Charlotte is a quintessential New South city. Whats the New South? At the close of the Civil War, with slavery ended and the economy in tatters, the South had to reinvent itself. In Charlotte, the reinventing has never stopped, from fields to factories to finance.
Old South roots. Charlotte is older than the United States, chartered in 1768. It sat astride two trading paths carved by the Catawba Indians, today the main avenues Trade Street and Tryon Street.
Why the Queen City? Charlottes name honored Queen Charlotte, wife of King George of England. The county recalls her birthplace, Mecklenburg-Strelitz in Germany. The names curried favor with English government, which chose Charlotte to be site of a county courthouse, aiding its rise as a trading village.
Hornets nest of rebellion . Late in the Revolution, British General Cornwallis encountered sharpshooting Patriots at the 1780 Battle of Charlotte and the Battle of Kings Mountain nearby. A hornets nest of rebellion, he called Charlotte. Cornwallis departed, soon to be defeated by General George Washington at Yorktown, ending the War.
Civil War crossroads. Rail connections made Charlotte a supply depot for the Confederacy, including a Naval Yard producing boat parts. At wars end, President Jefferson Davis fled Richmond for Charlotte, holding his last full cabinet meeting here. A Tryon Street sidewalk plaque marks where he heard of President Lincolns assassination.
New South boom. Since railroads first linked Charlotte to global markets in the 1850s, the city has never seen a decade without population growth. From about 3,500 people at the close of the Civil War in 1865, the citys population climbed to 18,224 in 1900, to 100,899 in 1940, to 772,627 today.
Textile threads. Railroads made Charlotte a cotton trading point after the Civil War. Then regional boosters began building cotton mills. From the 1920s into the late 20th century, Charlotte reigned as the trade hub for Americas main textile manufacturing belt, where factories produced such household names as Cannon towels and Springmaid sheets.
Buckle of the Bible Belt? Scots Irish Presbyterians built Charlottes first churches, namesakes of such thoroughfares as Providence and Sharon roads. Baptists took the lead through much of the 20th century, notably native son Billy Graham. Catholics now are pulling ahead due to new arrivals from the northern United States and Latin America.
Civil Rights transformations. Charlotte business leaders strove to avoid violence that scarred other Southern cities. Sit-ins by Johnson C. Smith University students set the stage for Mayor Stan Brookshire to ask Chamber of Commerce leaders to each invite an African American counterpart and go two-by-two to integrate elite restaurants in 1963. The Supreme Court made Charlotte the nations test case for court-ordered busing in 1971. In 1983, Harvey Gantt became the first black mayor in a major, predominantly white Southern city.
Banking boomtown. Charlotteans led in interstate banking, beginning in 1982 with NCNBs purchase of a Florida bank. In 1998, Hugh McColl built the nations first coast-to-coast bank, Bank of America; that and the First Union-Wachovia merger in 2001 made Charlotte the second-biggest banking center in the United States, behind only New York City.