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10.28.23 – AZ Animals

The Magnolia state has a number of inventors, creatives and medical breakthroughs to its name. There are, indeed, some interesting facts about Mississippi.

From Government Marijuana to Sleds to Medical Breakthroughs

The Magnolia state has a number of inventors, creatives and medical breakthroughs to its name. There are, indeed, some interesting facts about Mississippi.

This neighbor to Louisiana has some hints of the Southwest, a dash of Appalachia, another dash of the bayou, a handful of the Deep South, and some oceanfront. It’s a lot of things all at once. Let’s learn about some of the more surprising ones.

1. They Have America’s First Federal Marijuana Lab

Premium Indoor cannabis grown under LED light
The first government lab to study the effects of marijuana was at the University of Mississippi.©Kaylin Colette/Shutterstock.com

In the 1960s, the federal government started a research lab at the University of Mississippi. It’s not what we’d expect.

To better understand the cannabis plant, the DEA supplied some confiscated seeds and the project was born: studying marijuana. The goal was not only criminal affairs but also to consider the medical benefits.

While it once had a half-million square feet of actively cultivated herb, the weed is now only grown hydroponically.

Hemp, cannabis and various forms of marijuana are now a multi-billion dollar, (mainly) legal industry. Still, The Man was chopping his crops back in the days of Lyndon Johnson. That’s one of many unexpected Mississippi facts.

2. Medicine and Interesting Facts about Mississippi, First Successful Lung Transplant

Some might say it’s a tough call.

A prisoner is in jail for murder. He’s about to die from illnesses, one of them being emphysema. He might get the chance to live if he survives a lung transplant. It’s risky, but is it worth it? In Mississippi, John Russell, a convicted man, was given the chance at a little bit more time above ground in 1963.

A fellow Mississippian, surgeon James Hardy, successfully transplanted a left lung into Russell.

It’s a testament to tough calls and the human capacity for mercy. John Russell survived eighteen more days before succumbing to an ancillary infection. It was the first successful human lung transplant on record. It happened in Mississippi and was performed by a Mississippian and it’s indeed an interesting fact about Mississippi.

3. More Medicine, First Effective Heart Transplant – Same Doctor!

Portrait of a surgeon with magnification glass during the open heart procedure in operating room
Two world-changing organ transplants occurred in Mississippi.©pirke/Shutterstock.com

This same Dr. Hardy, in this same state of Mississippi, was the first to transplant a heart into a human from a chimpanzee. It lasted barely an hour in the unconscious patient, but it was a groundbreaking first.

This unpalatable bravery paved the way for doctors to give countless Moms and Dads a chance to hold their first grandchild or celebrate their golden anniversary. Yet another controversial but still one of many world-changing and interesting facts about the state of Mississippi.

4. Coca-Cola Was First Bottled in Mississippi

It’s perhaps America’s most successful export ever. The original magic elixir Coca-Cola was first put in bottles at a little shop in Vicksburg, MS. The drink wasn’t invented there but an industrious shopkeeper saw potential and ran with it. It was an American invention if there ever was one.

This original candy store is still an unofficial Coca-Cola museum dedicated to the brand’s history.

5. Sweet and Interesting Facts about Mississippi, Another Soda

Soda, Soft Drinks, Flavored
Mississippi has a history rich with soda accomplishments.©successo images/Shutterstock.com

Biloxi, MS, has probably the world’s only historical marker noting root beer.

Edward C. Barq made his fortune in Mississippi. It was apparently a good seller. Within fifty years, the company franchised out bottling operations to 200 businesses. The company started out as Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works sometime between 1897 and 1900. Another neighboring tonic, Coca-Cola, bought the original Barq’s in 1995. One of a few sweet and interesting facts about Mississippi.

6. Fed Ex’s Founder Is from Marks, Mississippi

Frederick W. Smith was born decades before Amazon Prime. But he, too, had a vision. A man from Marks, Mississippi, who did well for himself graduated from Yale (where he may have been frat brothers with a future U.S. president).

