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Though it began as a small fort on the Tennessee River, Knoxville would not know obscurity for long. Founded in 1791, Knoxville became the capital of the new state of Tennessee five years later and rapidly became a major metropolitan area for the southeastern United States. Exportations of raw and natural goods brought wealth and new residents, and soon its main thoroughfare became a window into the growth, development, decline, and rebirth of an all-American city. Then, as now, all roads downtown lead to Gay Street, and everything Knoxville came from it.

Though Knoxville is a decidedly Southern city, it has also taken its place within the American melting pot. Swiss, English, Dutch, Irish, German, Greek, African, and Spanish families have all played major roles in the city's development. For many years, at one small popcorn stand on Gay Street stood Gary Crowder-the meticulous owner of the amazing collection of photographs predominantly featured in Images of America: Knoxville.

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