’s a large series of “rooms” connected underneath, and divers have yet to find the end of them.

17. It may come as no surprise that Tennessee is the birthplace of country music, but the genre's specific home isn't the town you think it is. In 1927, music producer Ralph Peer recorded more than 76 songs in downtown Bristol, Tennessee, in just 10 days, bringing in performers from around the Appalachian Mountain area. This included the Carter family, later declared the First Family of Country Music. Congress officially proclaimed Bristol the “Birthplace of Country Music” in 1998.

18. The state was once home to Tanasi, the capital of the Cherokee Nation from 1721 to 1730. The capital was eventually absorbed by the town of Chota, which then became the capital instead. The official site is now underwater, but a marker erected in 1989 pays homage to what once was. You can find it in McGee Carson Peninsula State Historic Park. And yes—the state may have been named after this village.

Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

19. Once upon a time, there was a copper mining operation in Ducktown, Tennessee. The environmental damage done at the site was so vast—23,000 acres of severely eroded and scorched earth—that it could be easily seen from space, allowing astronauts to use it as a landmark, along with the Great Wall of China and the pyramids in Egypt. Happily, the Tennessee Valley Authority stepped in to help reclaim the land. So far, their efforts have restored 11,025 of the 23,000 damaged acres, including the reintroduction of native fish and songbirds.

20. The three stars on the Tennessee flag are meant to represent the three Grand Divisions of the state: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. The white circle that surrounds them represents the unity of the divisions.

21. Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is no secret now, but when it was founded in 1942, the entire town was kept under wraps. That’s because the city was formed for workers on the Manhattan Project, the secret military operation that resulted in the first nuclear weapons. Residents were fenced in, with guards stationed at every exit. The project was so cloaked in secrecy that many employees had no idea what they were working on until the bombs were dropped. The city was returned to civilian control two years after the war ended.

James Westcott via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

22. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The site is now a National Civil Rights Museum. Among the exhibits is the hotel’s original room 306, where King was staying when he was assassinated. A wreath on the balcony outside marks the spot where he fell.

23. In 1925, teacher John Scopes was fined $100 for teaching evolution in his Dayton, Tennessee classroom. The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, often referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial, is one of the most famous court cases in history—and the whole thing was totally staged. Scopes had agreed to help “test” a new Tennessee law that prohibited teachers from including evolution in their curriculum. In the end, the Bible won, and evolution wasn’t brought back to the classroom until the 1960s.

24. You may not think of Tennessee as the epitome of the American melting pot, but Nashville has the largest Kurdish community in North America. In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, more than 13,000 Kurds fleeing Iraq were drawn to the city’s low cost of living and high availability of jobs.

25. Kingston, Tennessee, was the state capital for a single day, the result of a dirty trick pulled by the early settlers. In 1805, the Cherokee agreed to a deal transferring thousands of acres to Tennessee settlers—as long as nearby Kingston was declared the state capital. Fine, the settlers said—and held a single Tennessee House of Representatives assembly there on September 21, 1807. The capital reverted to Knoxville the next day.

Dan Kitwood, Getty Images
25 Royals in the Line of Succession to the British Throne
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

Between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcoming their third child on April 23, 2018 and Prince Harry's upcoming marriage to Suits star Meghan Markle in May, the line of succession to the British throne has become a topic of interest all over the world. And the truth is, it’s complicated. Though Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 92 years old on April 21, shows no signs of slowing down, here are the royals who could one day take her place on the throne—in one very specific order.


Chris Jackson/Getty Images

As a direct result of his mother being the world's longest-reigning monarch, Prince Charles—the eldest child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip—is the longest serving heir to the throne; he became heir apparent in 1952, when his mother ascended to the throne.


Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images

At 35 years old, odds are good that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge—the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana—will ascend to the throne at some point in his lifetime.



On July 22, 2013, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their first child, Prince George of Cambridge, who jumped the line to step ahead of his uncle, Prince Harry, to become third in the line of succession.


Chris Jackson/Getty Images

On May 2, 2015, William and Catherine added another member to their growing brood: a daughter, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Though her parents just welcomed a bouncing baby boy, she will maintain the fourth-in-line position because of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which went into effect just a few weeks before her arrival, and removed a long-held rule which stated that any male sibling (regardless of birth order) would automatically move ahead of her.


 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge depart the Lindo Wing with their newborn son at St Mary's Hospital on April 23, 2018 in London, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

On April 23, 2018, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their third child—a son, whose name has yet to be announced, but who has already pushed his uncle, Prince Harry, out of the fifth position in line to the throne.


Chris Jackson/Getty Images

As the second-born son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Prince Harry's place in the line is a regularly changing one. It changed earlier this week, when his brother William's third child arrived, and could change again if and when their family expands.


Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Prince Andrew is a perfect example of life before the Succession to the Crown Act 2013: Though he’s the second-born son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, he’s actually their third child (Princess Anne came between him and Prince Charles). But because the rules gave preference to males, Prince Andrew would inherit the throne before his older sister.


Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WE

Because Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, had two daughters and no sons, none of that male-preference primogeniture stuff mattered in terms of their placement. But with each child her cousin Prince William has, Princess Beatrice moves farther away from the throne. If Beatrice looks familiar, it might be because of the headlines she made with the Dr. Seuss-like hat she wore to William and Catherine’s wedding. (The infamous topper later sold on eBay for more than $130,000, all of which went to charity.)


Princess Eugenie of York arrives in the parade ring during Royal Ascot 2017 at Ascot Racecourse on June 20, 2017 in Ascot, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Though she’s regularly seen at royal events, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s youngest daughter spends the bulk of her time indulging her interest in fine art. She has held several jobs in the art world, and is currently a director at Hauser & Wirth’s London gallery.


 Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex leaves after a visit to Prince Philip
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Like his older brother Andrew, Prince Edward—the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip—jumps the line ahead of his older sister, Princess Anne, because of the older rule that put males ahead of females.


 James, Viscount Severn, rides on the fun fair carousel on day 4 of the Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 11, 2013 in Windsor, England
Danny E. Martindale/Getty Images

James, Viscount Severn—the younger of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex’s two children, and their only son—turned 10 years old on December 17, 2017, and celebrated it as the 10th royal in line of succession. (The birth of the youngest Prince of Cambridge pushed him back a spot.)


Lady Louise Windsor during the annual Trooping the Colour Ceremony at Buckingham Palace on June 15, 2013 in London, England.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Because the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 wasn’t enacted until 2015, Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor—the older of Prince Edward’s two children—will always be just behind her brother in the line of succession.


Princess Anne, Princess Royal, visits the Hambleton Equine Clinic on October 10, 2017 in Stokesley, England
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Princess Anne, the Queen and Prince Philip’s second-born child and only daughter, may never rule over the throne in her lifetime, but at least she gets to be called “The Princess Royal.”


Peter Phillips poses for a photo on The Mall
John Nguyen - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The eldest child and only son of Princess Anne and her first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, stands just behind his mother in line. Interesting fact: Had Phillips’s wife, Autumn Kelly, not converted from Roman Catholicism to the Church of England before their marriage in 2008, Phillips would have lost his place in line.


Savannah Phillips attends a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

On December 29, 2010, Peter and Autumn Phillips celebrated the birth of their first child, Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, who is also the Queen’s first great-grandchild. She’s currently 15th in line.


Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Less than two years after Savannah, Peter and Autumn Phillips had a second daughter, Isla, who stands just behind her sister in line. It wasn’t until 2017 that Savannah and Isla made their Buckingham Palace balcony debut (in honor of their great-grandmother’s 91st birthday).


 Zara Tindall arrives for a reception at the Guildhall
Hannah McKay - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Not one to hide in the background, Zara Tindall—Princess Anne’s second child and only daughter—has lived much of her life in the spotlight. A celebrated equestrian, she won the Eventing World Championship in Aachen in 2006 and was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year the same year (her mom earned the same title in 1971). She’s also Prince George’s godmother.


Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Zara Tindall’s daughter Mia may just be 4 years old, but she’s already regularly making headlines for her outgoing personality. And though she’s only 18th in line to the throne, her connection to the tippity top of the royal family is much closer: Prince William is her godfather.


David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon

David Armstrong-Jones, the eldest child of Princess Margaret, isn’t waiting around to see if the British crown ever lands on his head. The 56-year-old, who goes by David Linley in his professional life, has made a name for himself as a talented furniture-maker. His bespoke pieces, sold under the brand name Linley, can be purchased through his own boutiques as well as at Harrods.


Margarita Armstrong-Jones and Charles Patrick Inigo Armstrong-Jones
Chris Jackson-WPA Pool/Getty Images

David Armstrong-Jones’s only son, Charles, may be 20th in line to the throne, but the 18-year-old is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.


Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) talks with Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (C) as her father David Armstrong-Jones (L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, known as David Linley

Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, the youngest child of David Armstrong-Jones and his only daughter, is also the only granddaughter of Princess Margaret. Now 15 years old (she'll turn 16 in June), Lady Margarita made headlines around the world in 2011 when she served as a flower girl at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.


Lady Sarah Chatto, the daughter of Princess Margaret arrives for her mother's memorial service

Lady Sarah Chatto, Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones’s only daughter, is the youngest grandchild of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. In addition to serving as a bridesmaid to Princess Diana, she is Prince Harry’s godmother.


Lady Sarah Chatto (L) and her son Samuel Chatto (R) leave a Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Lord Snowdon at Westminster Abbey on April 7, 2017 in London, United Kingdom
Justin Tallis - WPA Pool /Getty Images

The first-born son of Lady Sarah Chatto and her husband, Daniel, has a long way to go to reach the throne: He’s currently 23rd in line.


