Charleston Gateway

Lowcountry Lowdowns

Charleston Firsts

1670
The first settlers brought cotton seed to Carolina.
1690
Rice was first exported and expanded within a decade to a volume for which “there were not enough ships in the harbor,” as noted by the Collector of Customs.
1707 – 1728
The first American Woman artist, Henrietta Johnson, painted pastel portraits of the colony’s leading citizens, among them one of Colonel William Rhett, who in 1718 had captured notorious pirate Stede Bonnet.
1734
The first Native American to receive a medical degree, from Leyden University in Holland, was Carolina’s William Bull.
1735
The first American performance of an opera, Flora or Hob in the Well, took place in Charleston.
1736
The Dock Street Theatre, the first American building exclusively for theatrical productions, was contructed.
1736
Charleston was first, in 1736, to organize a fire insurance company, the “Friendly Society for the Mutual Insurance of Houses Against Fire.”
1737
Dr. John Lining, a friend of Benjamin Franklin, conducted this country’s first recorded scientific weather observations from his home at Broad and King Streets.
1748
The first cotton was exported from Charleston Harbor, and Sea Island cotton remained world famous until World War I and the tragedy of the boll weevil plague.
1748
The South’s oldest library, the Charleston Library Society, now at 164 King Street, came into existence.
1773
The Charleston Chamber of Commerce, the country’s oldest, was founded.
1773
The Charleston Museum was established and became the first public museum in America.
1775
South Carolina’s first naval engagement of the Revolution was fought off Charleston Harbor.
1780
Charlestonian Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress, while en route to Holland to raise funds for the American cause, was captured by the British and became the first American patriot to be imprisoned in the Tower of London.
1785
America’s first municipal college, the College of Charleston, was founded.
1786
The first golf club in America was founded in Charleston. Its site on Harleston Green has since been built over, a part of today’s Harleston Village.
1824
Reform Judaism came to this country at K.K. Beth Elohim Synagogue on Hasell Street.
1827
America’s first Fireproof Building was completed.
1830
The world’s longest railroad line was built between Charleston and Hamburg, SC.
1864
The world’s first successful submarine attack took place in Charleston Harbor. Both the H. L. Hunley and its target, the Union warship “Housatonic,” were sunk.
1889
Tea was first successfully established. Even today it is grown on Wadmalaw Island and distributed under the name of American Classic Tea Company.
1889
America’s first woman pirate was Anne Bonny, a Charleston belle.
1889
America’s first camellias were planted at Middleton Place, the oldest formally landscaped gardens in this country.

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