The Metro Pulse Gallery of Knoxville History

We've collected historical images of Knoxville, but we'd wager that you have some of your own. If you'd like to share, e-mail us (editor@metropulse.com) your submissions for a Reader's Gallery.

Full gallery »The Dawn of Knoxville's TV Age

  • After his arrival at WATE around 1958, Jack Wiedemann was a popular on-air host who was also instrumental in moving the station into its current headquarters, Greystone. Wiedemann still lives in town (see Secret History). Perhaps coincidentally, the perspective of this mocked-up photo is from the block where WROL-TV began broadcasting in 1953.
  • Woodruff’s furniture store on Gay Street (now the Downtown Grill), a major purveyor of television sets, displayed these promotions for Knoxville’s first two TV stations: a quiet promo for WATE, at left, and a flashier show of WTVK, then a CBS affiliate, at right. In the mid-1950s, WTSK boosted its signal and became WTVK, but the UHF channel continued to have problems. What it lacked in coverage, it made up with fresh ideas.
  • An early WROL-TV test pattern. In 1954, WROL-TV became WATE.
  • At left, around 1955, a dramatic day in the history of Channel 26, when they paved the steep dirt road that led up to their studio. Previously it was reached only by Jeep.
  • At right, WTSK’s original station identification, showing the 1953 Knoxville skyline between the Henley and Gay Street Bridges. WTSK originally broadcast shows from both the CBS and DuMont networks. DuMont did not survive the ‘50s.


Full gallery »The P.C. Dixon Jazz Collection

  • A Comet 78 from the P.C. Dixon collection.
  • The P.C. Dixon collection of 78 rpm jazz and self-recorded acetate discs.
  • More boxes from P.C. Dixon's collection of jazz 78s.
  • Many of these acetates have been sitting in the same boxes for 60 years, some of them disintegrating.
  • P.C. Dixon's home recording of Miles Davis performing at Birdland, 1951. His All-Stars included Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, and J.J. Johnson.
  • A P.C. Dixon home recording of Dizzy Gillespie.

The late P.C. Dixon of East Knoxville was a jazzbo through and through—not only amassing a large 78 collection, but also making home recordings off the radio of important live performances, both local and national.


Full gallery »Ed Westcott's Secret City

  • Ed Westcott
  • The Crossroads Tavern was a very popular watering hole. The original building on Robertsville Road is now a restaurant.
  • According to Col. Harlan Sanders’ autobiography, he worked as an assistant manager at Oak Ridge’s cafeteria system before returning to Kentucky after the war to start a new restaurant.
  • “Thankful,” is Ed Westcott’s memory of the African Americans he photographed and worked alongside in segregated Oak Ridge. In addition to having housing provided, whites and blacks at Oak Ridge tended to earn more than their civilian counterparts throughout the region.
  • A promotional visit by “Aunt Jemima” to give away samples of “her” products at the Tulip Town Market.
  • In the post-war years, teenagers became a new demographic force to be catered to—such as these kids at the Wildcat Den.

One of the government's early hires, Ed Westcott recorded the beginnings of the city built to support the Manhattan Project, 70 years ago.


Full gallery »The Making of 'Incoming Freshmen'

  • The first day of shooting in the fall of 1976.
  • Local media personality Carl Warner played a professor, but his role was doomed when he couldn’t make it to New York for Cannon’s reshoots.
  • Moon and Lewald.
  • Shooting on the UT campus didn’t exactly involve getting permission beforehand.
  • Mary Moon and Eric Lewald, who also co-directed.

Production photos from the making of the 1977 drive-in movie shot on the University of Tennessee campus. Most photos (probably) by Jed Dekalb.


