Raney: Chattanooga's nicknames trace city's evolution

A vintage postcard of Chattanooga highlighting the "Dynamo of Dixie" slogan.

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Promoting Chattanooga has been part of its culture for decades. Flyers published by the Chattanooga Automobile Club in the 1920s lured prospective visitors with "SIGHTSEEEING such as you have never enjoyed before awaits you in Chattanooga," "CHATTANOOGA The South's most interesting city" and "See the Scenic and Historic Splendors of the South." In 1925, the Exchange Club promoted "the Honeymoon City" and "Friendly City." In 1992, the Chamber of Commerce's slogan was "Live it. Love it. It's Chattanooga." "Chattanooga Shines" is a slogan of later vintage. A recent brochure endorsed the city as a "fabulous place to live and work" and an area "rich in history, bright in promise."

Over the years, three general labels - "scenic, historic and commercial" - have been used repeatedly to describe the city.

To support its scenic label, letters and articles since its early years have highlighted the area's mountain vistas and sparkling waters. Confederate nurse Kate Cumming wrote in her 1863 journal that the scene from Lookout Mountain was one of the "most beautiful pictures [she had] ever beheld." Early Chattanooga Automobile Club pamphlets and articles proclaimed the "rugged beauty of mountain ranges and peaceful calm of valley lands combine with associations of historic interest to afford the sightseer the most superb scenery to be found anywhere." Chattanooga reigns today as the "Scenic Center of the South."

Because of its strategic importance during the Civil War, Chattanooga became known as the "Gateway to the South." In June 1934, Arthur Snell, executive director of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, called Chattanooga the "Crossroads of the South," recognizing the many roads and railroads that ran through Chattanooga. He estimated that more than 500,000 people lived within a 50-mile radius of Chattanooga. Today, the Chattanooga Convention Center markets the city's central location, noting that "Chattanooga is located within a day's drive from more than half the population of the United States." Many of these travelers come to enjoy the area's scenery.

In support of its history label, Chattanooga has witnessed two monumental events that have been recognized far and wide. Ross's Landing, the site of Indian settlement, is considered to be the major embarkation point of the Cherokee removal in 1838 in the tragic Trail of Tears. During the Civil War in 1863, Chattanooga saw the Battle of Chickamauga, the Siege of Chattanooga, The Battle Above the Clouds, and finally the Battle of Missionary Ridge, which opened the door for Sherman's March to the Sea.

After the war, veterans and scholars clamored for the preservation of the battlefields. That led in 1890 to the establishment of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, now considered one of the top military parks in the country. The mobilization and training of troops at Fort Oglethorpe in 1898, 1917, and 1942 boosted Chattanooga's recognition nationwide. The city's relation to the Civil War and subsequent wars has resulted in effective advertising. Chattanooga became known as the "Scenic Loop City" in the 1930s for its 61 miles of historic battlefields.

Regarding its commercial label, the city has been tagged "Hartford of the South," being the home of several local insurance companies, including Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co. (now Unum Group), Volunteer State Life Insurance Co. (now a Transamerica company) and BlueCross Blue Shield of Tennessee. Chattanooga's many factories led to several nicknames including "Industrial Center of the South" and "City of Diverse Products." Tennessee Electric Power Co.'s introduction of electric power in the early 1900s facilitated the growth of a number of industries, including drilling machinery, enameled ware, cast iron pipe, plumbing supplies, furniture, refrigerators, saddles, candies, glass bottles and medicines. In 1913, Chattanooga took on the moniker "Dynamo of Dixie," a popular reflection of Chattanooga's industry and its people. The Chamber also marketed Chattanooga as the "City That Pays Dividends." Chattanooga's current tag as "Gig City" recognizes its leadership in the innovation economy.

Chattanooga's titles have sometimes come by vote, one in 1964 being "All-America City," which honored citizen participation in community development projects. Outside Magazine's 2015 Best Town Ever Award recognized Chattanooga's access to trails and outdoor activities along with thriving neighborhoods and restaurants.

The city has embraced its scenery, history and industry throughout the years to become, as another early slogan cheerfully concluded, "A Wonderful Place to Visit - a Better Place to Live."

Suzette Raney is the archivist at the Chattanooga Public Library. All details were taken from the vertical files of the local history and genealogy department. For more information, call 423 643-7725, visit the library or visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.