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A woman poses in front of the Calhoun Gold Mine historical marker

Woman with Historical Marker

A woman poses for a picture in front of the Calhoun Gold Mine historical marker in Dahlonega.

Courtesy of Digital Library of Georgia, Chestatee Regional Library System Collection.

Road Signs

Road Signs

A hitchhiker stands between road signs on U.S. highways 41 and 411, circa 1945.

Courtesy of Edwin L. Jackson

Georgia Tourists’ Home Movies

This compilation of home movie footage from the 1940s and 1950s shows families vacationing at various tourist destinations in Georgia.Booth Williams Home Movie Collection (ca. 1949) and Geneva Grant Home Movie Collection (ca. 1957)

Dixie Highway Map, 1919

Dixie Highway Map, 1919

The Dixie Highway stretched from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, south to Miami, Florida.See full-size map.

Courtesy of Edwin L. Jackson

Chain Gang Labor

Chain Gang Labor

Chain gangs performed the majority of work on southern roads between 1900 and 1930. Between 1910 and 1915 a force of convict laborers on road crews doubled Georgia's improved road mileage.

Courtesy of Edwin L. Jackson

Air Conditioner Advertisement

Air Conditioner Advertisement

Called the unsung hero of the modern South, air conditioning tamed the hot, humid climate and revolutionized the tourism industry. By the 1950s small window units were perfected and spread through motels and hotels across the Sunbelt states. 

Courtesy of Edwin L. Jackson

Howard Johnson’s Advertisement

Howard Johnson’s Advertisement

Howard Johnson's began in 1929 as a restaurant in Quincy, Massachusetts. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the franchise restaurants spread along the East Coast, and in 1954 owner Howard Johnson opened his first motor lodge near Savannah.

Courtesy of Edwin L. Jackson

Ludowici Billboard

Ludowici Billboard

C. W. Herndon, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, stands before a billboard, erected at his suggestion, in 1970. During the mid-twentieth century, the town of Ludowici in east Georgia acquired the reputation of being a speed trap, in which tourists traveling to and from Florida were often stopped.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
lon001.

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Know Georgia Better Booklet

Know Georgia Better Booklet

In 1946 Georgia launched the "Know Georgia Better" campaign to encourage residents to visit and become more familiar with sites across the state. The main objective of the initiative was to ready the state for advertising its attractions nationally. 

See Georgia First Campaign

See Georgia First Campaign

Bill Burson delivers a speech promoting the "See Georgia First" tourism campaign, circa 1965.From Carl E. Sanders's Papers.

Bill Hardman

Bill Hardman

While serving as Georgia's tourism director from 1959 to 1970, Bill Hardman revolutionized the state's image among vacationers. He was the driving force behind the creation of the state's welcome centers and of clever campaigns like "See Georgia First" and "Stay and See Georgia." Through his efforts, the state shed its reputation for speed traps, clip joints, and poor roads.From William Hardman Sr.'s Papers.

Welcome Center Dedication

Governor Carl Sanders dedicates a new welcome center in Valdosta in 1964.Carl E. Sanders Papers.

Abit Massey Interview on Tourism

Abit Massey discusses his experiences as director of the Georgia Department of Commerce in an interview conducted on September 19, 2011. Massey held this position under Governor Ernest Vandiver from 1959 to 1963, and he was instrumental in the construction of Georgia's welcome centers and the development of the state’s Tourist Division.Interview with Abit Massey, Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 131.

Bill Hardman Interview on Tourism

As director of tourism from 1959 to 1970, Bill Hardman was instrumental in establishing Georgia as a tourist destination. In this interview recorded on February 4, 2013, he discusses the opening of welcome centers and the state's marketing efforts to persuade travelers en route to Florida to "see Georgia first." Interview with Bill Hardman Sr., Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 146.

