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Tennessee State Symbols


Welcome to the Volunteer State! Brace yourself: Tennessee has more state symbols than any other state except Texas—and Tennessee is far smaller than Texas. Unlike Texas, Tennessee is landlocked, so it doesn’t have any symbols of the sea. (Continued below)

Tennessee state flag Tennessee state seal
Nicknames & Slogans
Nicknames The Volunteer State, Big Bend State, Mother of Southwestern Statesmen  
Slogan Tennessee—America at Its Best 1965
Symbols of State
Motto Agriculture and Commerce 1987
Motto Send Me 2023
Song My Homeland, Tennessee 1925
Cultivated Flower iris (Iridaceae) 1933
Wildflower passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) 1919
Wildflower Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) 2012
Tree tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) 1947
Evergreen Tree eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) 2012
Bicentennial Tree yellowwood tree (Cladrastis lutea) 1991
Fruit tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) 2003
Bird mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) 1933
Game Bird bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) 1988
Wild Animal raccoon (Procyon lotor) 1972
Mammal Tennessee Walking Horse (Equus caballus) 2000
Reptile eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina) 1995
Amphibian Tennessee cave salamander (Gyrinophilus palleucus) 1995
Sport Fish smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) 2005
(former) largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) 1988
Commercial Fish channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) 1988
Insect firefly (Photinus pyralis) 1975
Insect ladybug (Coccinella) 1975
Butterfly zebra swallowtail (Protographium marcellus) 1994
Agricultural Insect honeybee (Apis mellifera) Redundant Symbol 1990
Gem Tennessee pearl (Unionoida) 1979
Rock limestone 1979
Mineral agate 1969
Fossil † Pterotrigonia thoracica 1998
Soil Dickson 1998
Cultural Symbols
Symbol Circular feature of state flag 2016
Railroad Museum Cowan Railroad Museum, Franklin County 2007
Railroad Museum Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, Hamilton County 1978
Railroad Library A.C. Kalmbach Memorial Library 2004
Aviation Hall of Fame Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame, Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport in Sevier County 2001
Tartan 1999
Artifact “Sandy,” Mississippian stone statuary 2014
Beverage milk Redundant Symbol 2009
Pet dogs and cats that are adopted from Tennessee animal shelters and rescues 2014
Botanical Garden University of Tennessee Botanical Gardens 2013
Site of Freshwater Pearl Culturing Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm and Museum, Camden, Benton County 2004
Folk Dance square dance Redundant Symbol 1980
Art Form songwriting 2003
Song Rocky Top 1982
Song The Pride of Tennessee, Tennessee Waltz, When It’s Iris Time in Tennessee 1996
Song Smoky Mountain Rain 2010
Song Tennessee (by Vivian Rorie) 1992
Song Tennessee (by John R. Bean) 2011
Song The Tennessee in Me 2023
Song Copperhead Road 2023
Public School Song My Tennessee 1955
U.S. Bicentennial Song Fly Eagle, Fly! 1976
U.S. Bicentennial March Song The Tennessee Salute 1975
Bicentennial Rap Song A Tennessee Bicentennial Rap 1996
Bicentennial School Song My Home Will Always Be in Tennessee 1996
Fife and Drum Corps Watauga Valley Fife and Drum Corps 2014
Theatre Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville 1999
Outdoor Drama Production at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area 2009
Poem Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee 1973
Bicentennial Poem Who Are We 1997
Cowboy Poet Laureate David Nelson 2004
Christian Poet Laureate Colonel Hugh X. Lewis 2006
Painting “Tennessee Treasures” and “Tennessee Treasures Too,” by Michael Sloan 2007
Fine Art porcelain painting 1981
Artist Burton Callicott 1991
Artist-in-Residence H. R. Lovell 2000
Jamboree and Crafts Festival The Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival – House Joint Resolution 24 1997
Rifle Barrett Model M82/M107 2016
Airplane Memphis Belle 2017
Flag Salute 1981
Flag Salute 1987
Declamation I Am Tennessee
Veterans Poem “Home To Stay” by the late Jasper N. Bailey 2014
Veterans Poem “Echoes From a Soldier’s Grave” by Sergeant First Class Ernest E. Sharp 2016
Language English Redundant Symbol 1984

Surprisingly, right-wing Texas’ symbols are much mellower than Tennessee’s. Although Texans recently adopted an official handgun, Tennessee is the only state with an official sniper rifle!

The Volunteer State’s roster of symbols includes lots of cultural symbols, including a variety of songs and poems. It also has far too many odious political and military symbols, including two official flag salutes and two official veterans poems. Why not adopt two state flags?

Tennessee’s official airplane is the Memphis Belle, of World War II fame. This airborne monster ranks as one of history’s greatest killing machines. For an encore, Tennesseans designated a sniper rifle (the Barrett Model M82/M107) their official rifle. Why not cap it off with an official biochemical weapon?

Even the nickname Volunteer State reeks of war. It recalls the Tennesseans who volunteered to participate in the invasion of Mexico, which was an orgy of rape, torture, and slaughter. Is the Tennessee cave salamander the only symbol we can admire?

On a positive note, Tennessee’s flag is considered one of the finest state flags. The red field is the perfect symbol of all the blood that has been shed by the U.S. military.

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If you think state flags and flowers are nothing more than trivia, guess again. A thorough exploration of the more than 1,500 items adopted as state symbols embraces geography, history, and psychology.

You have found the best state symbols website, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The introduction above is adapted from Geobop’s State Symbols and My State Symbols Book, by far the biggest and most detailed state symbols references ever. You can learn still more about the symbols of the 50 states in the books Flag Quest and Grading the States. (Learn more about them here.)

After you spend some time exploring your favorite state’s symbols, you can come back here and tell us what you think about them.

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