From the Beginning,
The Ryman was a place to think big.


May 10

May 10, 1885

It was religious inspiration that took this building from a dream to reality.  Specifically the inspiration of a powerful, charismatic evangelist named Sam Jones.  On May 10, 1885, a wealthy, rough hewn Nashville riverboat captain named Thomas Ryman heard Jones speak at a tent revival three blocks from here.  Jones’s words transformed Ryman’s life.  Ryman became a man who looked to a higher God than money for his calling.

Ryman and Jones dreamed of creating a tabernacle as the religious gathering place for the city.  Eventually, Nashvillians joined Ryman and Jones.  This dream became their dream, too.  The people of the city donated both time and money to complete the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the name of this building when it opened to the community in 1892.

May 09

May 9, 1890

With the foundations of the Tabernacle completed, a tent was erected across the expanse on May 9, 1890.  Sam Jones held his first daily meeting at the “tented tabernacle” on May 25, 1890 and continued until June 1.  At the conclusion of Samuel Jones’s series of meetings, the tent was removed, construction recommenced and no further events were held until May 4, 1892.

May 04

May 4, 1892

May Music Festival with The Theodore Thomas Orchestra was the first concert at the Ryman. The concert was the idea of The Ladies Hermitage Association, the group of women who in 1889 started their group to save Andrew Jackson’s home. The concert was a benefit to the LHA to acquire relics belonging to Andrew Jackson so they would remain at his home. While the concert was a musical success it lost money.

May 30

May 30, 1892

The Original “No Show Jones.” 4,000 people packed the Tabernacle to hear Rev. Sam Jones preach for the first time in the completed building, but it was announced right before the program begun that there were, “circumstances prevented Jones from fulfilling his engagement.” Although very disappointed, most of the crowd stayed to hear Rev. Stewart who led the service.  Rev. Jones did arrive the next day.

Mar 02

March 2, 1893

Joint Commencement exercises of Vanderbilt University and The University of Nashville Medical Schools.

Apr 14

April 14, 1893

Performance of “Old Deestrick Skule,” a popular satirical 19th century play about a country school teacher Mr. Williams and his “skolars” featuring students ready to learn: class clowns, a mischievous boy, an inquisitive boy, a girl always standing at the head of the class, a girl who always cries when asked a question and one who always giggles. The teacher wishes to be rehired as the school director visit. The “School Directors” were famous Nashvillians sometimes governor, mayors or businessmen, who took part in the show. During the visit, the students are well behaved and sing in unison, “this is the way we wash our hands.” The question of whether Mr. Williams will be rehired is given to the audience to vote.

May 13

May 13-16, 1893

Southern Baptist Convention meeting called “one of the most important religious gathering ever assembled in Nashville.”

Dec 08

December 8, 1893

Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage of the famous Brooklyn Tabernacle, the building Tom Ryman said inspired Nashville’s Tabernacle architecturally, comes for a lecture.

Apr 10

First wedding at the Tabernacle

Salvation Army Wedding of Captain Harry E. Roe and Captain May Ingram conducted by Major W.J. Cozzens of Cincinnati and talk by Dr. J. B. Erwin on April 10, 1894

Apr 10

April 4, 1894

Salvation Army wedding of Captain Harry E. Roe and Captain May Ingram conducted by Major W.J. Cozzens of Cincinnati and talk by Dr. J. B. Erwin. This was the first wedding in the Tabernacle.

Apr 27

April 27, 1894

Mass Meeting Called and “Law and Order League” formed at Tabernacle to help crack down on saloons being open on Sunday and gambling.

Oct 25

First John Phillip Souza performance

October 25, 1894 – John Phillip Sousa’s Peerless Band with Mme. Guthrie Moyer and Mlle. Estella L. Man as soloists.

Apr 12

April 12, 1895

Easter service, Rev. Sam Jones addresses and helps raise money for recently installed wooden church pews in Tabernacle.

Jun 07

June 7, 1895

Richard Hubbard Ex-Governor of Texas and former Ambassador to Japan gives lecture “Life in Japan and the Orient.” His speech concentrated on future trade with Japan.

Jan 30

Fisk Jubilee Singers

January 30, 1896 — Fisk Jubilee Singers concert with The Mozart Society and Raymond Augustus Lawson under auspices of Ladies Aid Society of First Baptist Church

Feb 07

February 7, 1897

Sam Jones Revival. Rev. Jones said, “he would never hold another revival in Nashville until the gallery (balcony) is built.” He was “tired of being crowded to death.”

Jun 22

June 22, 1897

The United Confederate Veterans held their 7th reunion at the Union Gospel Tabernacle on June 22-24, 1897.  As a part of the six month Tennessee Centennial Exposition, the United Confederate Veteran’s Days saw 74,000 attendees visit the exposition’s grounds, exhibits, booths and buildings. At the conclusion of the convention, the Confederate Veterans, being so moved by the construction of the gallery (which was built in preparation of the event), donated their surplus of $2,500 to the Ryman’s building fund.  As a result of this generous donation, the balcony was officially named the “Confederate Gallery”.

Oct 24

Susan B. Anthony

October 24, 1897 — Susan B. Anthony is on stage during speech of Rev. Anna Shaw, President of National Council of Women and one of the first ordained female Methodist ministers in the United States. Shaw lectures on “The Heavenly Vision.”

May 23

May 23, 1898

Mass Meeting called by Ministers’ Alliance inspired by Rev. Sam Jones visit 14 years ago. Rev. J. H. Morrison lectured. A committee of 5 was appointed that evening to nominate 25 citizens to form “a plan of action to stamp out lawlessness in city affairs.”

Dec 16

December 16, 1898

Captain Washburn Maynard of Knoxville, hero of the Spanish American War who fired the first shot from the gunboat USS Nashville and Lieutenant Hobson speaks on the War. Admr. Schley was scheduled to appear but canceled due to illness.

Apr 19

April 19, 1899

Funeral of Famed Architect Col. William C. Smith, who was the architect of the Parthenon and was instrumental in Nashville hosting the AIA National Convention on October 21-22, 1885 and October 20-22, 1895. Smith was the first architect of the Tabernacle hired by Captain Ryman but was replaced by Hugh Thompson who designed the building.

Jun 15

June 15, 1899

Dr. J. William Jones, Chaplin General United Confederate Veterans lecture “The Boys in Gray or the Private Confederate Solider as I Knew Him,” a fundraiser for the Sam Davis Monument which was placed next to Tennessee State Capitol.

Oct 23

October 23, 1900

Vanderbilt University’s 25th Anniversary program. Students, alumni and other led a parade from campus to the Tabernacle. First lecture “The Direction of American University Development” given by Arthur T. Hadley President of Yale University followed by an address by Vanderbilt Chancellor J. H. Kirkland “Twenty-five years of University Work.” W. K. Vanderbilt donor of the newly completed Kissam Hall officially made the presentation to Vanderbilt University.

Dec 06

December 6, 1900

Edward Strauss and his Vienna Orchestra were brought to the tabernacle by the Wednesday Morning Musicale of Nashville.

Sep 19

September 19, 1901

America for Americans memorial service for President McKinley

Oct 23

First Ryman stage is built

October 23, 1901 — Carmen performance by Metropolitan Opera. One of the biggest and greatest shows planned required a guarantee of $10,000. The Tabernacle board hoped these performances would retire the $9,000 debt. A tabernacle board could only have 5 members under state law so in anticipation of the show the law was changed to 50 members. The board then expanded to 50 and each personally pledged a $200 guarantee to reach the $10,000 number. A full stage was built replacing the small platform at a cost of $730. Opera style boxes were installed in the front rows of the gallery. A day before the performance Emma Calve, the leading voice of the Opera and main reason people purchased tickets, abruptly withdrew from the show disappointing thousands of Nashvillians who were going to attend. Camille Seygard took her place as Carmen. The Opera forfeited $1,500 under their contract and donated another $500 to the Tabernacle fund. Calve would later come to the Ryman in 1908 to perform Carmen.

