Following exploration of the coast in 1521 by Francisco de Gordillo, the Spanish tried unsuccessfully to establish a colony near present-day Georgetown in 1526, and the French also failed to colonize Parris Island near Fort Royal in 1562. The first English settlement was made in 1670 at Albemarle Point on the Ashley River, but poor conditions drove the settlers to the site of Charleston (originally called Charles Town).
South Carolina, officially separated from North Carolina in 1729, was the scene of extensive military action during the Revolution and again during the Civil War. The Civil War began in 1861 as South Carolina troops fired on federal Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, and the state was the first to secede from the Union.
Once primarily agricultural, South Carolina today has many large textile and other mills that produce several times the output of its farms in cash value. Charleston makes asbestos, wood, pulp, steel products, chemicals, machinery, and apparel.
Farms have become fewer but larger in recent years. South Carolina ranks second in peach production after California. Other top agricultural commodities include broilers (31.5% of total state farm receipts), turkeys, greenhouse products, cattle and calves, and corn. One of only two commercial tea plantations in America is 20 mi south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island.
Points of interest include Fort Sumter National Monument, Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson, and aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Charleston Harbor; the Middleton, Magnolia, and Cypress Gardens in Charleston; Cowpens National Battlefield; the Hilton Head resorts; and the Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden in Columbia.
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Selected famous natives and residents:
- Bernard Baruch statesman;
- Mary McLeod Bethune educator;
- James F. Byrnes senator, jurist and secretary of state;
- John C. Calhoun statesman;
- Mark Clark general;
- Pat Conroy writer;
- Shepard Fairey artist;
- Joe Frazier prize fighter;
- Althea Gibson tennis champion;
- Dizzy Gillespie jazz trumpeter;
- DuBose Heyward poet, playwright, and novelist;
- Andrew Jackson president;
- Jesse Jackson civil rights leader;
- Eartha Kitt singer;
- Francis Marion (“Swamp Fox“) Revolutionary general;
- Andie McDowell actor;
- Ronald McNair astronaut;
- Mary-Louise Parker actor;
- John Rutledge jurist;
- Strom Thurmond politician;
- Charles Townes physicist;
- William Westmoreland general;
- Vanna White TV personality.