How Charlotte, North Carolina, Became "Queen City"

Charlotte Again | © John Ashley/Flickr
Charlotte Again | © John Ashley/Flickr
Photo of Shawndra Russell
7 February 2018

The Queen City has lived up to its long-established nickname since its founding in 1768 when America was still under British rule. Since King George III’s wife was named Queen Charlotte, the nickname came built in to the city’s identity. Even after America gained independence in 1776, Charlotte held on to its nickname because it fits this stately Southern gem, which the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte describes as being “apt, given the city’s majestic array of charm and style.”

As the 17th-largest city by population in the United States, Charlotte’s tall skyscrapers and stature as one of the financial center capitals of the world make her demand respect. But long before these buildings and banking giants put roots in Charlotte, the city had to fight for her nickname against a city from the north, Cincinnati, Ohio. Even though they didn’t adopt the nickname until 1819 – 51 years after Charlotte had coined the descriptor – Cincinnati tried to claim it as well because people had started calling it “The Queen of the West.”

Queen Charlotte | © Andrew0921/WikiCommons

Yet, like Queens before her, the city of Charlotte fought and has won the right to retain this nickname. Sure, some Cincinnatians still refer to their city as such, but many believe that, if anything, Cincinnati should go by “The Queen of the West,” the full nickname cemented in history by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem “Catawba Wine.”

And like most good queens, Charlotte and Cincinnati have maintained this feud for centuries. One of the most recent spectacles of this long-standing rivalry occurred during the 2014 Cincinnati Bengals versus Charlotte’s Carolina Panthers NFL football game when the city’s mayors wagered that whichever team won would get to be the rightful owner to the nickname. However, the game ended in a tied score of 37-37, something that seldom happens in professional American football.

Cincinnati Paul Brown Stadium | © Tysto/WikiCommons

Again, Charlotte had fought off a challenge to her nickname, proving once again that the title Queen City belongs to her. Its has two other lesser-known nicknames, one being The Hornet’s Nest, a moniker imposed on them by an angry British general during the Revolutionary War, which started just seven years after Charlotte was founded in 1768.

Charlotte has embraced that rebellious spirit and used the nickname for their NBA team. After stints away from their hometown, upon the team’s final return to Charlotte, people also started calling it Buzz City – those in the city’s burgeoning craft beverage scene probably like that one! Yet, many true blue Charlotteans will always consider Queen City as their favorite.

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