He went on to found the company Federal Express, FedEx.

Overcoming a harsh childhood bone disease and his father’s death when Fred was only four, he recently donated some of his company’s first planes to the Smithsonian. Not bad at all for Mr. Smith and not bad for interesting facts about Mississippi.

7. A Not-to-Snowy State Built the Flexible Flyer

The mesmerizing snowy winter scene on Mount Hotham in Victoria, Australia
There isn’t much snow in Mississippi (less than a half-inch per year). But for twenty-years, the state manufactured the Flexible Flyer, one of the earliest mass-market recreational snow sleds.©Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

Mississippi is the fourth-most snowless state. The average annual snowfall is under a half-inch. But, a big seller for twenty years, the Original Flexible Flyer track sled was built in West Point, Mississippi. It was a point of pride for locals throughout the factory’s stay.

8. Interesting Facts about Mississippi and Cleaning Up, Pine Sol Inventor

The crowns of longleaf pine tree species native to the Southeastern United States
At the start of the Great Depression, an enterprising chemist Harry A. Cole invented Pine Sol in Mississippi.©Natalya Chernyavskaya/Shutterstock.com

It sounds like an invention by a Maine lumberjack’s wife or someone living off-the-grid in Washington state. But it’s not. A chemist in Mississippi, Harry A. Cole, invented Pine Sol at the start of the Great Depression. If there was ever a good time to be industrious, this was it.

9. Finance and Interesting Facts about Mississippi, First Mississippi Corporation

First Mississippi Corporation actually started as a co-op for agriculture fertilizers. At one time, it was the single Mississippi-based company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The Jackson company still does over a half-billion (with a b) in yearly sales. Not bad.

10. Was the Dollar Sign First Used In Mississippi?

Hands taking  us dollars  out from wallet on the street
Was the first dollar sign used in print in Mississippi? It may have been.©lzf/iStock via Getty Images

There’s some debate about where the dollar sign first came from, but like most things in print, it’s who got there first.

Northern Ireland immigrant Oliver Pollock lived in Pinckneyville, MS, sometime after setting up shop as a merchant in the young Bayou South. One of his hastily scrawled invoices in 1778 had a “P” squashed on top of an “s,” which roughly approximates the dollar sign. It’s cited as hard evidence for the claim that this was the origination of the dollar sign; there are several cost effective and weird Mississippi facts.

11. Mississippi and the Teddy Bear

Brown teddy bear isolated in front of a white background.
Teddy Roosevelt’s hunting expedition in Mississippi may have given rise to the now-famous toy.©Ralers/iStock via Getty Images

In hopes of giving then-president Teddy Roosevelt a good vacation, the governor of Mississippi supposedly tied up a bear for the president to hunt. An avid and dedicated sportsman, Roosevelt declined the staged hunt, leading to political hay about “Teddy’s Bear.”

History.com states that in that year of 1902, a German company debuted a plush “Steiff” bear overseas. Still, that same year, an inventive couple marketed their own Teddy Bear out of their New York City candy store and did quite well, as we know.

All of this is from a vacation in Mississippi. That’s indeed one of a few weird Mississippi facts.

12. Not California, but It’s a Long Beach

Biloxi Beach, on the Gulf coast, has turtles, a light house and all the sandy goodness a beach can give. And it takes it’s time: that is, it’s 26 miles long. There are some of those famous stilt house by the beach head tides. Trying to get those steps in?

13. More Interesting Beach Facts about Mississippi, Sandhill Cranes Fly the Red Eye

sandhill cranes courting in tall grasses
Scientists have noticed at least five actions that demonstrate courtship in sandhill cranes. These lovely birds are almost four feet high and live along the Mississippi coastline.©iStock.com/GummyBone

The Mississippi Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis pulla) are a species that apparently live only in a small spot of land by the beach in this state. They are an oddly bright grey with a crimson pate. They’re about four feet tall standing straight up! They are an endangered species with a few hundred birds at most remaining.

