Kentucky State Facts - History Firsts

Catch up on your state trivia with these Kentucky history firsts and interesting fun facts about the state.

Official Name Kentucky
Capital Frankfort
38.19077 N, 084.86520 W
Constitution Ratified 1891
Statehood June 01, 1792
15th state
Number of Counties 120 Counties in Kentucky
Largest County
(by population)
Jefferson County
385 sq. mi.

Kentucky History Firsts & State Facts

  • 1774 - Harrodstown (now Harrodsburg) was established as the first permanent settlement in the Kentucky region. It was named after James Harrod who led a team of area surveyors.
  • 1780 - The first town in the United States to be named for the first president was Washington.
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  • 1783 - Kentucky's first grist mill was built in 1783 on Elkhorn Creek in Fayette County by Rev. Lewis Craig. As the church had not yet been constructed, Rev. Craig's congregation used the mill for worship.
  • 1789 - Bourbon Whiskey takes its name from Bourbon County. Elijah Craig made the first batch in 1789. Elijah was also a preacher.
  • 1812 - In the War of 1812 more than half of all Americans killed in action were Kentuckians.
  • 1816 - Mammoth Cave is the world's longest cave and was first promoted in 1816, making it the second oldest tourist attraction in the United States.
  • 1817 - The first American performance of a Beethoven symphony was in Lexington.
  • 1819 - Begun in 1819 the first commercial oil well was on the Cumberland River in McCreary County.
  • 1849 - A duel between two friends, John Thomas Gray, Jr., and Capt. Henry Clay Pope on June 14, 1849 was the inspiration for the provision to the state constitution that elected and appointed officials must swear to have never fought in a duel. The governor still has to swear to this today.
  • 1850 - Kentucky statesman Henry Clay became known in Congress as the Great Pacificator for his leading role in the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise Measures of 1850.
  • 1852 - There is a legend that the inspiration for Stephen Foster's hymn like song "My Old Kentucky Home" was written in 1852 after an unverified trip to visit relatives in Kentucky.
  • 1856 - The first enamel bathtub was made in Louisville.
  • 1871 to 1873 - George Armstrong Custer was stationed in Hardin County in order to suppress the Ku Klux Klan and corrupt carpetbagger
  • 1883 - The public saw an electric light for the first time in Louisville. Thomas Edison introduced his incandescent light bulb to crowds at the Southern Exposition.
  • 1887 - Teacher Mary S. Wilson held the first observance of Mother's Day in Henderson in 1887. It was made a national holiday in 1916.
  • 1888 - "Honest Dick" Tate the state treasurer embezzled $247,000 and fled the state.
  • 1890 - Pike County the world's largest producer of coal is famous for the Hatfield-McCoy feud, an Appalachian vendetta that lasted from the Civil War to the 1890s.
  • 1892 - The radio was invented by a Kentuckian named Nathan B. Stubblefield of Murray. It was three years before Marconi made his claim to the invention.
  • 1893 - The song "Happy Birthday to You" was the creation of two Louisville sisters.
  • 1926 -
  • 1930 - The town of Corbin was the birthplace of old time movie star Arthur Lake whose real surname was Silverlake: He played the role of Dagwood in the "Blondie" films of the 1930s and '40s. Lake's parents were trapeze artists billed as The Flying Silverlakes
  • 1933 - Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan, a Lexingtonian, received the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work in genetics in 1933.The headline in the Lexington paper simply read, "Nephew of John Hunt Morgan wins Nobel Prize".
  • 1934 - Cheeseburgers were first served in 1934 at Kaolin's restaurant in Louisville.
  • 1942 -
  • 1949 - Kentucky-born Alben W. Barkley was the oldest United States Vice President when he assumed office in 1949. He was 71 years old.
  • 1956 - Kentucky State Fish: Kentucky Spotted Bass, adopted
  • 1957 - The brass plate embedded in the sidewalk at the corner of Limestone and Main Street in downtown Lexington is a memorial marker honoring Smiley Pete. The animal was known as the town dog in Lexington. He died in 1957.
  • 1962 - Kentucky State Flag, adopted.
  • 1968 - Kentucky State Wild Animal Game Species: Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), adopted
  • 1972 - The swimsuit Mark Spitz wore in the 1972 Olympic games was manufactured in Paris, Kentucky.
  • 1976 - The old official state tree was the Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus.) The tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is the current official state tree. The change was made in 1976
  • 1984 - Kentucky State Language: English, adopted
  • 1986 -
  • 1988- Kentucky State Bluegrass Song: "Blue Moon of Kentucky," adopted
  • 1990 -
  • 1994 - Kentucky State Tree: Tulip Poplar (Lirodendroan tulipifera), adopted
  • 1996 -
  • 1998 -
  • 1999 - The first Miss America from Kentucky is Heather Renee French. She was crowned September 18, 1999.
  • 2000-
    • Pledge of Allegiance to State Flag: "I pledge allegiance to the Kentucky flag, and to the Sovereign State for which it stands, one Commonwealth, blessed with diversity, natural wealth, beauty, and grace from on High."
  • 2001 - Kentucky State Musical Instrument: Appalachian Dulcimer, adopted
  • 2002 - Official Latin Motto: "Deo gratiam habeamus" ("Let us be grateful to God"), was adopted.
  • 2004 - Kentucky State Fruit: Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis), adopted
  • 2005 - Kentucky State Drink: Milk, adopted
  • 2006 - Kentucky State Dance: Clogging, adopted
  • 2007 - Kentucky State Music: Bluegrass Music, adopted

