Kentucky is a beautiful place filled with unique and amazing history. Most people know the main historical bumps we get, such as Abe Lincoln being born here. However, there are other tidbits of our history that are unknown, or under-acknowledged for the most part. The Bluegrass State history is often told in bits and pieces, without actually providing the whole story, or simply leaving out unique or interesting parts.
12. Let there be light.
The people of the U.S. saw a brilliant blue light for the first time in Kentucky’s Southern Exposition of 1883. It was there we were introduced to the “incandescent light bulb”, though Edison created his first lamp in 1879. Until that point, Kentucky people were utilizing gas lanterns, candles and torches.
11. First to vote with the Australian secret ballot.
The first place to utilize this secret ballot in the U.S. was Louisville Kentucky, and it was introduced by A.M. Wallace on February 24th, 1988. The ballots were printed out via the mayor and nominees had to receive 50+ nominations in order to be considered for the primary ballot. Once nominated, the election process continued with those specific names on the ballot. Initially this was done in alphabetical order without any political party affiliations noted.
10. Coal for Santa.
For those of you who wonder how Santa gets coal for the naughty’s stockings… you might be surprised at the truth. You see, Santa sends his elves to Pike County Kentucky, which is the biggest supplier of coal in the world. Thus, if you see someone looking a bit out of place in the area, it is likely just an elf on task trying to avoid recognition.
9. War of 1812.
Kentuckians have been fighting and dying for the country for centuries. In the war of 1812, more than half the soldiers killed in battle were from the Bluegrass State, and were led by Isaac Shelby.
8. Hemp was a cash crop.
The first white settlers in Kentucky were soldiers and farmers, with the main cash crops being tobacco and Hemp. Hemp replaced cotton for cloth, bale bagging and rope, creating strong reliable material, until being illegalized. Tobacco will likely be grown here till it becomes illegal as well.
7. Know Nothing.
Bloody Monday occurred on August 6th, 1855 and it was all over Nothing, Know Nothing. What began as a political rivalry between Democrats and the Nativist Know Nothing Party. The English Protestant immigrants were bitter with the Irish, German and Catholic immigrants and basically picked a fight. It turned into a riot leaving over 100 dead, many injured and a large amount of property destroyed by fire. Though five people were indicted, no one was ever convicted and the victims never received justice or compensation.
6. Horse Country.
Kentucky has been horse country since the Native’s rode proud and first white settlers took up residence here. The first white settlers that weren’t farming Tobacco or Hemp were horse and mule breeders. Breeding fine horse/mule stock was another popular way of making money in the 1700s and 1800s. This was grown into our state and our horse breeding is renowned around the world.
Before becoming Louisville, the biggest city in Kentucy was a French outpost deemed, “La Belle”, occupied by around 15,000 French immigrants known as Huguenots. Louisville was established by George Rogers Clark in 1778, and loyally named in honor of King Louis XVI, in respect to our relationship with France at the time. France pretty much owned our state…
4. The most exciting 2 minutes in sports.
We are home to the Kentucky Derby, which is the longest running horse race in the United States. The Derby was established in 1875, and has been deemed the most exciting 2 minutes in sports via sports casters across the country. People travel from all around the globe just to experience 120 seconds of excitement.
3. Sacred Mounds.
The original occupants of Kentucky, the Iroquois, Chicasaw, Cherokee, Shawnee, Ottawa, Conewago, Seneca, Lenape and other Native tribes, buried their warriors, tribal members and artifects all across the lands. There are raised platforms in almost every county where the bones of ancestors, pottery, arrow heads and beads lay facing the Sky Father.
2. Trail Towns.
It is pretty obvious that our state is among the most beautiful in the country, but were you aware there were towns specifically for adventurers? There are several communities in our state that are there for our convenience. One might initially think they are just small towns, but in reality, they are a gateway to beautiful trails and centuries old scenic dreamlands. If you have never heard of, or visited a Trail Town, London, Jamestown and Livingston are all excellent examples to be explored. Each offers hiking, fishing, and boating, and some offer horseback riding, ATV and more. They all provide an incredible look and experience within nature’s magical creations.
1. Folk Art.
In the late 1700s, most residents of Kentucky were not wealthy, especially in the Appalachians. This meant people made things from whatever was available to entertain themselves and their children. Dolls were made from thinning socks, scraps of cloth and wood. Bowls, plates and utinsels were carved from wood, usually collected near the home. Basically, everything from household necessities to toy soldiers and figurines were whittled from wood, sewn from cloth by hand, or molded from riverbank clay. Folk Art started out as a means to an end for poor families, instead of today’s popular coined art form.
Most of you are likely familiar with the Derby, but some of these bits of Kentucky history might have come at a surprise. It is always interesting to learn more about our beautiful state. We have a very colorful history with a lot of ongoing and amazing traditions. Which, if any, of these historical bits about Kentucky were you surprised by? What unique historical facts do you know about the Bluegrass State?