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Twenty years before Nashville became known in the nation as "Music City, U.S.A.," it was derided by its locals as Smokey Joe.
"Walking down Broadway in the 30s, you would see a lot of coal soot," says James Hoobler, Senior Curator, Art & Architecture, Tennessee State Museum. "Nashville was still burning anthracite and the soot was everywhere." Together with the soot spewing out of the engines of trains at Union Station, according to Hoobler, Nashville had a pall over it. So much soot covered Nashville, adds Sally Ellner Brunson Scott and Tom P. Henderson III, that "they called Nashville Smokey Joe because you couldn't see the city."
Though the city continued to struggle with its air quality for a number of years, by the mid-1950s, Nashville was a completely different city.

Hoobler, Scott and Henderson are just a few of the Nashvillians interviewed, and photos of the transformation of Broadway are just a snapshot of the hundreds culled through and gathered for Nashville Public Television's documentary, Nashville: The 20th Century in Photographs, Volume 2.

Volume 2 of the series picks up where Volume 1 left off, with Nashville crawling out from under the Great Depression and celebrating the completion of the permanent Parthenon in Centennial Park. The end of the 30s would see citywide progress as a result of The New Deal and the Works Progress Administration, the development of the airport at Berry Field, and a thriving rail business at Union Station. Photographs from the archives of The Tennessean, the Tennessee State Library and Archives, the Library of Congress and more tell the story.

Production Credits

Justin Harvey
Producer / Writer / Director

Susie Thiemonge

John Pratt

Jim DeMarco

Kevin Crane
Executive Producer