Kentucky was granted statehood in 1792, becoming the first U.S. state west of the Appalachian Mountains. Frontiersman Daniel Boone was one of Kentucky’s most prominent explorers and many immigrants followed the trail he blazed through the Cumberland Gap, known as the Wilderness Road.
The state remained officially neutral during the Civil War and its population was deeply divided. Soldiers from Kentucky served in both the Union and Confederate armies. Known primarily as an agricultural area into the 20th century, Kentucky is also a major U.S. coal producer and site of the U.S.military bases Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. It is also known as the home of the legendary Kentucky Derby horse race and bluegrass music, pioneered by Kentucky native Bill Monroe.
Date of Statehood: June 1, 1792
Population: 4,339,367 (2010)
Size: 40,411 square miles
Nickname(s): Bluegrass State
Motto: United we stand, divided we fall
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Tree: Tulip Poplar
- Despite the fact that there were no battles fought within the state, more than half of all Americans killed in action during the War of 1812 were from Kentucky.
- In late August of 1888, nine members of the Hatfield family were tried and convicted at the Pike County Courthouse in Kentucky for a raid on Randall McCoy’s home, in which his son and daughter were killed, his wife was beaten unconscious and his home was burned to the ground. The long-running feud between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky claimed a dozen members of the two clans. In 2003, the families signed a formal truce, putting an official end to the hostilities.
- The “Happy Birthday to You” melody was the creation of sisters Mildred and Patty Hill in 1893. While working at Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School, the duo created a song for teachers to sing to students entitled “Good Morning to All.” In 1924, Robert Coleman first published the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics along with the tune. It is now one of the most popular songs in the English language.
- The United States Bullion Depository in Fort Knox contains the largest gold reserve in the world. In 2011, the holdings were worth more than $260 billion.
- The annual three-day Hillbilly Days Festival attracts more than 100,000 people to Pikeville. The event began in 1977 as a way to celebrate Appalachian culture while raising money for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
- Although he is more closely associated with Illinois, Abraham Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky.