Why Is North Carolina Called The Tarheel State?

–North Carolina is often referred to as the Tar Heel State and has a long and interesting history as to why it has this nickname. From the Civil War to the Great Depression and beyond, the story of how North Carolina got its title as the Tar Heel State is a fascinating one. In this article, you will learn why North Carolina was given this nickname, aspects of its history that contributed to its nickname, and what it represents today!

Why is North Carolina Called the Tar Heel State?

North Carolina has been widely known as the Tar Heel State for years but why? To understand where this nickname comes from and exactly why it has been allotted to North Carolina, we have to look back to the history of the state.

Here is a brief overview of how North Carolina became the Tar Heel State and what it stands for.

Origin of the Tar Heel Name

The exact origin of the name “Tar Heel” isn’t 100% known, however, the most widely accepted origin is that the nickname comes from the state’s role in the production and exportation of Tar during the American Revolution.

Tar, a kind of black, sticky liquid derived from pine trees, was used to waterproof ships during the revolutionary war and a huge portion of that Tar hailed from North Carolina. Due to the Tar coming from North Carolina, it’s not unlikely that many of the soliders from North Carolina had Tar on them from producing it. Thus earning them the nickname of “Tar Heels”.

Embodying The Name

Not only did North Carolina get the nickname from their Tar exporting during the American Revolution, but their soliders also gained a reputation from their hard fighting during the Civil War. Despite the Tarheels being severely outnumbered by General Sherman’s men, they held on longer than many states, proving themselves to be strong fighters.

This strength was also celebrated in the song, “The Tar Heel Editor” which was written after the civil war to celebrate the courage of the Tar Heels during the war. While the Tar Heels did eventually end up surrendering during the Civil War, the courageous fight and their reputation as a state was still celebrated.

Tar Heel Today

Today, Tar Heel is seen all over North Carolina.

From the state’s sports teams, such as the well-known Tar Heels from UNC Chapel Hill, to businesses naming themselves after the nickname. Not only is the nickname still alive and well within North Carolina, but the Tar production is still present too.

While North Carolina used to be a leader of worldwide Tar exports, the market has decreased rapidly and now the industry survives on selling Burmese pine resin. Overall, the nickname “Tar Heel” still remains present in North Carolina’s culture today and stands as a reminder of the production and strength that the state has shown throughout the years.


North Carolina has been known as the Tar Heel State for centuries and this nickname is most likely derived from the Tar production that took place in the state during the American Revolution. This Tar production led the Tar Heel nickname onto North Carolina and has been part of the state’s culture ever since. Today, North Carolina is famous for being the Tar Heel State and producing Tar for many years. Citation: https://www. northcarolinahistory. org/commentary/why-is-north-carolina-called-the-tar-heel-statehttps://www. onlyinyourstate. com/north-carolina/tar-heels-nc/

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