Welcome Center Hostess

Welcome Center Hostess

In 1962 Georgia opened its first welcome center along Highway 301 in Sylvania, near the South Carolina border. While travelers picked up maps, brochures, and souvenirs, hostesses armed with southern hospitality and donated Coca-Cola, peanuts, and Royal Crown cola would persuade them to stay and see Georgia's many attractions. Soon thereafter, welcome centers were built at Savannah, Lavonia, Ringgold, Columbus, and Valdosta.William Hardman Sr. Papers.

New Yorker Cover

New Yorker Cover

The cover of the New Yorker for July 22, 1996, depicts a Georgia pig farmer holding an Olympic torch. In the summer of 1996 more than 2 million tourists flocked to Atlanta to attend the Centennial Olympic Games. For decades the city, known as both the capital of a romanticized Old South and an emblem of the business-savvy New South, had struggled with a conflicted identity. Olympic promoters selectively adopted elements of southern identity for the event, fully aware that the Games offered a prime opportunity to sell Georgia to a worldwide audience.

Stone Mountain Carving

Stone Mountain Carving

The carving on Stone Mountain depicts the Confederate icons Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and Jefferson Davis. Commissioned by the president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the sculptor Gutzon Borglum began work on the relief in 1915. He was fired in 1925, and Augustus Lukeman completed the carving.

Photograph by Mark Griffin, Wikimedia

Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island

The western side of Jekyll Island is fronted by Jekyll Creek and salt marsh, and the eastern edge of the island is defined by its beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

Courtesy of Jekyll Island Museum

Okefenokee Swamp Flora

Okefenokee Swamp Flora

The Okefenokee Swamp, located in the Lower Coastal Plain geographic province, supports a variety of plant and animal life. The swamp is the largest in North America, covering approximately 700 square miles.

Photograph from John Whitehill

Tallulah Falls Train

Tallulah Falls Train

In the wake of the Civil War, transcontinental railroads began to advertise pleasure trips outside the Northeast. In the 1870s and 1880s, passenger fare for a round-trip transcontinental ticket cost at least $300, worth approximately $7,250 today. By the early twentieth century, the rising popularity and affordability of the automobile democratized travel and undercut travel by rail.

Courtesy of Gary Doster

Cliff House Hotel

Cliff House Hotel

The Cliff House Hotel, built in 1882 by Rufus L. Moss Sr., was the first lodging establishment in Tallulah Falls. The hotel served the thriving tourist industry until 1937, when it burned in a kitchen fire.

Courtesy of Rabun County Historical Society

Tallulah Falls Hiking Party

Tallulah Falls Hiking Party

Tallulah touted attractions that vacationers seeking a place for healthful respite desired—clean, cool air and water, a plethora of outdoor activities, and remarkable vistas. Tourists not only hiked to the falls, but swam in the river, lounged on rocks, and enjoyed horseback riding.Dudley Mays Hughs Collection.

Stuart’s Hotel

Stuart’s Hotel

A postcard pictures guests of Stuart's Hotel in Thomasville, circa 1900, in the heart of Georgia's wiregrass region.

Courtesy of Gary Doster

Quail Hunting

Quail Hunting

By the 1920s approximately 300,000 acres of farmland in the Red Hills had been converted to private shooting plantations for hunting bobwhite quail. In March 1970 the Georgia General Assembly passed House Resolution No. 694-1436 naming the bobwhite quail the state's official game bird.Ed Friend Visual Materials.

The Bobwhite Quail

The Bobwhite Quail

Herbert L. Stoddard, an ecologist specializing in the management of longleaf pine–wiregrass forests, published The Bobwhite Quail: Its Propogation, Preservation, and Increase on Georgia Farms in 1937.

Jekyll Island Ferry

Jekyll Island Ferry

The Jekyll Island Club operated from January to April and maintained an extensive staff. Seasonal employees filled positions on the waitstaff as dish and pot washers, chambermaids, and porters. The most important and highest paid employee was the chef, who earned up to $150 per month. Local African Americans served as bellboys, stable hands, caddies, washerwomen, housecleaners, and day laborers on construction sites. These workers earned between $1.00 and $1.50 per day and were provided with housing in segregated dormitories and cottages.

