People have been living on the land we know now as Arkansas for thousands of years. This knowledge comes from evidence left in mounds and bluffs, including pottery and stone implements; the ancestors of the Indians were first to inhabit the region. The abundant wildlife and fertile soil made the area a wonderful home for these people, who gradually developed from primitive hunter-gatherers living in caves to much more sophisticated farmers living in large permanent villages. As the eastern lands were settled, more Indians moved to sparsely inhabited Arkansas. The Indians who lived here included the Folsom people, Bluff Dwellers, Mound Builders, Caddos, Quapaws, Osage, Choctaw and Cherokee.
By 1836, the Arkansas Territory had the 60,000 residents required to become a state, and after writing an acceptable constitution, was declared the 25th state in the United States. The new state enjoyed a thirty year period of prosperity, and by 1860 had a population of 435,000, 25 percent of whom were slaves. The majority of the residents were planters who lived in the rich bottomlands of the east and southeastern portion of the state and farmers who lived in the central and northern hills. A much smaller number of residents were lawyers, doctors, merchants, missionaries and teachers.
The 20th century has seen even more change in Arkansas. Airplanes, radios, talking movies, and eventually television has enhanced our life-style. Automobiles grew in popularity, and in 1921, the first auto, gas, and oil taxes were levied to finance construction of paved roads and highways. The discovery of oil and natural gas reserves in the state provided cheap and plentiful energy for years. The growing use of farm and machinery led to the consolidation of many family-run farms into larger farming corporations.
Arkansans learned in 1904 that rice could successfully be grown here, and it is now one of our most profitable crops. The livestock and dairy industries have also gained prominence in the last 90 years. A post World War II drive to industrialize the state was successful in effecting a more favorable balance of industrial and agricultural production. Firms in Arkansas now manufacture a wide range of items, including aluminum products, aircraft components, communications equipment, cosmetics, clothing, and pulp and paper products. In 500 years, Arkansas has grown from vast wilderness to a thriving state with a population of millions. Advancements in farming, lumbering, manufacturing, tourism and government have gained Arkansas a viable place in the international market.
Tourism is a very important to the Arkansas economy; the official state nickname "The Natural State" was originally created for state tourism advertising in the 1970s, and is still used to this day. The state maintains 52 state parks and the National Park Service maintains seven properties in Arkansas, including the nation's first National Park, Hot Springs National Park. The completion of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock has drawn many visitors to the city and revitalized the nearby River Market District. Many cities also hold festivals which draw tourists to the culture of Arkansas such as King Biscuit Blues Festival, Ozark Folk Festival, Toad Suck Daze, and Tontitown Grape Festival.
Historical Arkansas Figures