Do you have an aching desire to fill your conversation starter’s list with Tennessee facts?
Lucky for you, I’ve curated 29 fun facts about Tennessee, the 16th state to join the United States.
This article will teach you more about this fascinating cigar-shaped state, including its inventions, celebrities, favorite music, and interesting stats.
So, please bring along your spade for some tasty roadkill, but leave your skunk at home because we’re going to the Volunteer State to visit Graceland and see some amazing natural wonders.
29 Tennessee Facts: Fun Facts About Tennessee To Read Now
1. Tennessee Means “Meeting Place”
The first of my favorite fun facts about Tennessee is the likely origin of the state’s name. Many people believed it was named after the Tennessee River, but where did that name originate?
It’s believed the name is derived from a Cherokee village called Tanasse, meaning “bend in the river.”
Tanasse village was the Cherokee equivalent of a capital city. It was the venue where the different tribes would congregate for essential occasions or meetings.
Another theory is that the name was derived from the Yuchi Indian word “Tana-see,” which means “meeting place.”
Either way, the name Tennessee most likely means it’s an excellent place to meet up with people.
2. Cotton Candy Was Invented In TN Almost 120 Years Ago
For my following fun Tennessee fact, my favorite sugary fair staple was conceived in the state’s largest city, Nashville, in 1904.
Yes, a candy maker was involved in its inception called John Wharton.
But it turns out the primary inventor was a dentist named Dr. William James Morrison, who would become the president of the Tennessee Dental Association.
These two inventors developed a machine to melt sugar crystals and turn them into delicate threads.
The original patent was registered in 1897 but was only introduced seven years later.
They called their product “Fairy Floss” and presented it at the St. Louis Fair in 1904, where it sold by the thousands.
3. Tennessee’s National Park Is The Most Visited One In The USA
We all know the USA has plenty of national parks. However, the most frequented one in the country is Tennessee’s only UNESCO site, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In 2021, this park had 14.1 million visitors!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famous because it is home to the famous Rocky Mountains.
It is also considered the “Salamander Capital of the World” because it is home to 30 species of this amphibian.
4. You’ll Find Thousands Of Volunteers In Tennessee
You may have heard Tennessee called the Volunteer State, its official state moniker.
The nickname originated as far back as the War of 1812 because so many people volunteered their service (more specifically at the Battle of New Orleans).
Additionally, the nickname was reinforced in 1848 during the Mexican-American War.
President Polk called for volunteers (he only asked for 2,600), but 30,000 Tennesseans volunteered their service!
Nowadays, Tennessee residents are colloquially called “Volunteers,” as is the University of Tennessee’s athletics program.
5. Tennessee Has Interesting State Symbols
Tennessee embraces a few interesting symbols that give me an idea of what is essential or sentimental to them.
One of the interesting facts about Tennessee is that many symbols represent the state’s deep-rooted Christian beliefs. Some Tennessee State symbols include:
- Wild Animal: Raccoon
- Horse: Tennessee Walking Horse
- Commercial fish: Channel Catfish
- Sportfish: Smallmouth bass
- Reptile: Eastern Box turtle
- Amphibian: Tennessee Cave Salamander
- Insects: Firefly, Honey bee, and Ladybug
- Bird: Mockingbird
- Cultivated Flower: Iris
- Wildflowers: Passion Flower and Tennessee Coneflower
- Trees: Tulip poplar and Eastern Red Cedar
- Gem: Tennessee River Pearls
- Mineral: Agate
- Rock: Limestone
Read next: Fun Facts About Arkansas
6. Tennessee Has Ten Official State Songs, Including A Rap
Another fascinating Tennessee fact is that it has more official state songs than any other state.
Of the ten songs they adopted, one is a rap marking the state’s bicentennial birthday. Here are Tennessee’s state songs in order of adoption:
- 1925: “My Homeland, Tennessee” – Nell Grayson Taylor and Lamont Smith
- 1935: “When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee” – Willa Waid Newman
- 1955: “My Tennessee” – Frances Hannah Tranum
- 1965: “Tennessee Waltz” – Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King
- 1982: “Rocky Top” – Boudleaux and Felice Bryant
- 1992: “Tennessee” – Vivian Rorie
- 1996: “Pride of Tennessee” – Fred Congdon, Thomas Vaughn, and Carol Elliot
- 1996: “Tennessee Bicentennial Rap” – Joan Hill Hanks
- 2010: “Smoky Mountain Rain” – Kye Fleming & Dennis Morgan
- 2012: “Tennessee” – John R. Bean
7. The First MoonPie Was Made In Tennessee As A Lunchtime Snack
Here’s one of the tastiest Tennessee facts: You can thank Earl Mitchell and the Chattanooga Bakery for inventing MoonPies in 1917.
