Kentucky Fun Facts

Only One Kentucky

  • 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 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.
  • Cheeseburgers were first served in 1934 at Kaolin’s restaurant in Louisville.
  • Chevrolet Corvettes are manufactured in Bowling Green.
  • 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. Niagara Falls, New York is first.
  • The first Miss America from Kentucky is Heather Renee French. She was crowned September 18, 1999.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In 1888, “Honest Dick” Tate the state treasurer embezzled $247,000 and fled the state.
  • The song “Happy Birthday to You” was the creation of two Louisville sisters in 1893.
  • Teacher Mary S. Wilson held the first observance of Mother’s Day in Henderson in 1887. It was made a national holiday in 1916.
  • 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.
  • The first American performance of a Beethoven symphony was in Lexington in 1817.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 public saw an electric light for the first time in Louisville. Thomas Edison introduced his incandescent light bulb to crowds at the Southern Exposition in 1883.
  • In the War of 1812 more than half of all Americans killed in action were Kentuckians.
  • The world’s largest free-swinging bell known as the World Peace Bell is on permanent display in Newport.
  • High Bridge located near Nicholasville is the highest railroad bridge over navigable water in the United States.
  • Kentucky-born Alben W. Barkley was the oldest United States Vice President when he assumed office in 1949. He was 71 years old.
  • 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.
  • Frederick Vinson who was born in Louisa is the only Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court known to be born in jail.
  • The last Virginia governor to serve over the land that would become Kentucky was Henry Lee.  Also known as Light Horse Harry, one of George Washington’s most trusted officers during the Revolution, He was the father of Robert E. Lee.
  • One of Kentucky’s most famous thoroughbreds, Man O’ War, never ran a race in the state.
  • Preston H. Leslie served as governor three different times.  Upon the resignation of Gov. Stevenson, Leslie was sworn into the office.  In 1871, he was duly elected.  In 1886, President Grover Cleveland appointed Leslie as Governor of the Territory of Montana.  He is the only governor from Kentucky to have served in that capacity in two states.
  • In the movie, Harper Valley PTA, a secretary had an unfortunate mishap involving a load of horse manure.  That manure was courtesy of Kentucky thoroughbred, Seattle Slew.
  • 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.
  • Bourbon Whiskey takes its name from Bourbon County. Elijah Craig made the first batch in 1789.  Elijah was also a preacher.

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