Mississippi is a state in the South that was named after river. It was first settled by Europeans in 1699. Mississippi was the second state to declare its secession from the United States. It is known for having many tornados every year. It is also the birthplace of the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley.
Mississippi was the last state to ratify the 13th Amendment, 148 years late in 2013. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery in the United States. It was passed by Congress in January 1865 then ratified by the required 27 of the then 36 states in December 1865. Most of the remaining states ratified it over the next few years, excluding Kentucky which was in 1975. In 1995, Mississippi lawmakers finally voted to ratify it but the paperwork was never sent in to be officially signed into law and was mostly forgotten. Then after Steven Spielberg’s movie Lincoln came out, a couple of professors from University of Mississippi became interested in the 13th Amendment. They tracked down a copy of the bill and discovered that it needed the secretary of state to send a copy to the office of the federal register. So, they contacted the current Mississippi secretary of state to file the paperwork. On February 7, 2013 the 13th Amendment became officially ratified in Mississippi.
The teddy bear is one of the most popular toys and just about every child had one growing up. But where did they come from? They were named for President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. The story goes that he was on a bear hunting trip near Onward, Mississippi in 1902. His guide chased, clubbed and chained a black bear to a willow tree and called Teddy Roosevelt over to shoot it. He refused, claiming it was unsportsmanlike. He did order the bear to be shot to put it out of its misery though. It was then made into a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman. Morris Michtom was then inspired to create the teddy bear, a small soft bear cub. He then displayed it in his shop’s window and called it “Teddy’s Bear”. They were a hit and soon others were making their own. They are now a childhood staple.
When you think of prestige ballet, I doubt Mississippi comes to mind. It happens that Jackson, Mississippi is one of only 4 cities in the world that is sanctioned to host the International Ballet Competition. The other three include Moscow, Russia, Varna, Bulgaria and Helsinki, Finland. The International Ballet Competition originated in Varna in 1964 and eventually expanded to other cities. It came to Jackson, Mississippi for the first time in 1979, it returns every 4 years as part of the rotation. So why Jackson? A famed and distinguished ballet teacher, Thalia Mara, moved to Jackson and started a professional company. The company eventually became Ballet Mississippi. In the late 1970s, a group in New York was looking for a place to hold an international competition. Thalia Mara was successful in campaigning for it to be in Jackson. In 1982, Congress passed a Joint Resolution naming Jackson the official home of the IBC. In 1994, the performance hall where the USA IBC is held was renamed to honor Thalia Mara.
Kermit the Frog
Kermit the Frog, the most well-known of the Muppets, got his start in Mississippi. Jim Henson who created the Muppets was born in Greenville, Mississippi in 1936 but spent his early childhood in Leland, Mississippi. He grew up playing among the swamplands near Leland which included many frogs. Jim Henson’s best friend there was a kid named Kermit Scott, who the famous frog is named after. He ended up moving to Maryland later as a kid but as Leland claims, it’s “The Birthplace of Kermit the Frog”. Leland is a small town but they have the Jim Henson Museum. They have memorabilia and puppets that honor Jim Henson’s famous creations. Jim Henson’s wife Jane donated an original Kermit the Frog puppet. In 2011, the town of Leland even renamed a small bridge to the Rainbow Connection Bridge in honor of the famous Muppet song. So, if you are a lover of the Muppets and find yourself near Leland, Mississippi, check out the small but interesting Jim Henson Museum.
Root beer was created in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1898 by Edward Barq Sr. Different recipes for root beer had been around and sold for many years before that, mostly as a syrup, but this was the first sarsaparilla-based one. The Barq’s Brothers Bottling Company was founded in 1890 in New Orleans by Edward and Gaston Barq. The brothers bottled different sodas of their own creation. Their most popular was Orangine. Then Edward Barq moved to Biloxi in 1897 and started the Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works. A year later they debut what would eventually be called Barq’s Root Beer. In 2000, Barq’s was purchased by Coca-Cola. It is one of the most popular root beer brands in the world.