For centuries the region now known as Mississippi was the secluded domain of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indian nations, and dozens of smaller tribes. The first European settlement was established by the French in 1699. The flags of France, Spain, and Great Britain flew over the Mississippi Territory before it became the twentieth State in 1817.
By the 1830s, high cotton prices ignited an economic explosion in the South, and Mississippi became one of the Nation's wealthiest States. Cotton was King, and plantation owners constructed mansions to certify their incredible wealth in an affluent era that ended with the War Between the States in 1861.
Reminders of the Old South are found throughout Mississippi, from the mansions of Natchez to the cannons of Vicksburg, from the original State Capitol -- where secession was declared -- to Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederacy.
The land -- once prowled by Indians and explorers, cultivated by planters, and shaped by heroes -- now bustles with technological and cultural progress. The world's first heart and lung transplants were performed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's John C. Stennis Space Center tests the powerful engines that propel astronauts into space. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg is the world's largest hydraulic research laboratory. Jackson is the only American city to host the International Ballet Competition that rotates annually among Jackson, Helsinki, Moscow, and Varna, Bulgaria.