Shoebox Collections

The Knoxville History Project continues series of little-known photographs submitted by locals

When originally posted on Facebook last year, the photograph of the Smoky Mountain Market on Chapman Highway--famous for making its own hotdogs—brought back vivid memories for thousands of locals who fondly remember this former Knoxville institution’s offerings. This month we also highlight our local beer heritage, the continuing spirit of the Kern Bakery, and one thing that happens only once– the making of a state, right here in Knoxville.   

1.  This uncommon vintage postcard depicts the monument still on the Knox County Courthouse lawn, of our state’s first governor, John Sevier. It’s been 225 years since the winter that 55 men from all parts of the Southwestern Territory, from here to the Mississippi River, came together in Knoxville for three weeks of argument and compromise. When they finished, they had created a 41-page document: the first state constitution. Originally drafted on territorial governor William Blount’s desk (you can see the desk at Blount Mansion, the city’s only official U.S. Historic Landmark), it was signed by all 55 here on Feb. 6, 1796, and ratified in Philadelphia the following June 1--now considered Statehood Day.

Often overlooked is the fact that Knoxville (founded in 1791) was the capital of Tennessee for most of the period from 1796 through 1819, when that status naturally gravitated to the state’s midsection.  Shared by Alec Reidl.

2. A festive image of the old New Knoxville Brewing Co., probably in the late 1890s, shows their pride in their Bock beer. The biracial staff appears to be preparing for a parade. This elaborate plant, which was connected to a deep artesian well and turned out 12,000 barrels of beer annually, was located along Second Creek between downtown and Mechanicsville. After a post-prohibition effort to revive the brewery in 1937 came to naught, it was torn down for I-40 construction. The approximate site has most recently been a homeless camp. Shared by Bernie Wallace.

3.  When it opened just south of the Henley Bridge in 1936, the Smoky Mountain Market on Chapman Highway may have appeared to be just another convenience store. But one of the store’s most popular items, the hot dog (added almost as an afterthought) was so popular it contributed to the store’s longevity.

According to a store press release celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1986, those original five-cent hot dogs were cooked on a steaming hot kettle in the back of the store and, and over the years, drew locals by the score. A few celebrities came in for them too, including Conway Twitty, Senator Howard Baker, the Harlem Globetrotters--and one time, some claim, the entire Brady Bunch. Porter Waggoner, a vegetarian, also came in on occasion when he stayed at a motel across the road.

Howard J. Johnson owned it for many years before local businessman Virgil Rushing bought the store in 1974 and created a chain of 31 Smoky Mountain Markets. But the Chapman Highway Store remained the “Old Number One” until it closed in 2002. Shared by Todd Rushing.

4. In the late 1800s, German immigrant Peter Kern was a prominent baker and confectioner, popularized by his emporium, featuring an ice-cream parlor, on the southwest corner of Market Square where Tupelo Honey and the Oliver Hotel are today. Kern served as Knoxville’s mayor for one year, 1890-1891. The Kern Bakery on Chapman Highway, built in 1930 and in use for decades, is now being rehabbed in an extravagant fashion to combine residences with retail.  

This 1913 illustrated letterhead proclaiming Kern’s to be the “The Great ‘Package Candy House’ of the South” was shared by Cindy and Mark Proteau.

5. In collaboration with Beck Cultural Exchange Center, KHP is proud to announce the release of a new children’s book based on the unpublished work of African American teacher and artist Ruth Cobb Brice. The 48-page, full-color trade paperback book is only available through KHP and Beck Center for $9.99 plus tax. 

6. The Knoxville History Project, a local educational nonprofit with a mission to research, preserve and promote the history and culture of Knoxville, has a growing list of publications on Knoxville history and culture. Signature titles including Historic Knoxville: The Curious Visitor’s Guide; Historic Bearden, a colorful and in-depth look at the popular West Knoxville community, plus seven story collections, including Knoxville Holidays & Festivals, Knoxville Blues, A Knoxville Christmas, The Legend of the Gold Bricks, and Knoxville Lives Volumes I and II. 

If you would like to contribute to Knoxville Shoebox please reach out to us at 865-337-7723 or Learn more at


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