Courtesy of Jekyll Island Museum

Melvin E. Thompson

Melvin E. Thompson

As state revenue commissioner, Melvin E. Thompson recommended the purchase of Jekyll Island, and as governor he moved forward with the state's acquisition of the island in 1947. Although taunted by his political foe Herman Talmadge, who dubbed the project "Thompson’s Folly," Thompson refused to give up on the creation of a state beach park for the "plain people of Georgia." In recognition of his work on the project, the Jekyll Island Bridge was named in his honor in 1989.M.E. Thompson Papers.

Segregation at Jekyll Island

The Jekyll Island Authority opened a segregated section of beach, named the St. Andrews Subdivision, in 1955 at the southern end of the island. Although the facilities were not equal to those enjoyed by white visitors, Jekyll Island provided the only public beach available to African Americans in Georgia through the 1950s. In 1964 the district court decision in Law v. Jekyll Island State Park Authority mandated the desegregation of all state-operated facilities, and the island integrated peacefully.

Hebard Cypress Mills

Hebard Cypress Mills

During the Second Seminole War (1835-42), the federal government forcibly removed Native Americans from the swamp in order to make way for white settlers. In 1891 the Suwanee Canal Company purchased 238,120 acres of the Okefenokee Swamp with the intentions of draining to land to establish cotton, sugar, and rice plantations. After that company’s failure, timber companies attempted to construct railroads, canals, and even drained portions of the swamp in order to ease the removal of precious cypress logs.

Courtesy of Gary Doster

Okefenokee Swamp

Okefenokee Swamp

Several local farmers travel through the Okefenokee Swamp in Ware County, circa 1900. At more than 700 square miles, the Okefenokee is the largest swamp in North America.

Courtesy of Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia, #
war012.

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Swamp Water

Swamp Water

The film Swamp Water (1941), directed by Jean Renoir, premiered in Waycross on October 23, 1941, which was declared "Swamp Water Day" by Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge.

Byrd-Matthews Lumber Company

Byrd-Matthews Lumber Company

In 1910 the Byrd-Matthews Corporation built a major sawmill in Helen to accommodate the booming timber industry.

Courtesy of Gary Doster

Helen Gas Station

Helen Gas Station

Although some critics bemoaned the campy commercialization of Helen, town officials have regulated the Bavarian alpine facade for all downtown businesses since 1969. One service station owner borrowed $15,000 to add a store-top to his shop in order to conform to the alpine motif.

Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

Helen Brochure

Helen Brochure

A brochure, produced circa 1975, promotes Helen as a tourist destination. Pete Hodkinson remained at the forefront of Helen’s Bavarian tourism industry until his death in 1976. Not only did he host the first Oktoberfest in 1970, but he also organized and participated in the now-famous Helen-to-the-Atlantic hot air balloon race, which debuted in May 1974.

Stone Mountain Carving

Stone Mountain Carving

The carving of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's head is unveiled at Stone Mountain on January 19, 1924. Some of Georgia's earliest tourist attractions were Civil War battle sites and memorials. Most sites dedicated to the conflict favored narratives of battlefield glory and commemoration of fallen soldiers, and downplayed the history of slavery and emancipation.

Courtesy of Gary Doster

Ernest and Betty Vandiver

Ernest and Betty Vandiver

Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver (front right) and his wife, Betty, helped dedicate the Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad in 1962. The state purchased Stone Mountain in 1958 and created the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA) to administer the site.S. Ernest Vandiver Jr. Papers.

Stone Mountain Brochure

Stone Mountain Brochure

In 1964 the Georgia Chamber of Commerce deemed Stone Mountain Park a critical asset. A statewide campaign promoting the site included twenty-six billboards installed along Interstates 75 and 20. The advertisements tempted visitors to stop by "the South’s newest, most exiting vacationland," which promised fun and entertainment for visitors. By the 1970s promotional campaigns focused largely on the recreational features of Stone Mountain.

Courtesy of Edwin L. Jackson