Full gallery »Knoxville's Civil War Forts

  • Only a few Knoxville buildings, like Lincoln Memorial University's law school, stood during the Civil War. Built in 1848 as the state school for the deaf, it served both Confederate and Union forces, in turn, as one of the region's main military hospitals.
  • Where’s the Fort? Long forgotten, the largest fort on the south side, Fort Dickerson was saved as a city park in the middle part of the 20th century, and during the Centennial in 1963 served as the site of a large reenactment. Named for an Illinois Union captain killed near Cleveland, Tenn., it disappoints some visitors but awes others as the Knoxville area’s best-preserved fort. Before the Battle of Knoxville, it helped repel a tentative invasion by Confederate General “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler.
  • Fort Sanders: At the corner of Clinch Avenue and 16th, very near the southern rampart of Union Fort Sanders, the New York Highlanders monument stands as the only regimental monument erected in Knoxville by either side after the war, but it depicts in bas relief reconciled soldiers from both sides shaking hands. Union and Confederate veterans alike came to this site for an unusual reunion in 1890.
  • The Fog of War: Though hard to capture in photographs, Fort Higley is intact and distinctive, a tiny fort, its walls four or five feet high, in a clearing in dense woods.
  • Lushly overgrown Fort Stanley.

We search out the remnants of Knoxville's Civil War forts.


Full gallery »Carl Story, Knoxville's Bluegrass Pioneer

  • HOT COUNTRY: The Rambling Mountaineers of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s (shown above with Ernest Tubb) was “the hottest group I ever had in my life,” Story said.
  • FAN FAVORITE: Story may never have had a national breakthrough, but he remained popular in the Southeast through the 1950s.
  • SETTING UP SHOP: Story briefly owned a record shop inside Bower’s Department Store on Market Square in the early 1950s.


Full gallery »Chronicles of Knox Music History

  • Maynard Baird and His Southern Serenaders (circa 1929): Knoxville’s great jazz-age band on the stage of the original Riviera Theatre. A popular territory band, Baird’s group toured all over the country during the 1920s and early 1930s, eventually cutting some hot sides for Brunswick-Vocalion Records during the prolific St. James Hotel Sessions of 1929-30. Band members identified in the photo include Maynard Baird, banjo, Joe Parrott Sr., drums, V.A. Johnston, piano, and junior hoofer Little Jackie Comer, future impresario of the Deane Hill Country Club.
  • Ridgel’s Fountain Citians (circa 1930)
One of the best and most influential of the Knoxville-based string bands, Ridgel’s Fountain Citians recorded eight exciting up-tempo old-time numbers for Brunswick-Vocalion records during the now-legendary St. James Hotel Sessions. And you can hear all of them by visiting Jeff Bills’ Lynn Point Records website (lynnpoint.com). 
Note the stylish modern-day attire commonly worn by string bands of the era—no hokey hillbilly get-up for these fellows! The Fountain Citians consisted of Leroy Ridgel (back row), Charles Ridgel, Millard Whitehead, and Carthel Ridgel (seated).
—Bradley Reeves

For more info on TAMIS, visit 
tamisarchive.org.
  • The Dixieland Swingsters (circa 1937)

The house band for the WNOX Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round, the multitalented Dixieland Swingsters effortlessly bridged the gap between the popular, jazz, and country music heard on the long-running Knoxville radio program. In fact, the Swingsters stayed with the program from its 1936 beginning until its demise in 1962. A little-known fact is that the band cut a sizable series of hot platters for RCA-Bluebird records during the late 1930s. These vintage 78s are near impossible to find today, but contain some of the best vintage jazz and pop recordings you’ve never heard! The band line-up pictured here is Dave Durham, trumpet; Larry Downing, vocals and guitar; Harry Nides, fiddle; Jerry Collins, piano; Cliff Stier, bass; and Buck Houchens, clarinet. 
—Bradley Reeves

For more info on TAMIS, visit tamisarchive.org.
  • Ida Cox (circa 1944)

One of the great female blues singers, Ida Cox was a contemporary of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Mamie Smith, recording a series of classic raw blues discs for Paramount Records during the 1920s. After years on the road, Cox settled down to live with her daughter in Knoxville after suffering a debilitating stroke during the 1940s. It was here that the forgotten and presumed-dead singer was rediscovered by local radio announcer Lynn Westergaard during the early 1960s. Westergaard convinced Cox to return to the recording studio, where she cut one final LP of classic blues performances.