Arthur Edwards, WPA Pool/Getty Images

For better or worse, Sarah and Daniel Chatto’s youngest son Arthur has become a bit of a social media sensation. He's made headlines recently as he regularly posts selfies to Instagram—some of them on the eyebrow-raising side, at least as far as royals go.


Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester makes a speech during the unveiling ceremony of London's first public memorial to the Korean War on December 3, 2014 in London, England
Carl Court/Getty Images

At 73 years old, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester is the youngest grandchild of King George V and Queen Mary. Formerly, he made a living as an architect, until the 1972 death of his brother, Prince William of Gloucester, put him next in line to inherit his father’s dukedom. On June 10, 1974, he officially succeeded his father as Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster, and Baron Culloden.

Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
10 Fascinating Facts About Ella Fitzgerald
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Library of Congress (LOC), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Today marks what would have been the 101st birthday of Ella Fitzgerald, the pioneering jazz singer who helped revolutionize the genre. But the iconic songstress’s foray into the music industry was almost accidental, as she had planned to show off her dancing skills when she made her stage debut. Celebrate the birthday of the artist known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, or just plain ol’ Lady Ella with these fascinating facts.


Though she attempted to launch her career as a dancer (more on that in a moment), Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz enthusiast from a very young age. She was a fan of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, and truly idolized Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. “She was tops at the time,” Fitzgerald said in 1988. “I was attracted to her immediately. My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it. I tried so hard to sound just like her.”


A photo of Ella Fitzgerald
Carl Van Vechten - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Fitzgerald’s childhood wasn’t an easy one. Her stepfather was reportedly abusive to her, and that abuse continued following the death of Fitzgerald’s mother in 1932. Eventually, to escape the violence, she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. While she had been a great student when she was younger, it was following that move that her dedication to education faltered. Her grades dropped and she often skipped school. But she found other ways to fill her days, not all of them legal: According to The New York Times, she worked for a mafia numbers runner and served as a police lookout at a local brothel. Her illicit activities eventually landed her in an orphanage, followed by a state reformatory.


In the early 1930s, Fitzgerald was able to make a little pocket change from the tips she made from passersby while singing on the streets of Harlem. In 1934, she finally got the chance to step onto a real (and very famous) stage when she took part in an Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater on November 21, 1934. It was her stage debut.

The then-17-year-old managed to wow the crowd by channeling her inner Connee Boswell and belting out her renditions of “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection.” She won, and took home a $25 prize. Here’s the interesting part: She entered the competition as a dancer. But when she saw that she had some stiff competition in that department, she opted to sing instead. It was the first big step toward a career in music.


Not long after her successful debut at the Apollo, Fitzgerald met bandleader Chick Webb. Though he was initially reluctant to hire her because of what The New York Times described as her “gawky and unkempt” appearance, her powerful voice won him over. "I thought my singing was pretty much hollering," she later said, "but Webb didn't."

Her first hit was a unique adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which she helped to write based on what she described as "that old drop-the-handkerchief game I played from 6 to 7 years old on up."


Though it certainly takes a lot of courage to get up and perform in front of the world, those who knew and worked with Fitzgerald said that she was extremely shy. In Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz, trumpeter Mario Bauzá—who played with Fitzgerald in Chick Webb’s orchestra—explained that “she didn't hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music … She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."


As her IMDb profile attests, Fitzgerald contributed to a number of films and television series over the years, and not just to the soundtracks. She also worked as an actress on a handful of occasions (often an actress who sings), beginning with 1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy, a comedy-western starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.


“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt,” Fitzgerald said in a 1972 interview in Ms. Magazine. “It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard … After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman—a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

Though it has often been reported that the club’s owner did not want to book Fitzgerald because she was black, it was later explained that his reluctance wasn’t due to Fitzgerald’s race; he apparently didn’t believe that she was “glamorous” enough for the patrons to whom he catered.


Ella Fitzgerald
William P. Gottlieb - LOC, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Among her many other accomplishments, in 1958 Fitzgerald became the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award. Actually, she won two awards that night: one for Best Jazz Performance, Soloist for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, and another for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook.


On June 27, 1991, Fitzgerald—who had, at that point, recorded more than 200 albums—performed at Carnegie Hall. It was the 26th time she had performed at the venue, and it ended up being her final performance.


In her later years, Fitzgerald suffered from a number of health problems. She was hospitalized a handful of times during the 1980s for everything from respiratory problems to exhaustion. She also suffered from diabetes, which took much of her eyesight and led to her having to have both of her legs amputated below the knee in 1993. She never fully recovered from the surgery and never performed again. She passed away at her home in Beverly Hills on June 15, 1996.


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