Named for Francis Nash, a general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, the city was founded in 1779. The city grew quickly due to its strategic location as a port on the Cumberland River and, in the 19th century, a railroad center. Nashville seceded with Tennessee during the American Civil War; in 1862 it was the first state capital in the Confederacy to fall to Union troops. After the war, the city reclaimed its position and developed a manufacturing base.
Nashville’s recovery after the war was spurred by its central location in the region’s rail and water transport networks, although it experienced serious cholera epidemics in 1866 and 1873. The city became known for the many institutions of higher education that were founded there and was given the nickname “Athens of the South.” Nashville’s economy and population grew rapidly in the first decades of the 20th century, and it was also during that time that the city emerged as the centre of American traditional and country music. Regular radio broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry, a program of such music, began in Nashville in 1925 and continue today. Nashville’s industrial development accelerated in the 1930s after cheap electric power became available from the Tennessee Valley Authority and from dams on the Cumberland River. However, when it flooded after a two-day downpour in May 2010, the Cumberland brought damage to large parts of the city and took a number of lives.
Health care is one of Nashville's top industries; according to the Nashville Health Council, the city is known as the nation's health care center. Twenty-one healthcare companies are based within the city; in total 350 health care companies have operations here. Many service firms specializing in the industry (including accounting, legal, and others) are based in Nashville, including 12 investment and venture capital companies dealing primarily with health care. Health care services companies based in Nashville control more than 2,400 operations outside the city, as well. In 2002, almost 90,000 people in the Nashville metro area worked in the health care industry, earning more than a $4 billion payroll.
Nashville is the largest publishing center in the Southeast and one of the top ten largest in the country. Some of the nation's leading printers operate alongside scores of small, family-owned shops. The city is home to Thomas Nelson, the world's foremost publisher of Bibles, and two of the country's largest religious publishing houses. Nashville is also becoming a major distribution center for books and other print media. The local recording industry and its offshoots have not only brought worldwide recognition to what was once a sedate southern city, but they have also pumped billions of dollars into the local economy, created a thriving entertainment business scene ranked behind only New York and Los Angeles, and given the city a distinctly cosmopolitan flavor. Nashville music—country, pop, gospel, and rock—generates well over a billion dollars in record sales each year. As a result, spinoff industries have flourished: booking agencies, music publishing companies, promotional firms, recording studios, trade publications, and performance rights associations such as BMI, the Broadcast Music Inc. There are approximately 200 recording studios in Nashville, and most major record labels have offices on Nashville's Music Row, Sony, RCA, Mercury Nashville, MCA, Warner Brothers, Capitol, and Columbia. As Nashville remains a center for the music industry, it continues to draw support businesses and industry to the area.
New technology is a burgeoning factor in the Nashville economy. Dell Computers operates a manufacturing and technical support center near the airport, which opened in 1999 and employs about 3,000 people. The plastics industry is growing here, as is the biotechnology (including pharmaceuticals and life sciences) industries.
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