Dec 17

December 17, 1901

Tabernacle Lyceum No.5 Imperial Hand Bell Ringers composed on a bell quintet, mandolin, harp and carillon of 110 bells made from the oldest bell foundry in London

May 15

Booker T. Washington

May 15, 1902 — The celebrated African-American educator of Tuskegee, Alabama gave a lecture to the General Conference of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.

Dec 29

December 29, 1902

Mass Meeting for Law and Order against gambling and selling whisky on Sunday. Featured speakers included future United States Supreme Court Justice James C. McReynolds, Vanderbilt Chancellor James Kirkland, Ed Baxter, Jordan Stokes, Rev. G.C. Kelly, Rev. W.S. Jacobs and Rev. W.T. Manning.

Jan 04

January 4, 1903

Central Union Sunday School New Year Entertainment. On January 7 Christmas Tree with 3,000 presents were given to children at program who were “from the alleys and by-ways, orphans, homeless, neglected or forgotten.” Santa also appeared and each child received 4 gifts of “useful items” (mainly clothes.)

Dec 23

Tom Ryman dies

December 23, 1904 — Captain Thomas Green Ryman dies. At his funeral on Christmas Day,  Rev. Sam Jones takes a vote to rename the Tabernacle the Ryman Auditorium. The audience responds with a standing ovation.


To read more about Capt. Ryman and his legacy, click here.

Apr 12

April 12, 1905

Hon. Charles Grosvenor, Governor of Ohio and Representative (and future Speaker of the House) Champ Clark of Missouri debate the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Jan 23

September 3, 1906

Greater Nashville Celebration marking the annexation of four new wards to the city increasing the population by 25,000. Nashville Board of Trade President Leland Hume and Mayor Morris gave speeches.

Feb 15

February 15, 1906

Emma Calve of The Metropolitan Opera performance after cancelling 1901 appearance.

Mar 08

March 8, 1906

Sarah Bernhardt starred in the performance of Camille billed as “the farewell engagement in Nashville of the World’s greatest Actress.” Her appearance attracted more attention than any other theatrical event for the past decade.  The stage was widened and squared off.

Oct 15

Rev. Sam Jones dies

October 15, 1906 — Rev. Sam Jones dies in his train cabin on the way back home to Cartersville, Georgia from a revival. His memorial service is held at the Ryman on October 28.

Apr 26

Hippodrome Circus

Due to bad weather, the Hippodrome Circus had to be moved from Nashville’s Athletic Park (Sulphur Dell) to an indoor location.  On April 26, 1907, the production was held at the Ryman Auditorium.  With a 2:30 PM and an 8:15 PM performance, Nashville residents could see the wonders of the circus inside the tabernacle for the steep cost of $0.50 per person.  Children were allowed entry at the discounted rate of $0.25.

Oct 22

President Theodore Roosevelt

October 22, 1907 — President Theodore Roosevelt visits and lectures on the Ryman Stage. President Roosevelt was scheduled to speak for ten minutes, but stayed on stage for nearly half an hour to a “splendid and enthusiastic ovation” of thousands of patriotic Tennesseans.

Feb 17

February 17, 1908

Tabernacle Lyceum No. 8 J. Franklin Caveney, cartoonist and entertainer. Paints on stage and changed a painting of Shakespeare to Bull Bill to Uncle Sam in a few strokes of the brush.

Apr 03

April 3, 1908

Hon. Seaborn Wright of Georgia, who successful led the prohibition efforts in Georgia, gives an address on prohibition

Jun 27

June 27, 1908

Election Returns given on Election Night. First time in the history of Nashville returns were given inside a building which allow women to attend. In the past, men would gather outside the newspapers offices on 4th and Printers Alley to get returns first. Ryman opened at 4PM when polls closed and stayed open until all returns were in.

Oct 31

October 31, 1908


Vanderbilt v. Michigan Football Game real time play by play via telegraph from Ann Arbour. A large canvas gridiron was hung with yard lines markers. While the announcer Mark Goldnamer and the head Vanderbilt cheerleader called the game the football on canvas would move to reflect the play.

Mar 19

April 19, 1909

Emma Eames, the famous Metropolitan Opera star, made her first Nashville appearance at the Ryman

Jun 12

June 12, 1909

Committee appointed by Houston Mayor sent to Nashville to study Ryman Auditorium and its architecture to help build the half million dollar “Old City Auditorium,” which was torn down in 1962. Jones Hall of the Performing Arts is on the site today. The group also wanted to visit the Ryman “which has a national reputation for its acoustic properties.”

May 11

May 11-12, 1910

May Music Festival – three grand concerts – Performance of Sir Costa’s Great Oratorio, “Eli.” Featuring soloists: Mrs. Marie Zimmerman, soprano; Miss Lillian Wooten, alto; Mr. Frank Ormsby, tenor; Mr. Frederick Martin, basso; Mr. Chas. Washburn, baritone; Mr. P.G. Anton, cello; Mr. Fritz Schmitz, violin; 50 piece Orchestra and 150 voice Nashville Chorus

Jul 04

July 4, 1910

Detail of Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight announced for African American audience only. Johnson the heavyweight champion had defended his title five times against white challengers. The media and some Americans looking for a white boxer to defeat Johnson called Jeffries “The Great White Hope.”  Johnson knocked Jefferies down three times in the 14 round and his corner threw in the towel. Many consider this one of the greatest boxing matches of all time.

Jan 25

January 25, 1911

Inauguration for Governor Ben W. Hooper on Ryman stage. The first of three Governors to take the oath of office at The Ryman.

Nov 09

November 9, 1911

President William Howard Taft delivers address at Ryman Auditorium

Dec 08

December 8, 1911

Pepito Arriola, age 13, “the world’s most wonderful boy pianist.” Played with Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Symphony, New York Metropolitan Opera House and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Feb 02

February 2, 1912

Imperial Russian Ballet, trained at Czar’s Imperial School of Ballet. Newspaper said “…dancing is something new to Nashville and poetry in motion.”

Jul 22

July 12, 1912

Dr. Robert Fulton Boyd funeral. One of the most famous African American doctors in the country. The Meharry graduate founded the first and oldest African American Association for doctors which still operates today.

Feb 03

February 3, 1913

Eastman Kodak Exhibition and two daily lectures on Kodak and the art of taking developing and print photographs. 50 slides per lecture which were enlarged by amateurs. Apparatus for the exhibit weighs 25 tons and was brought in a 63 foot steel baggage railroad car.

Oct 02

Helen Keller lecture

October 2, 1913 — Helen Keller and Anne Sullican Macy take the stage. This is the first ticketed event to sell out the Ryman Auditorium. Keller and her remarkable teacher Anne Sullivan Macy both addressed a full house. In her fifteen minute speech, Keller said, “We are successful so far as we help each other. My teacher has given me an opportunity to live and work, and that is what people with five senses should give each other. We can and must help each other. That is why I am a socialist.”

After 15 minute speech Keller answers questions which were repeated by Macy while Keller touched her lips to understand the words through motion.

Oct 03

October 3, 1913

Anna Held of the Zeigfeld Follies performs.  Held is famous for her wardrobe and $250,000 diamond stocking.

Dec 08

December 8, 1913

Mme. E Azalia Hackley, African American singer and social activist, and Fisk Jubilee Chorus of 300 people.

Nov 12

National Woman’s Suffrage Association Convention

November 12-17, 1914 — Hundreds of women delegates to discuss and advocate woman’s suffrage. Most important convention in the history of The Ryman and Nashville. Speakers included Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, group President, Jane Addams of Hull House and Senator Luke Lea. Fisk Jubilee Singers performed.

Dec 11

December 11, 1914

Famous Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova performs.

