CHARLOTTE (Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016) – The Super Bowl-bound Carolina Panthers represent the states of North and South Carolina, but call Charlotte, North Carolina home. Coming off of a record 15-1 season, these hometown heroes will make their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history on Feb. 7, 2016.
A Super Bowl win would add to an already impressive roster of Charlotte firsts.
Before the Panthers put a spotlight on Charlotte, the region had carved a name for itself with key innovations that have touched every part of the nation. Some were big and impressive, like the rise of huge banks and the growth of national retailers, such as Lowe’s Home Improvement. Others were small and quirky, including Lance’s beloved peanut butter snack crackers and the orange traffic barrels that pepper highway construction sites across the country.
Take a peek into the fascinating history of the Panthers’ hometown.
The Meck Dec, 1775
While no copies have ever been found, local tradition holds that Charlotte farmers signed a Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775, more than a year before the nation’s Declaration of Independence. On this day each year, the May 20th Society still celebrates Charlotte’s rebellious history and visionary spirit. On May 31, 1775, citizens did sign the Mecklenburg Resolves, which declared the authority of the King to be “null and void.”
First gold discovery, 1799/First branch of the U.S. Mint, 1837
After a 17-pound piece of gold was discovered in Charlotte in 1799, mines sprouted across the region, including in what is now Uptown Charlotte and South End. Today, you can visit the Reed Gold Mine historic site near Albemarle, North Carolina (just east of Charlotte). In 1837, the first branch of the U.S. Mint opened here, and its reconstruction can be seen at the Mint Museum Randolph.
NASCAR stock car racing, 1949
In Charlotte on June 19, 1949, the first NASCAR Strictly Stock (now NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) race was held. Many of the sport’s most innovative promoters, engineers and drivers, from Bruton Smith and Humpy Wheeler to the Pettys and Earnhardts, have made the Charlotte region their home base over the years.
The birth of funk music, 1965
James Brown, “Godfather” of the rhythm-based music called funk, recorded the genre’s landmark 1965 album, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” in a Charlotte studio. It was named one of Rolling Stone’s top 100 records of all time.
Interstate banking, 1980s
In 1985, Charlotte mogul Hugh McColl helped craft the Interstate Banking Compact, which allowed banks in the Southeast to expand across state lines. By 1998, McColl sat at the helm of Bank of America, the nation’s first coast-to-coast bank. Today it’s the largest U.S. bank, and it’s still headquartered in Charlotte.
Orange traffic barrels, 1985
Once upon a time, awkward and dangerous 55-gallon metal drums marked highway construction zones. Tom Cory, an engineer at Radiator Specialty Company in Charlotte, had a better idea: to make lightweight, safe barrels out of plastic. His famous barrels are everywhere.
The Carolina Panthers, 1993
On December 15, 1987, Carolina Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson officially announced an NFL franchise bid for the Carolinas, and on October 26, 1993, NFL owners unanimously selected Carolina as the 29th NFL franchise. It became the first expansion team since 1976.
U.S. National Whitewater Center, 2006
The U.S. National Whitewater Center opened in Charlotte in 2006, becoming home to the largest man-made whitewater river in the world. The outdoor entertainment complex, featuring whitewater rafting, zip lining, rock climbing, challenge courses and more, now also serves as an official Olympic training site for canoe/kayak slalom. Charlotte will host the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for canoe/kayak slalom at the Whitewater Center April 7-9, 2016.
(This is a seven-part series leading up to Super Bowl 50 brought to you collaboratively by the City of Charlotte, Charlotte Center City Partners, the Charlotte Chamber, the Charlotte Regional Partnership and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. This series features facts and information about the Carolina Panthers’ hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.)