—Brad Reeves

For more info on TAMIS, go to tamisarchive.org.
  • Mayfield Day at the Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round (circa 1953)
What could say East Tennessee more than country music and Mayfield Ice Cream?
The 1950s-era cast of the WNOX Mid-Day Merry Go-Round radio program plugged the Athens, Tenn.-based ice cream company in this rare promotional photo. And what an all-star cast of country music greats it is! Identified are Ray “Duck” Atkins, Charlie Hagaman (back row), Don Gibson, Jack Cate, Jack Shelton, Honey Wilds, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Dave Durham (middle row), Carl Story, Benny Sims, Red Rector, Fred E. Smith, Lowell Blanchard, Jerry Collins, George “Speedy” Krise, Claude Boone (bottom row).
—Brad Reeves

For more info on TAMIS, go to
tamisarchive.org.
  • The Tennessee Barn Dance (circa 1944)
The WNOX Tennessee Barn Dance was the Saturday night version of the weekly radio program The Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round. This hugely popular and long-running radio program was broadcast from the old Lyric Theatre (formerly Staub’s) on Gay Street during the 1930s and 1940s. The live performances usually packed the theater with ticket buyers. Host Lowell Blanchard would, on occasion, mix and match musicians with the hope that a certain band line-up might gel and catch on with the public. Identified here are Wally Fowler (sitting), Tony Cianciola, accordion, and a very young Chet Atkins on (what else!) guitar.
—Brad Reeves

For more about TAMIS, visit tamisarchive.org.

From the vaults of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound, an ongoing series looking at Knoxville musicians through history.


Full gallery »Jackie Walker, Hall of Famer At Last

  • All-American linebacker Jackie Wilson appeared ready to overcome any obstacle in this In this University of Tennessee publicity photo.
  • DESTINED FOR GREATNESS: As a football player at Fulton High School, Jackie Walker piled up astounding numbers.
  • NEW VOL LEADERS: Couch Bill Battle stands behind his 1971 team leaders, (from left) Alternate Captain Gary Theiler, Captain Jackie Walker, and Alternate Captain Phillip Fulmer.
  • NOT FORGOTTEN: Marshall Walker, holding his brother's All-American portrait, won't give up until Jackie's achievements are recognized in a hall of fame.

All-American Vol linebacker Jackie Walker was finally admitted to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2011—nine years after his death from AIDS.


Full gallery »Bertha Walburn Clark

  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: Described as her favorite, this photograph was taken by violinist Bertha Walburn Clark’s first husband, graphic artist Rand Walburn, who died in 1919. Courtesy University of Tennessee Special Collections.
  • Courtesy University of Tennessee Special Collections.
  • “Miss Bertha Roth...who with her violin has captured our city.” Long before she begun her career as conductor, and eventually founder of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the violinist was a regular performer in downtown churches and hotel ballrooms. Photo courtesy KSO
  • The Walburn Clark Little Symphony. This versatile 25-piece ensemble, almost the size of the original KSO, was Knoxville’s orchestra in the 1920s, most familiar at the assembly room of the Farragut Hotel on Gay Street. photos courtesy KSO Bertha Walburn Clark is standing with the baton. Husband Harold Clark, on cello to the far right, awaits direction.
  • “Woman Conductor”: Bertha Walburn Clark at the helm of the fully fledged Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, ca. 1935. Photo courtesy KSO

Bertha Walburn Clark not only founded the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra in 1935, she was also one of the first female conductors.