Jan 22

January 22, 1915

Swearing in and inauguration of Tennessee Governor Thomas C. Rye on stage. Governor Rye made a short address hoping political parties would stop fighting and work together.

Jul 31

July 31, 1915

Thomas Ryman, Jr. shot and killed on Steamer Jo Horton Fall. That afternoon a fire started in the basement of Ryman. Fireman destroyed most of stage to get to basement to put out fire. Ryman manager Lula Naff had the water mopped up from the floor and pews to set up undamaged part of stage for Mass Meeting that evening.

Nov 09

November 9, 1915

Fisk Jubilee Singers inauguration of new President Fayette Avery McKenzie and celebration of 50th Anniversary of Fisk University. Julius Rosenwald of the Rosenwald Schools and Governor Rye attended. Frequent Ryman speaker Booker T. Washington was scheduled to attend and speak but took ill the day before and died on November 14.

Jan 01

January 1, 1916

African-American celebration of Anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation. Keynote speaker Rev. J.W.E. Bowen of Atlanta. Preston Taylor and many other prominent African Americans participated.

Feb 06

February 6, 1916

Religious Services led by African American preacher C.H. Mason to both African Americans and whites who sat together on the stage.

Oct 26

Tenor John McCormack

Lula C. Naff, Ryman manager, took a second mortgage on her house to be able to bring John McCormack, the World’s Greatest Lyric Opera Tenor, to the Ryman.  She was worried that the concert would not sell, so she carried hand-written press releases with her, put up posters and passed out handbills.  She succeeded so well that three days before the tickets were to go on sale, she found that she had already sold all of the tickets through mail orders and  reservations.  A block-long line of people waited at the box office for tickets, so Lula sold standing-room only tickets and tickets on the stage.  In the end, more than 5,000 people were present that night to hear John McCormack sing.  At the time, McCormack was the most noted name on the American concert stage for that season and Nashville was the only Southern city in which he appeared.

Feb 18

February 18, 1917

Peace Meeting organized by 65 prominent Nashville citizens to support President Wilson during WWI but to be against war at all costs. This was to counter a meeting held at The Princess Theatre by Socialist Party a week before denouncing the Wilson. Meeting opened with singing of “America.”

Aug 03

August 3, 1917

Concert of First Regiment Band to send off First Tennessee Infantry to WWI lead by Col. Harry S. Berry who “Berry Field” is named for at the Nashville Airport.

Jan 01

Nashville becomes a movie city

Nashville had become a movie city, with little room for the legitimate theatre or concert work.  The Ryman Auditorium was the only theatre in the city that was open for concerts and other forms of entertainment besides vaudeville and moving pictures.

Apr 18

Charlie Chaplin helps raise $350,000 in Liberty War Bonds during World War I

America’s biggest film star Charlie Chaplin visited the Ryman on April 18, 1918 to help sell bonds to help the American troops during World War I. The doors opened for event at 7:00 pm and thirty minutes later every seat and standing room only space had been occupied on what the Tennessean headline called a “monster crowd.”


Chaplin walked on the Ryman stage looking at the huge crowd in every direction around him. The crowd which then wrapped around the entire stage on both levels when the seating and balcony went all the way to the back stage wall. He nearly stood on his head so he could view the entire crowd including those under the balcony of the Ryman. He said, “is there anybody hanging on the rafters? I can’t see, there’s so many of you. This is one grand patriotic sight.” He continued to address the crowd and said about being on stage of the Ryman, “I assure you it is a great pleasure for me to be here, even though it be on a serious mission. I am not a speaker. I am not a politician. I am just a movie actor trying to influence you to buy Liberty Bonds.”


Chaplin led the band playing the popular anthem of World War I “Over There” and had them repeated the song because he thought the capacity crowd could sing it even louder.


Chaplin wowed the crowd doing his famous tramp waddle across the stage every time $10,000 was raised from those in attendance. He went back and forth on the Ryman stage frequently as money continued to pour into the cause. That evening thanks to Charlie Chaplin’s visit to the Ryman,  $375,000 worth of liberty war bonds were purchased during an evening few would forget who attended.

