In a world that moves and changes with ever-increasing speed, we tend to move and change with it. But there’s something about that place where we’re FROM that just seems to lay the foundation of who we are. Even people who have grown up all over always seem to have that one place that they identified with — that one place that just felt like home. For those of us who have found that kind of home in Virginia, we don’t need to be reminded why this is such an amazing place. But it never hurts to have a cheat sheet of bragging rights should you need them! The following 20 facts are just a few of the very many reasons you can be proud to call yourself a Virginian.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
20. Virginia Is The “Mother of Presidents”
More Presidents were born in Virginia than in any other state. We take credit for 8 presidents in total, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson. 7 of them are buried here.
19. We Make Peace: 2 Wars Ended in Virginia
Two of the most important wars fought on domestic soil ended in Virginia. The Revolutionary War ended and America gained her independence from England when Cornwallis surrendered to Washington in Yorktown on October 19, 1781. Less than 100 years later in Appomattox, Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865, thus ending the Civil War and reuniting the nation.
18. We Set the Stage: First Theater in the U.S.
We may not have Broadway, but we started it all with the first theater in North American in 1716. The theater was built on the Palace Green in the colonial capital of Williamsburg.
17. We Change History Through Education: Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington, born to a slave in Hale’s Ford in 1856, grew up to see the end of slavery and to serve as a revolutionary leader in education and civil rights. He founded the Tuskegee Institute, an historically all-black college in Alabama, dedicated to teaching African Americans agricultural pursuits.
16. We've Been Keeping Lips Luscious for More Than 130 Years
Chapstick was invented here. That’s right, every time that little miracle stick saves you from dry, cracked, chapped lips, just remember Dr. Charles Browne Fleet from Lynchburg, who invented ChapStick in the early 1880s.
15. We've Been Making School Lunches Better Since The 1800s.
Peanuts were introduced to North America by Africans in the last 1700s, but weren’t an important agricultural crop until the first half of the 19th century when the first commercial crop was grown in Sussex County. Efforts by famed scientist, Dr. George Washington Carver, found hundreds of ways to use these protein-packed nuts and soon peanuts rivaled cotton as a cash crop in the South.
14. We Are The Birthplace of Country Music
The city of Bristol was recognized by Congress as “The Birthplace of Country Music” in 1998 for being the site of some of the first commercial country recordings of artists like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. Granted we have to share this one with Tennessee, mainly because we actually share Bristol with Tennessee. Bristol is one of the few cities that shares a state line—and in this case, they share a Main Street—half in Virginia, half in Tennessee.
13. We Believe In Medical Miracles: Walter Reed, M.D.
Thanks to the work of Dr. Reed from Gloucester County, the cause of yellow fever was identified in 1901 and future research soon had it eradicated, saving hundreds of thousand of lives over the course of time. A hospital named in his honor serves as the flagship military medical facility. Originally in Washington, D.C., it is now located in Bethesda, MD.
12. We Are Tumbling Into History: Gabby Douglas
Douglas, from Virginia Beach, was the first African American to win an all-around gold medal in gymnastics at the London Games in 2012.
11. Sorry, Pilgrims. We actually had the first Thanksgiving.
Nearly 2 years before the Pilgrims sat down to feast at Plymouth Rock, 38 English colonists landed at Berkeley Hundred, site of the Berkeley Plantation. On December 4, 1619, they held a feast as a way of giving thanks to God for their safe arrival in the New World. The feast became an annual celebration.
10. We Have Big, Beautiful Beaches
Not only is Virginia Beach beautiful, but there’s plenty of it to enjoy and a world record to prove it. With 35-miles of coastline, the areas of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake Bay and Sandbridge, hold the Guinness World Record for longest stretch of pleasure beach. There’s simply no shortage of things to enjoy from boardwalks and resorts at the Virginia Beach beachfront to peaceful cottages in Sandbridge.
9. We gave you streaking. You’re welcome, world.
Thanks to George William Crump, streaking has long been a tradition at many colleges– or just a really bad choice on a Friday night. The first recorded streaker in U.S. history, Crump, a student at Washington and Lee, bared it all and ran through the streets of Lexington in 1804. Sure, he got suspended for a semester, but went on to become a senator. Go figure.
8. We Are Home To An Engineering Wonder of the World: Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
When it was constructed more than 50 years ago, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was named “One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.” With 23 miles of bridge and tunnel structures, it connects the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the mainland at Virginia Beach. It is one of the largest structures of its kind.
We Get Things Moving: The Electric Streetcar7.
After 74 attempts to create a proper electric trolley railway system in the U.S., the United Kingdom and continental Europe, we nailed it. In 1888, The Union Passenger Railway was the first electric railway system be more efficient than animal-powered trolleys. It was considered a milestone in engineering by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and set the stage, or laid the tracks rather, for future railway trolleys.
6. We Are Proud: Eagles on the James
The James River, the longest river in Virginia, is home to the largest roosting site for bald Eagles on the Eastern Seaboard.
5. We Are Thinking Green...Virginia Green
Virginia Green is a program that encourages green tourism throughout the state. With more than 700 participating companies and organizations, Virginia Green sets standards for waste consumption, recycling and energy and water conservation. It’s nice to know that we are making huge efforts to keep our beautiful state in top shape for future generations.
4. We Have The Pentagon: A Big Office for Big Responsibilities
The Pentagon in Arlington houses the U.S. Department of Defense. With approximately 17 miles of corridors and office space for 30,000 employees, it is one of the largest office buildings in the world.
3. We Have Real Virginia Royalty - And Our Very Own Disney Princess
Pocahontas was born c.1595 in the Tidewater Region. Her father, Chief Powhatan, was the most powerful chief in the area when colonists first came to Jamestown. She is famous for having supposedly stopped her father from killing John Smith in 1608. She later married an English tobacco farmer, John Rolfe, and travelled to England where she was presented to the courts as a “civilized savage” from the New World. And, of course, she taught John Smith how to sing and respect nature in Disney’s animated, albeit fictionalized, film “Pocahontas.”
2. We Honor The Fallen: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Virginia has a long, proud history of military service – from the Revolutionary War on. One of the most poignant landmarks in Virginia is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. The tomb, first commemorated in 1921, honors unidentified soldiers who died in battle during World War 1, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The main sarcophagus rests over the WWI grave, while the others rest nearby. An active military guard stands post at the grave at all times to honor those who have fallen.
1. In Virginia, Education Reigns Supreme
The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg was founded by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1693, making it the second oldest college in the U.S. Since then, we’ve added nearly 80 more, roughly half public and half private.
You may not need these reminders, but it never hurts to know just how many amazing things have happened because of the hard work and dedication of Virginians. Tell us about some of the things that make you proud to live in the Old Dominion state!