A 1977 Tennessee Highway Map & a poem

David Bennett                                                        March 28, 2014 

1977 Tennessee State Map (click picture for a larger image)

About two weeks ago I saw on Mark Richmond’s Face Book page a photo of a 1977 Tennessee Official Highway Map. Mark is with the Grand Old Dulcimer Club in Nashville and a friend had found and given him the map because featured on the front was a painting of a woman playing a mountain dulcimer. When Mark posted the photo on FB some of the speculation was that “maybe” the lady on the map was one of the Carter’s playing.

Soooo….. I had to have a copy of the map for myself. Looking on EBay I found and bought my own map.

Wanting to know if there was a story behind this 1977 highway map, the lady playing the dulcimer, or Steve Brady the artist, I sent an e-mail to Mike Bell, the curator at the Tennessee State Museum, to see if he might know something about the history and background of the 1977 map. I had become acquainted with Mr. Bell last year during the David Schnaufer dulcimer exhibit at the museum. Mr. Bell had also helped me with the research on my vintage (possibly pre-civil war) hammered dulcimer.

Yesterday I heard back from Mr. Bell and he had sent my inquiry to the Director of the Folklife Program Tennessee Arts Commission, Mr. Robert Cogswell. The bottom line is neither of them could find out anything about the lady playing the mountain dulcimer on the map (so it’s not likely to be one of the Carters), or even about the artist. Mr. Cogswell said he doubted that the Tennessee Department of Transportation would still have any records pertaining to production of the annual roadmap from this far back because usually such files are only kept in the state records warehouse for about 7 years.

When I thanked Mr. Bell and Mr. Cogswell for looking into it for me I told them “Thank you for taking the time to look into this for me. This is actually helpful as I mostly wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any interesting story or factoid behind the picture on the road map. The fact that there is no interesting story is, well, interesting to me.” As my map is in good shape I think I’ll frame my map and hang it with my other dulcimer memorabilia.

As an aside, while I was conducting my “research” on the 1977 map I found in the “Tennessee Blue Book” a poem written by Major Hooper Penuel that tells the history of Tennessee from the time it was “an unsettled territory” to fairly modern times. The reason I particularly liked this poem is it has a line about dulcimers. The poem is titled, I Am Tennessee. The stanza mentioning the dulcimer reads:

My music is heard around the world. Blues, soul and rock and roll from the Memphis Delta, Country from Nashville, and the unique sound of the dulcimer from Appalachia. Yes, my history is a proud one. From my early beginnings as an unsettled territory until today as a leader and a state that looks toward the future.
I Am Tennessee

If you like a little bit of regional history (after all, if I am not mistaken, the southernmost part of the original Tennessee territory use to come all the way down to the Tennessee River here in the Athens/Decatur/Huntsville area) you can read the whole poem at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/103/Bill/SJR0011.pdf

David Bennett


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