Nov 27

November 27, 1918

Union Municipal Thanksgiving Service for all in Nashville irrespective of creed or denomination to give thanks of victory and the end of war. Paul Ryman signs “Star Spangled Banner.”

Feb 18

February 18, 1919

Creatore and Grand Opera Company, a collaboration of the all-stars of opera singers including members from the Metropolitan, Boston and Chicago Grand Opera, performed Rigoletto and Aida. Some of the great performers included Giorgio Puliti, Alfredo Valenti, Salvatore Sclaretta, Mario Falanto, Louise Darcice, Henrieto Wakefield, Mary Carson and Riccardo Martin. The Ryman stage was not large enough for the production of Aida, so at a cost of several hundred dollars it was enlarged.

Mar 19

Paul Ryman in concert

March 3, 1919 — Captain Tom Ryman’s son, tenor singer Paul Ryman, performed his first and only headlining show at the Ryman Auditorium. This however was not his first performance on the Ryman stage. He had previously appeared on April 19, 1918 to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” as part of a fundraising event for liberty bond featuring Charlie Chaplin.  One of the seven Ryman children, his 8:00 p.m. performance was actually noted in a resolution of the Tennessee State Senate.  Since “both parties of the State of Tennessee have for many years taken advantage of this Auditorium for the use of Conventions … the Senate, the House concurring, give to Mr. Paul Ryman their endorsement, and pledge to him their support in whatever way they may be able to render it.”


Apr 29

Enrico Caruso

April 29, 1919 — Caruso is best known as the leader tenor of the Metropalitan Opera of New York City for eighteen seasons. He made over 800 appearances to the Met. Undeniably the greatest male singer of his time, Caruso sold a full house of tickets at the Ryman, with prices ranging from $2-$6, and box seats on the stage for $10.


After Caruso appeared, Amelita Galli-Curci, billed as the World’s Greatest Opera Singer, sang to a full house the very next night.  The audience was amazed when the flutist played notes and Galli-Curci matched the notes in singing.

Nov 20

November 20, 1919

The Vatican Choirs, featuring 70 notable singers from the choirs of the
Sistine Chapel, St. John Lateran and St. Peter’s Basilica.

Jun 08

Democratic State Convention

June 8, 1920 — Prior to the 19th Amendment passage this convention selected two women Anne Dallas Dudley Third Vice President on board of National League of Woman Voters and Abby Crawford Milton Chairman of Tennessee League of Women Voters to attend the San Francisco 1920 convention as delegates. The first time women served as delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Feb 15

The Jazz Hounds

Mamie Smith and her six person orchestra, The Jazz Hounds performed at the Ryman on February 15, 1921.  Mamie Smith has been credited with making the first vocal blues record in 1920.  Her hit, “Crazy Blues” is arguably the first blues recording in history.

Mamie Smith’s appearance is the first documented show of its kind in the Ryman Auditorium.

Sep 22

September 22, 1921

Elizabeth Spencer sings on stage next to The New Edison Phonograph. She stops halfway through the song as the phonograph plays her song and then the singer and phonograph alternate. This experience by Lawrence & Briggs Talking Machine Shop of Nashville was said in ad “the only way the audience could be sure which was singing was to watch Miss Spencer’s lips.

Jan 24

January 24, 1922

Madame Butterfly performed by San Carlo Opera Company.

Sep 08

September 8, 1922

The Temple of the Al Menah Shriners held a ceremony at the Ryman on September 8, 1922.  The occasion saw 105 new candidates for the temple appear along with members from other southern charters who made the trek to middle Tennessee for the event.  The Nashville Al Menah Shriners charter has been in existence since 1913 when it was accepted as the 131st temple in North America. The temple is still located North of Nashville on Brick Church Pike.