Full gallery »Knoxville: Summer, 1967

  • Titled “Self Portrait, Photo Booth, Knoxville, 1967,” this is the only image
of photographer Danny Lyon that appears in his autobiographical collection,
Memories of Myself.
  • Two young men encountered near Fort Sanders on Sept. 3, 1967. Wandering through backyards, near “kudzu vines and railroad tracks,” Lyon found several young men working on a red  ’53 Ford. In his diary he wrote, “I waited a long time before walking up to them, the way you delay doing something you know you are going to enjoy...” He helped them get the car started, with a dollar’s worth of gas, and took several photographs of the group, three of which appear in Memories of Myself.
  • On his walks, Lyon encountered this unusual assembly in the vicinity of Fort Sanders. The car was named “Mr. Rum Dum,” a racing Thunderbird. The man sitting on the hood of the car, Lyon says, was a “carny,” then working at
the Tennessee Valley Fair. Lyon attended the fair with this group. “Today I met some people with a goat-dog. Actually a billy goat but so called because when standing with two or three dogs, folks often ask, ŒWhat kind of
dog is that, son?’ and they are told it is a goat-dog. To show how it fights, one of the boys got on all fours and started butting his head into the goat. I am left feeling the people I photograph are the best people in America.”
  • Several of his photographs feature a young woman named Leslie, a photogenic Knoxvillian Lyon had previously met in New Orleans. “Leslie was a hippie, and so were her friends,” Lyon recalls. In this photograph, the one used for
the cover illustration of his 2009 book, Memories of Myself, she is standing on the Gay Street viaduct, near Jackson Avenue. The brick building behind her has since been torn down.
  • Lyon’s camera was aimed at a racing stock car being towed, but the context may surprise locals, especially those under 50: in the background is the 200 block of Gay Street, between Vine and Commerce, the block of Gay that no
longer exists. Most of the buildings visible were torn down within about five years of when this photograph was taken. The perspective is from Vine Street looking south across what’s now a parking lot, a small park, and Summit Hill Drive.
  • Titled “Highland Avenue,” this photo of an unidentified boy on his porch on the 1500 block, across the street from the site of the childhood home of James Agee.

Some street photos of Knoxville, circa 1967, by photographer Danny Lyon.


Full gallery »The Lost Fair: National Conservation Expo of 1913

  • The Southern States Building
  • The Negro Building was designed, financed, and built entirely by Knoxville blacks. It outlined black contributions to industry and economy. To the left is a tamale and “wienerwurst” stand; at the time, there were tamale manufacturers, both run by blacks, within a few blocks of Chilhowee Park.
  • The Woman’s Building included demonstrations of fabric art associated with women—and, perhaps because it couldn’t be fit in anywhere else, also a small Civil War display.
  •  A rarely seen depiction from promotional literature of the fairgrounds.
  • The Land Building. Built anew for the 1913 Exposition, it was by some accounts even more impressive than the Liberal Arts Building. It included a 3,500-seat auditorium where Gifford Pinchot, Helen Keller, and others spoke.

Although it isn’t often mentioned in history books, the NCE drew over a million visitors to the new cause of “environmentalism.”


Full gallery »Jim Thompson: Mountain Exposure


How Jim Thompson became Knoxville's landmark photographer—and helped create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Full gallery »Cas Walker


The legends of the ornery grocer-politician still haunt Knoxville.


Full gallery »The Bijou Theatre

  • The Bijou Theatre
  • Same house, different nights: A Jim Thompson photo of the Bijou taken between acts on opening night in 1909.
  • A crowd at the Tony Rice show this month. Thanks to smaller seats and an additional balcony, the Bijou once accommodated about twice as many people as the theater does today.

A peek at the Bijou Theatre, first opened 100 years ago.


Full gallery »Civil Rights Fighters: The Archive

  • Knoxville College students 'march' through downtown lunch counters during the first stages of the Knoxville sit-in movement. Students identified in the foreground are (left to right): Warren Brown, Robert J. Booker, Olin Franklin, Car Westmoreland, Lucille Thompson, Raymond Melton, Barbara Surrancy, Kendall Smith, Aaron Allen, John Dean, Deford Valentine and Georgia Walker. (Knoxville News Sentinel, March 7, 1960)
  • Counter-protesters from nearby counties were also present at demonstrations, like these from Cocke County who voiced their opinion with a large sign. Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960
  • With its fine lunch counter and the plush Laurel Room for dingin, Rich's was a prime target for local Civil Rights demonstrators. (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960)
  • Nikita Kruschev, a Communist and leader of the Soviet Union, could visit Knoxville and eat at any restaurant in the city, but a black Knoxvillian could not. (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960)
  • As long as African American customers stood up to buy something, except shoes, there was no problem. Sitting at a lunch counter always caused a “horizontal problem,” as was the case at Rich’s Department Store. Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960
  • A group of pickets protest 'second class citizenship' a the rear entrance of Rich's Department Store (now the University of Tennessee Conference Center) on Locust Street. The downtown YMCA is pictured at top right. (Knoxville News Sentinel, June 27, 1960)

The Beck Cultural Center has provided a selection of its archival photos from the Civil Rights fight in Knoxville (originally printed in the Knoxville News Sentinel). They're collected here in roughly the same chronological order the photos were originally published.