These Southern staples originated from a coal miner’s request for “a snack as big as the moon,” big enough to fit into a lunchpail.
The bakery combined two round graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate to create “MoonPies,” which they sold for 5¢ each.
Soon, these tasty snacks became so popular that the bakery produced them by the hundreds in-house.
During World War II, they were used as an ideal ration item for servicemen and women.
8. Jack Isn’t The Only True Tennessee Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s Whiskey is likely the most famous brand of Tennessee whiskey on the market. Still, it’s one of many brands with the official Tennessee whiskey label.
Here are some other Tennessee fun facts regarding their fine whiskeys:
Local whiskeys are unlike other whiskeys because they are made the “Lincoln County Process” way.
This process uses a maple charcoal filter, and the grain must contain at least 51% corn. Distilling must not exceed 160 proof.
Additionally, the whiskey must age in charred oak barrels and be stored in barrels (not exceeding 125 proof). Finally, Tennessee whiskey must be bottled at at least 80 proof.
9. Tennessee Is The Birth Place Of Mountain Dew
So, how do you like your Tennessee whiskey? On the rocks? With water? How about with some Mountain Dew?
Other interesting facts about the state include that Brothers Barney and Ally Hartman invented Mountain Dew soda in Knoxville in the 1940s to mix with whiskey.
However, nowadays, I honestly prefer to appreciate each beverage separately. The name was slang for Scottish whiskey.
10. You May Only Hunt Whales From A Moving Vehicle In TN
Hunting is permitted in Tennessee, but you may not hunt wild animals from a moving vehicle.
According to a popular belief, the only exception is if you spot a whale while you’re driving, then you’re welcome to hunt it (provided it’s wild).
However, the odds of spotting a whale in this landlocked state are slim, so you could probably leave your harpoon at home.
11. Tennessee Is Landlocked By Eight States
Speaking of being landlocked, Tennessee is one of two states in the USA that borders eight other states.
It shares this title with Missouri, one of the states it borders. The other seven states bordering Tennessee include the following:
- North Carolina
Read next: Fun Facts About Mississippi
12. Some TN Cities And Towns Have Uncommon Speed Limits
If you like to drive at prime speed limits, do yourself a favor and visit Tennessee.
For instance, you can toddle along at 19mph in Collierville or speed up a bit and drive 31mph in Trenton, known to have the largest teapot collection in the world.
However, these fun Tennessee facts divert attention from Trenton’s dark history.
13. The State Has A Few Random Laws
Okay, I mentioned that one of the city’s laws is “legal to hunt whales from a moving vehicle.”
But here are some other local laws that seem pretty weird and random and definitely suitable to add to my Tennessee facts list:
- It’s totally acceptable to eat roadkill.
- Children may not hold hands at school as it’s considered the gateway to sexual activity.
- You must be over 18 to play pinball or other coin-operated arcade games, considered a gateway to gambling.
- It’s illegal for a woman to ask a man for a date in Dyersburg.
- If you sell hollow logs in the state, you’re contravening the law.
- Schools weren’t allowed to teach evolution between 1925 and 1967.
- You may not transport a skunk over the border.
- It is against the law to post anything emotionally distressing (to any Tennessean) on Facebook.
- Eight women may not live under one roof as it could be mistaken as a brothel.
14. Nashville Has The World’s Longest-Running Radio Show
If your family was born and bred in Tennessee, you might listen to the same radio program your great-grandparents listened to.
That’s because Nashville in middle Tennessee is home to the world’s oldest active live radio show (for any genre) called Grand Ole Opry.
The radio show broadcasts every weekend and has been doing so since 1925.
15. The First-Ever Tow Trucks Were Made In TN
If you fancy tow trucks and history, visit the Chattanooga International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame Museum.
As it happens, these handy vehicles originated in Chattanooga in 1916 out of necessity.
They were invented by Ernest Holmes Sr. of Chattanooga, and the city is home to the world’s largest tow truck factory.
16. America’s First Self-Service Shop Opened In TN
The year 1916 also marked the beginning of self-service shopping in the USA. The grocery store was called Piggly Wiggly, based in Memphis.
It was the first shop in the USA where customers were allowed to shop by themselves.
Read next: Fun Facts About Alabama
17. Nashville Is The International Country Music Capital
Nashville’s nickname is Music City, and it’s considered the world’s country music capital.
This said, country music was actually birthed in Bristol on the Tennessee-Virginia border, as recognized by Congress, but one of the lesser-known Tennessee facts.
18. Many Celebrities Were Born In Tennessee
Since country music is so prominent in Tennessee, you can believe that many country musicians were born and raised in the state.
However, many celebrities hail from TN. Here are a few Tennessee native celebrities:
- Andrew Jackson
- Andrew Johnson
- Aretha Franklin
- Bailey Howell
- Carl Perkins
- Chet Atkins
- Claude Humphrey
- Cordell Hull
- Davy Crockett
- Dolly Parton
- Duane Allman
- Hattie Caraway
- Isaac Hayes
- James M. Buchanan Jr.