More Kentucky History Firsts & State Facts

  • The town of Murray is home to the Boy Scouts of America Scouting Museum located on the campus of Murray State University.
  • Kentucky's economic growth during the first half of the 19th century was marked by the development of large-scale commercial agriculture, especially the growing of hemp and tobacco.
  • The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held horse race in the country. It is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
  • Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, the key Civil War political figures of the Union and the Confederacy, were both born in Kentucky less than one hundred miles apart and within nine months of each other.
  • The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held horse race in the country. It is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.
  • The Bluegrass Country around Lexington is home to some of the world's finest racehorses.
  • Kentucky was a popular hunting ground for the Shawnee and Cherokee Indian nations prior to being settled by white settlers.
  • Chevrolet Corvettes are manufactured in Bowling Green.
  • The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant owned and operated by Colonel Sanders is located in Corbin.
  • Kentucky is the state where both Abraham Lincoln, President of the Union, and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, were born. They were born less than one hundred miles and one year apart.
  • Cumberland is the only waterfall in the world to regularly display a Moonbow. It is located just southwest of Corbin.
  • Fleming County is recognized as the Covered Bridge Capital of Kentucky.
  • Shelby County is recognized as the Saddlebred Capital of Kentucky.
  • Christian County is wet while Bourbon County is dry. Barren County has the most fertile land in the state.
  • Thunder Over Louisville is the opening ceremony for the Kentucky Derby Festival and is the world's largest fireworks display.
  • More than 100 native Kentuckians have been elected governors of other states.
  • The world's largest free-swinging bell known as the World Peace Bell is on permanent display in Newport.
  • More than $6 billion worth of gold is held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox. This is the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world
  • The great Man o' War won all of his horse races except one which he lost to a horse named Upset.
  • Pikeville annually leads the nation in per capita consumption of Pepsi-Cola.
  • Post-It Notes are manufactured exclusively in Cynthiana. The exact number made annually of these popular notes is a trade secret.
  • Kentucky was the 15th state to join the Union and the first on the western frontier.
  • Bluegrass is not really blue--its green--but in the spring bluegrass produces bluish purple buds that when seen in large fields give a blue cast to the grass. Today Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass State.
  • Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca are buried in the Frankfort Cemetery. Their son Isaac is buried at Blue Licks Battlefield near Carlisle, where he was killed in the last battle of the Revolutionary War fought in Kentucky.
  • The only monument south of the Ohio River dedicated to Union Soldiers who died in the Civil War is located in Vanceburg.
  • Middlesboro is the only city in the United States built within a meteor crater.
  • Joe Bowen holds the world record for stilt walking endurance. He walked 3,008 miles on stilts between Bowen, Kentucky to Los Angeles, California.
  • High Bridge located near Nicholasville is the highest railroad bridge over navigable water in the United StatesHigh Bridge located near Nicholasville is the highest railroad bridge over navigable water in the United States. Crosses the Kentucky River Palisades, connecting Jessamine County, Kentucky and Mercer County, Kentucky. Constructed in 1876, it is a three-span continuous under-deck truss used by Norfolk Southern Railway to carry trains between Lexington, Kentucky and Danville, Kentucky. It is a National Civil Engineering Landmark.
  • Carrie Nation the spokesperson against rum, tobacco, pornography, and corsets was born near Lancaster in Garrard County.
  • More than $6 billion worth of gold is held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox. This is the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world.
  • The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington has 82 stained-glass windows including the world's largest hand-blown one. The window measures 24 feet wide by 67 feet high and depicts the Council of Ephesus with 134 life-sized figures.
  • The Lost River Cave and Valley Bowling Green includes a cave with the shortest and deepest underground river in the world. It contains the largest cave opening east of the Mississippi.
  • Frederick Vinson who was born in Louisa is the only Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court known to be born in jail.
County Information and County History
State Facts & History Firsts
State Fun Facts - History Firsts