Early 20th Century

In the first decades of the 20th century, Columbus continued to grow as an industrial and cultural center of the Chattahoochee Valley. Local entrepreneurs started successful businesses, while residents enjoyed theater and musical shows, most notably at the Springer Opera House and the Liberty Theatre. Residents of all ages enjoyed recreation at the Wildwood (present-day Lakebottom) and North Highlands parks. World War I saw many men leaving the area to fight in Europe and ended with the arrival of the U.S. Army’s infantry training camp, which became known as Fort Benning.

In the 1920s, musicians with local roots gained national fame and notoriety. Gertrude “Ma” Rainey became one of the first professional blues musicians and earned the nickname “Mother of the Blues.” Rainey returned to her hometown of Columbus after her initial fame, known as much for her on-the-road exploits as her soulful music. Meanwhile, Columbus residents Tom Darby and Jimmie Tarleton created the country music duo Darby and Tarleton and based their biggest hit, “Columbus Stockade Blues,” on the town’s jail.

  • In Wildwood Park, Columbus, Ga.
    ca. 1911
    Gift of Kenneth F. Murrah 2002.59.11

    This postcard depicts a couple rowing on the lake in Wildwood Park, a popular pastime for friends and young couples. Click here for more information

  • Ma Rainey and Her Band
    gelatin silver print
    Museum purchase 2002.27

    Ma Rainey traveled with her Wildcats Jazz Band through the South and Midwest, performing for both black and white audiences. Click here for more information

  • Metal Cross
    Museum purchase 1993.13.42

    Local men returned from the battlefields of France with souvenirs like this metal cross found by T. Cheeks of Girard (present-day Phenix City), Alabama. Click here for more information

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