Nov 23

Uncle Dave Macon

November 23, 1922 — Uncle Dave Macon, Ward Belmont students, minstrel act and police department quartette perform at annual Policeman’s Benefit Association Show. Possibly first performance at Ryman by Macon.

Jan 16

January 16, 1923

Inauguration of Governor Austin Peay

Mar 11

Harry Houdini

March 11, 1924 —  Harry Houdini demonstrated his famous water escape and lectured against spiritualists and mediums whom he considered charlatans. His skepticism included Middle Tennessee’s own famous haunt, the Bell Witch.

Nov 04

November 4, 1925

Humorist and cowboy singer Will Rogers appeared on the Ryman stage as part of a coast to coast lecture tour. The De Reszke Singers also appeared during the performance.

Jan 23

April 19-20, 1928

Fritz Lieber in Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth

Mar 23

March 23, 1931

Ethel Barrymore in The Love Duel

Jan 23

January 23, 1932

A touring production of The Merchant of Venice, which the Tennessean predicted would be “a triumphal procession”, landed at the Ryman on January 23, 1932.  Maude Adams and Otis Skinner appeared in the classic Shakespearian play as Portia and Shylock and delighted the Nashville audience.

Lula Naff had a bit of a scare when she was told that the building’s lack of accommodation was going to prevent Maude Adams from appearing.  Even by 1932, the Ryman had no proper dressing rooms and it was only after the insistence of Miss Adams that the first small backstage room was constructed on the stage-right side of the building.

Feb 05

February 5, 1932

Famed African-American singer Marian Anderson performs in concert. Anderson was the first permanent African American member of the Metropolitan Opera Company. The world-class contralto’s popularity helped to erode false perceptions of race in America.

Mar 30

March 30, 1934

Helen Hayes in Mary of Scotland

Feb 20

February 20, 1935

Fannie Brice, Eve Arden and Billie Burke in a Ziegfeld Follies Road Show

Mar 08

March 8, 1937

Ballet Russe of Monte Carlo in Swan Lake, Aurora’s Wedding and Prince Igor.

Apr 29

April 29, 1937

Tallulah Bankhead in George Kelly’s comedy, Reflected Glory

Mar 30

March 30, 1938

Helen Hayes performs in Victoria Regina. During Hayes’s tour-de-force performance a massive curtain fell, pouring down almost forty years of dust. Hayes kept her composure and in character said, “I guess we better go.” She later wrote Ryman manager Lula Naff and expressed her willingness to return for another performance.

Nov 21

Tabacco Road

November 21, 1939 — Ryman Manager Lula Naff goes to court for the right to present the provocative play, Tobacco Road. When the Nashville Board of Censors tried to stop the 1393 performance by threatening to arrest star John Barton, Lula Naff filed suit and won the right to show the work.

Jan 21

Katharine Hepburn

January 21, 1941 — Katharine Hepburn, Van Heflin and Joseph Cotten performed in one of the Ryman’s most memorable productions, The Philadelphia Story. Hepburn drove herself to Nashville to star with Joseph Cotton and Van Heflin in the Broadway hit comedy, The Philadelphia Story. She starred the previous year in the film version of the play, a role that won her a New York Film Critics award. After her performance, she thanked the “awfully, awfully kind audience” she found at the Ryman.

Jun 05

The Opry moves in

June 5, 1943 — Grand Ole Opry moves from War Memorial Auditorium to Ryman Auditorium.– It was the perfect fit when the Opry cast settled into the Ryman for nearly thirt-one years. After audiences outgrew four previous venues, the Ryman provided a rustic but welcoming house for the sold out crowds who appreciated the Opry’s homespun entertainment.

Oct 04

Nashville Girl Scout Council presents Eleanor Roosevelt

October 4, 1938 –Mrs. Roosevelt spoke on two different occasions at the Ryman Auditorium During this appearance, she spoke to the Girl Scout Council of Nashville on “The Relationship of the Individual to the Community.” Mrs. Roosevelt returned in 1947 to attend the inauguration of Charles S. Johnson, Fisk University’s first African American president.