Full gallery »Change You Can See: The Highlander Center

  • Myles Horton cofounded the Highlander School with Don West in 1932 and he and his wife, Zilphia, ran the school for decades. Zilphia died in 1956; Myles in 1990. Myles worked with most leaders from the civil rights movement.
  • The Highlander School supported many of the labor movements throughout the South, including this protest by the Congress of Industrial Organizations union, with workers picketing conditions at textile miles in Lumberton, N.C. in 1937.
  • The Highland Center
  • Posing outside the Highlander library in Monteagle for the school’s 25th anniversary in 1957 are, from left to right, Martin Luther King Jr., Pete Seeger, Myles and Zilphia Hortons’ daughter, Charis, Rosa Parks, and Ralph Abernathy. The picture was taken by a “spy” for the reactionary forces against the Civil Rights movement and later used in propaganda against King and Highlander.
  • As resistance to the civil rights movement grew in the 1960s, Highlander and its allies came under attack. Billboards such as this one—showing Martin Luther King Jr. attending a Highlander workshop—were intended to taint both he and the school as “communist” agitators.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt poses with Myles Horton at the school’s 25th anniversary, which she spoke at. The former first lady was an early and long-time financial supporter of the school—which earned her the wrath of conservatives during the McCarthy era.

Inside the Highlander Center's photo archive, recording 80 years of social activism.


Full gallery »Christmas in Knoxville, 1908

  • A newspaper clipping from Knoxville in the week leading up to Christmas, 1908.
  • A newspaper clipping from Knoxville in the week leading up to Christmas, 1908.
  • A newspaper clipping from Knoxville in the week leading up to Christmas, 1908.
  • A newspaper clipping from Knoxville in the week leading up to Christmas, 1908.
  • A newspaper clipping from Knoxville in the week leading up to Christmas, 1908.
  • A newspaper clipping from Knoxville in the week leading up to Christmas, 1908.

It was the first modern Christmas, complete with bootleggers, grifters and basketball on roller skates. And, of course, plenty of advertisements encouraging people to indulge in the spirit of the season. Following are a selection of newspaper clippings from the week leading up to Dec. 25 of that year.


Full gallery »TVA in Color

  • One of Alred T. Palmer's remarkable color transparencies of TVA in the early 1940s.
  • One of Alred T. Palmer's remarkable color transparencies of TVA in the early 1940s.
  • One of Alred T. Palmer's remarkable color transparencies of TVA in the early 1940s.
  • One of Alred T. Palmer's remarkable color transparencies of TVA in the early 1940s.
  • One of Alred T. Palmer's remarkable color transparencies of TVA in the early 1940s.

Alfred T. Palmer took on the assignment of photographing the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the results are an amazing document of life and work at TVA in the early 1940s.


Full gallery »Downtown Knoxville's Lost Riverfront


A rare look at the dwellers of the riverfront, 67 years ago, from the Tennessee Valley Authority archives.


Full gallery »Tennessee Football's Japanese Friend

  • The first man to carry a football in East Tennessee may have been a young Japanese student named Kin Takahashi.
  • One writer remembered 'his lightning-like dashes around the ends, puzzling the opposing teams with this catlike agility.' Perhaps inevitably, Kin Takahashi became known in Tennessee as 'Kentucky Hossie.'
  • Maryville College's Bartlett Hall, under construction, was Takahashi's idea. In keeping with his example, student volunteers did much of the construction work.
  • Maryville College's Bartlett Hall, under construction, was Takahashi's idea. In keeping with his example, student volunteers did much of the construction work.
  • Ike's Cafe, a popular Maryville College gathering place today, occupies the old basketball court in Takahashi's Bartlett Hall.

Was Kin Takahashi the father of East Tennessee football?



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