Good Idea for a Yankee

While the early history of Atlanta is defined by its colorful characters, its free and rowdy reputation, and its embrace of modern technology in the form of railroads, the larger story of Atlanta begins with its destruction. The rapidity with which Atlantans rebuilt their devastated city is so legendary that it is symbolized on the city’s official seal which features a Phoenix rising from the ashes, above its head the word Resurgens.

In November of 1864, five days after Sherman’s withdrawal from the siege of Atlanta, the first Atlantan returned to the empty city. By 1870, the city’s population had surged to over 33,000, many of whom were newcomers. In a city that had been stripped of everything, there was money to be made in resurgence.

Three years post-Sherman, Atlanta had stabilized enough for some residents to shift their focus from survival to more aspirational thoughts. It was amid the prosperity of 1867 that a recent transplant from Wisconsin, employed as a teller at the Georgia National Bank, proposed an idea. The wholehearted embrace of a northerner’s concept signaled an early distinction for one way the new City of Atlanta would distinguish itself from the rest of the South. The “Yankee’s” idea revolved around knowledge and the acquisition of books, and it has gained a place in history as one of the Stories of Atlanta.

Lance Russell is an Atlanta-based filmmaker and media communicator who, for over three decades, has been entrusted by clients to tell their stories. A seasoned producer with an innate ability to cut to…
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