What does Austin's Violet Crown mean, anyway?
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What does Austin's Violet Crown mean, anyway?

Violet Crown Cinema, Violet Crown Social Club, Violet Crown Trail. What's with this idiom that's all over Austin?


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If you’ve lived in Austin for a while, you may have noticed the term "Violet Crown" used in various business names and one popular hiking trail. But do you know where it comes from or how it happens?

According to Dane Anderson of the Austin History Center Association, "Violet Crown" was first used by Greek poet Theognis in 550 B.C. to describe the violet and purple sky at sunset over Athens.

This beautiful phenomenon — also known as the "Belt of Venus" — is a pinkish, purplish glow that extends 10 to 20 degrees above the horizon.

While ol' Theognis may have coined the term over 2,500 years ago, the earliest published mention of Austin as the City of Violet Crown came in an April 1894 Austin Daily Statesman article, “The Rest of the News.”

The feature celebrated the day Austinites voted to build a granite dam over the Colorado River to provide power to the city and light the famed moontowers.

That same year, American writer O. Henry authored a short story in Rolling Stone about a home in the western hills. "Tictocq” was published in August October 1894.

“The drawing-rooms of one of the most magnificent private residences in Austin are a blaze of lights. Carriages line the streets in front, and from gate to doorway is spread a velvet carpet, on which the delicate feet of the guests may tread.
The occasion is the entrée into society of one of the fairest buds in the City of the Violet Crown. The rooms are filled with the culture, the beauty, the youth, and fashion of society. Austin society is acknowledged to be the wittiest, the most select, and the highest bred to be found southwest of Kansas City.”

What's the science behind the Violet Crown?

During sunset, sunlight passes through more of the atmosphere than during the day when the sun is higher in the sky, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This means that there are more molecules to scatter the violet and blue light. However, when there are more clouds and dust particles in the atmosphere, the light can effectively reflect the pink, orange and red colors down to your eyes.

As Austin grows and pollution increases, it becomes harder to see the Violet Crown from downtown. 

However, Anderson believes you can still see the soft, purple glow of the Violet Crown over the Hill Country if you head west, out of the city. That’s your best shot at getting that perfect, postcard-worthy Texas sunset.