Winston-Salem’s origins can be traced in 1753 when the Moravians, a religious group migrating from Eastern Europe, arrived in America. These devout, religious groups were greatly attracted to the coast of North Carolina because of its fertile soil and the great opportunities it offers. The group founded a settlement called Salem in 1766. Salem had a reputation as the heart for culture, arts, and innovation for the colony. The Moravians were known to be outstanding craftsmen. In fact, they were skilled in making furniture, tannery, ironworks, pottery, and clothes making. From the 18th to the 19th centuries, Salem was among the colony’s major trading headquarters.

In order to establish a county seat, the county of Forsyth purchased parts of Salem’s land in 1849. The land they bought eventually became the city of Winston. The land was named for a well-known Revolutionary War hero, Joseph Winston. The towns of Salem and Winston were linked to the North Carolina Railroad in the late 1800s. After almost a century, the U.S. Post Office relocated to Winston. Due to the two towns’ proximity to each other, the U.S. Post Office began regarding them as Winston-Salem. The union of the two towns only became official in 1913 after the towns were incorporated.

As the railroad was moving in the region, competition arose in the state of North Carolina between the biggest tobacco businesses. Winston housed Richard Joshua Reynold’s tobacco business called R.J. Reynolds. His family, as well as the workers in the tobacco company, had a crucial role in the development of the Winston-Salem we are all familiar with today. Roughly 60 percent of the settlers in town worked for Reynolds or the Hanes textile factories by the 1940s. The company of Hanes textiles also chose to make Winston their headquarters. The United States nominated the town of Winston-Salem as the official port of entry of the country during this time. This happened despite the fact that the city was more than 200 miles from the coast. Winston-Salem became the country’s 8th largest trader in the country because R.J. Reynolds imported a great deal of Turkish tobacco and French cigarette paper.

Winston-Salem became the largest town in North Carolina in 1920. It even defeated Washington D.C. and Atlanta for the title. The city was abundant with commerce, and hundreds of travelers constantly pass through the town. The city also became the corporate center of North Carolina following the establishment of Piedmont Airlines, Krispy Kreme, and Wachovia Bank and Trust.

At present, Winston-Salem is among the largest cities in North Carolina. The city has grown to be home to a thriving commercial and industrial industry. Winston-Salem’s reputation for being a center of arts, culture, and innovation still stands today. It has even been called the “city of arts and innovation.” The town made every effort to keep its rich history and culture intact. It is not unusual to see relics of the past in most areas in Winston-Salem. Winston-Salem is undoubtedly a crucial part of North Carolina’s and the nation’s rich history.

Learn more