- Johnny Knoxville
- Justin Timberlake
- Kathy Bates
- Kenny Chesney
- Lisa Marie Presley
- Megan Fox
- Miley Cyrus
- Morgan Freeman
- Samuel L. Jackson
- Tina Turner
- Turkey Stearnes
- Wilma Rudolph
19. Tennessee Was Home To A Four-Legged Lady
There are different ways to achieve fame, and one of the more challenging ways is to be born with extra limbs.
Josephine Myrtle Corbin was born in 1868 in Tennessee with four legs and two pelvises, side-by-side. She married and had children but passed away due to a leg infection.
However, this must be one of the sad Tennessee facts, as she was exploited as a freak.
20. Elvis’ Graceland Is The Second Most Visited House In The USA
Calling Elvis: I’m going to Graceland! Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland, is the USA’s second-most visited house museum.
The most visited house is the presidential White House. Graceland Mansion was built in 1939 on 120 ha in Memphis, West Tennessee, but Elvis only lived there from 1957 to 1977.
The place attracts over 600,000 visitors annually and celebrated its 20-millionth visitor in 2016.
21. The Largest Underground Lake In The USA Is In Tennessee
You might have heard of the Lost City, but have you heard of the Lost Sea? It’s not lost anymore, and it’s not a sea.
In fact, it’s a lake called Sweetwater, and it spans at least 13ha under the ground in Tennessee.
Sweetwater is the country’s largest underground lake; visitors can explore it in a glass-bottomed boat.
22. Reelfoot Lake Is A Result Of Earthquakes
While on the topic of lakes in Tennessee, let’s look at Reelfoot Lake. This lake originated due to a series of earthquakes in 1811-1812.
The quakes were so powerful that they caused the Mississippi River to flow backward.
Legend states that the lake got its name from Chief Reelfoot, a Chickasaw Indian with a deformed foot.
23. Tennessee Is A Spelunker’s Playground
Spelunkers, Tennessee, has you covered with its thousands of caves and caverns to explore.
In fact, the state has more recorded caves than any other state in the USA and is home to 20% of the known caves. These hidden gems are scattered across the state; about 90% are on private land.
Here are more fun Tennessee facts: Caves house farmers’ best friends – bats. Bats eat insects and have an estimated value to the state’s agriculture of over $313 million annually.
24. Kingston Was The State Capital Of Tennessee For A Day
Tennessee has had four cities that served as a capital at some point, and Kingston was one of them.
However, Kingston was the capital for a grand total of one day (September 21, 1807) before the title was returned to Knoxville.
25. Crossville Had The Tallest Tree House Until 2019
Crossville, TN, was home to the tallest treehouse in the world. But how high was it?
This 10,000-square-foot tree house was 97 feet high and was assembled with an estimated 250,000 nails. Unfortunately, this major tourist attraction burned in 2019 under mysterious circumstances.
26. You Can Visit Athens And Paris In Tennessee
Who needs to travel overseas when you can visit Europe and the Mediterranean in Tennessee?
A fun fact about Tennessee is that you can go to Nashville, a.k.a. “Athens of the South,” and visit their replica of the Parthenon.
Or, stay in the state and head over to Paris with its own 60-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower.
27. Mini Golf Originated Chattanooga
Here are some Tennessee fun facts for mini golfers: In Chattanooga in 1927, Tennessee resident and inn owner Garnet Carter got the initial mini golf patent.
He created Tom Thumb golf courses to attract traffic to his hotel, Fairyland Inn in Lookout Mountain.
Despite being patented in the state, the first mini golf course was in Georgia, less than a mile from the TN border.
28. Tennesseans Panic At The Mere Hint Of Snow
When Tennesseans hear there might be snow in the area, they tend to panic.
School is canceled, residents empty the grocery store shelves of bread and milk, and there are traffic jams as everyone tries to escape or survive the impending catastrophe.
29. Knoxville Was The First City To Have Dumpsters
The last of my Tennessee facts is a dirty one. Knoxville saw the emergence of dumpsters in 1935, designed by George Dempster.
These giant bins became widespread across the city, and by 1937, Knoxville was nicknamed the “First Dumpster City.”
Quick Fun Facts About Tennessee
Not really a fun fact, but a historical one: the atomic bomb was developed in Oak Ridge in East Tennessee.
Tennessee’s flag has three white stars because they represent the east, middle, and west—Tennessee’s grand divisions.
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. we
That’s it for today! I sincerely hope you had a good time reading these fun facts about Tennessee! Wanna help me out? Be sure to share this article on your social media. Oh, and if you know some fun Tennessee facts, please drop them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!
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