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Kentucky (KY): State Guide and Fun Facts

When did Kentucky become a state? June 1, 1792

Who first explored Kentucky? It might have been Hernando Desoto in 1541. Others claim it was Gabriel Arthur in 1673, and still others say James McBride first explored Kentucky in 1754.

First inhabitants: Shawnee, Cherokee and Chickasaw Native American Tribes

Square Miles: 40,411

US Rank: 37th

State Flower: Goldenrod

State Bird: Cardinal

State Motto: United we stand, divided we fall.

Capital City

Frankfort – Frankfort Kentucky is a small town in the northern central area of Kentucky. In 2000, its population was only 27,741, one of the smallest state capitals in the United States. The land was originally purchased in 1786 by James Wilkinson. In 1792, John Allen, John Edwards, Henry Lee, Thomas Kennedy and Robert Todd were put in charge of choosing the state capital for Kentucky. The area known as Frankfort was the choice of the five men, and it has been the state capital since.


What is Kentucky famous for?

1. Kentucky Bluegrass- The grass, which is native to Kentucky and grows abundantly in the state, is the most common seed used for residential lawns in the United States. The grass is hearty and grows in almost any soil in cool weather conditions. The seed produces a dense, green sod used in residential and sporting applications all over the country.

2. Kentucky Derby – Arguably the most well-known horse race, the Kentucky Derby is held every year at Churchill Downs, located in Louisville, Kentucky. The race takes place in early May and is a short event, lasting only about two minutes and covering 1 ¼ miles. The Derby is the first of the three Triple Crown races, and it is followed by the Preakness and Belmont races.

3. Kentucky Fried Chicken – Begun by Colonel Sanders in 1952, Kentucky Fried Chicken has become a worldwide brand. Sanders originally came up with his Original Recipe chicken in 1940. Although the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant was opened in Utah, Colonel Sanders began selling his fried chicken in 1930 at a gas station called Sanders Court and Cafe in North Corbin, Kentucky. In 1964, Sanders sold the franchising operation, which had grown to include over 600 restaurants.

What is Kentucky’s economy?

1. Agriculture – Kentucky’s largest revenue generating livestock products are young chickens, horses, mules, cattle and calves. Its largest crops are tobacco, soybeans, corn, and wheat.

2. Manufacturing – The manufacture of automobiles and automobile parts accounts for the largest sector of production in the state. Other manufactured goods include chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paints, industrial gases, machinery, heating and air-conditioning equipment and printers.

3. Services – Kentucky has a service industry that generates a large percentage of the state’s income every year. The largest services branches are business and personal services such as health care, hotels, law firms and repair shops. Other industries include wholesale and retail trade industries, and the operation of public schools, hospital and military bases.


Kentucky Historical Landmarks

1. Churchill Downs – The racetrack that is home to the Kentucky Derby annually was officially opened in 1875, when the first Derby was hosted at the location. The track was originally named for Henry and John Churchill, the brothers that sold the land to its creator, Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. After some financial difficulty, Lewis was forced to sell the track in 1893, after which the city took it over and began to use the location for additional events such as auto races, concerts and state fairs.

2. Belle of Louisville – The Belle of Louisville is a steamboat that was built in 1914 in Pennsylvania and came to Louisville in 1931. Once in Kentucky, the steamboat, originally named Idlewild, was responsible for taking passengers from the Fontaine Ferry amusement park to Rose Island, a resort north of the city. In addition to her function as a passenger steamboat, the Belle of Louisville was responsible for pushing oil barges up the river during World War II and hosting a USO nightclub for army troops at various military bases nearby. Due to financial hardship, Idlewild was sold and used in Nebraska, MinnesotaWest Virginia and Tennessee. In 1962, the steamboat had once again fallen on hard times and was auctioned off to Judge Marlow Cook of Jefferson County, who brought the steamboat back to her home in Louisville and restored her, renaming the boat the Belle of Louisville.

3. Daniel Carter Beard Home – Located just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, the Daniel Carter Beard home is located in Covington, Kentucky, Beard was one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America. During his childhood at the home, the boy and his friends called themselves the “Boone Scouts” after their hero Daniel Boone. In adulthood, Daniel Carter Beard, who became known as “Uncle Dan” founded the Sons of Daniel Boone, which merged with the Boy Scouts of America to in 1910.

4. The Old State Capital – Located in Frankfort, Kentucky, the Old State Capital was used from 1830 until 1910. It was built in 1827 by Gideon Shryock, who designed the building in the Greek Revival style, characteristic of architecture during that time. The front of the building is reminiscent of the Temple of Minerva Polias in Greece. In an unfortunate election in 1899, the new governor, William Goebel was shot on the steps of the capital as he was about to be inaugurated. In 1910, a new state capital building was constructed, and the Old State Capital has been home to the Kentucky Historical Society since.