14. Fourth-Worst Ever U.S. Hurricane Landed in Mississippi

Eye of the Hurricane. Hurricane on Earth. Typhoon over planet Earth.. Category 5 super typhoon approaching the coast. View from outer space. (Elements of this image furnished by NASA)
Hurricane Katrina was actually not the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. Gulf coast. In 1969, Hurricane Camille, a Category 5 smashed into Waveland, MS.©Evgeniyqw/Shutterstock.com

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina plowed through the Gulf Coast, devastating homes, buildings and land across four states, including Mississippi. But it actually wasn’t the strongest Gulf hurricane.

In August 1969, Hurricane Camille made landfall in Waveland, MS, blowing 190 mph winds. Weather.com states it is one of only four Category 5 hurricanes to land on U.S. soil.

15. Writing and Interesting Facts about Mississippi: Magnolia’s Successful Writers

a wonderful library of old books in Spain
The Magnolia state is home to four extremely accomplished writers: (amongst others) William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright and John Grisham.©Manuel Alvarez/Shutterstock.com

Mississippi has a long and storied literary history. The state is the one-time publishing home of National Geographic, a magazine that overlaps three centuries in print. But there’s a lot more.

The world, the country and the marketplace have all recognized four literary names: William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Richard Wright and John Grisham. All of them are Mississippians.

16. William Faulkner, Mississippi’s Nobel Laureate

The world recognized Faulkner’s gift for prose in 1950. The Nobel Institute awarded him the Nobel Prize for Literature “for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel.” Faulkner spent most of his life in Mississippi with a short span in Louisiana. He also contributed to the big screen as an MGM writer in the 1930s to support his young family.

17. Eudora Welty, A Mississippi Writer Who Racks Up Trophies

Eudora Welty won a Pulitzer for her novel The Optimist’s Daughter. She also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Jimmy Carter said at the 1980 ceremony, “Through photography, essays and fiction, Eudora Welty has enriched our lives and shown us the wonder of human experience.”

Her famous short story “Why I Live at the P.O. (post office)” even stretched into the high-tech telecom world. A software engineer named Steve Dorner named an early system of email “Eudora” as a tribute to the generational Mississippian writer.

18. Richard Wright, A Guggenheim Fellow and Native Son

In 1939, Natchez, MS native and noted author Richard Wright was granted a Guggenheim fellowship for a collection of short stories. No small task. Two years later he dropped his opus Native Son. The book was a bestseller. Wright actuall played the lead character in an Argentina film based on the novel.

19. John Grisham, A Lawyer and Best Selling Writer

Writing about this last writer is as humbling as the other three. Not only is he an accomplished writer, he’s an accomplished lawyer from the state of Mississippi.

Not only that, John Grisham has sold more than 300 million books. He’s up there on the writing podium with household names—Steven King, Tom Clancy, Danielle Steele—that can sell their books at the airport. A prolific writer, Business Insider has a list of the best 20 John Grisham books.

A Fascinating State with Fascinating People and Fascinating Accomplishments

Mississippi has rebounded in the 21st century from a rough past, and these fun facts about the Magnolia State show they can get things done and, indeed, they have.

About the Author

Isaac Peterson 

Isaac began writing as a paid staff reporter for his college newspaper. After getting his B.A. in Divinity, he was a daycare teacher who emphasized God’s natural world, and all the creatures, into his learning activities. He worked as Staff Writer for a Midwest-based global online retailer before going full-time freelance. As a solo writer, he’s covered gray wolf sightings in the Southwest U.S., smart home upgrades to backyard chicken coops, training American bulldogs and countless other topics, animal and otherwise; especially technical writing. Since his childhood in northern New England, he’s been hooked on the beauty of this earth and the outdoors. Isaac loves biking, running, snowboarding, skateboarding and hiking in all of it. In his new home of the Great Lakes, he’s spotted numerous herons, rabbits, squirrels, deer, a few toads and at least one turtle on his trail runs. He especially enjoys talking critters with his little sister who loves all animals big and small from giant orcas to her own pet beagle (Mister B).