Dimple of the Universe

The “Dimple of the Universe” is one of Columbia and Maury County’s oldest nicknames. While most of us have heard the saying before, not many know its origins.

John Trotwood Moore penned the phrase, “Dimple of the Universe.” It first appeared in his book, Songs and Stories from Tennessee. The book, re-printed in Philadelphia in 1903, drew national attention and was reviewed in several newspapers, including the Boston Globe. The first sentence of the introduction (titled the “Basin of Tennessee”) reads, “The Middle Basin is the dimple of the Universe.”

Dimple of the universe 2

John Trotwood Moore was born in Alabama and moved to Maury County in 1885. He found fame as a storyteller, poet, and horse racing correspondent. He also found a love for recording local history. He became the Tennessee State Librarian & Archivist in 1919.

What Trotwood referred to as the “Middle Basin” is the Nashville Basin of Tennessee—sometimes called the Central Basin. This area is very similar to the Bluegrass Region in Kentucky, which is why Middle Tennessee—especially the southern part—was sometimes called Tennessee’s Blue-Grass Region. (Until just a few years ago, Tennessee’s regional library in Columbia was still called the Blue Grass Regional Library, a throwback to the area’s past identity.)

John Trotwood Moore may have been writing about all of Middle Tennessee, but Maury County folks read between the lines. Many of the stories in the book were local tales Moore had learned from living in the county. When he called the Middle Basin the “Dimple of the Universe,” the people of Maury County knew he was talking about their home.

A Tennessean article written in 1904 called Maury “the garden spot of the Dimple of the Universe.” Even Columbia Military Academy used the slogan in their advertising in the early part of the twentieth century. But, Columbia and Maury County were not the only places using the slogan. Remember—that nickname applied to pretty much all of the mid-state; Nashville, Fayetteville, Pulaski and other communities proudly claimed the title, too.

Dimple of the universe 3

1909 CMA ad using “Dimple of the Universe”

The Dimple of the Universe was about to be pinpointed, though, and by an unlikely source.

In 1914, a lady in Boston wrote a letter addressed only to “The Poet, The Dimple of the Universe.” The letter found its way to the “dead letter office” in Washington. As it happened, a lady with Maury County ties worked in the dead letter office and knew exactly what to do. She directed the letter to Columbia, Tennessee and John Trotwood Moore.

Just as with Miracle on 34th Street, if the Post Office can declare Kris Kringle as Santa Claus, it can also recognize Columbia, Tennessee as THE Dimple of the Universe. The best part is the postal services has not only done this once, but twice.

Again, in 1939, a letter addressed to the “Dimple of the Universe” found its way into the mail. The Kingsport Times reported:

The dimple of the universe isn’t recorded as such on the map, but Postmaster Woodruff Booth [Knoxville] believes a letter sent here possibly was intended for Columbia, Tenn.

The letter was addressed to Miss Mary Virginia Webster, Dimple of the Universe, Tenn. It was from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon House at the University of Alabama.

Columbia and Maury County, of which Columbia is the county seat, often are called “the Dimple of the Universe.”

If it is good enough for the U.S. Postal Service, it’s good enough for me.

Welcome to the Dimple of the Universe—Columbia, Tennessee!

-Adam Southern

dimple of the universe 1 (2)

A cast aluminum car tag from the 1950s. These are very rare today.

One comment

  1. Paula Barker · 18 Hours Ago

    As always, Adam has penned a interesting article with fun tid bits of history. Enjoyed!

    Liked by 1 person

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