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Kentucky (/kənˈtʌki/ (About this soundlisten) kən-TUK-ee), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state located in the east south-central region of the United States. Although styled as the "State of Kentucky" in the law creating it, (because in Kentucky's first constitution, the name state was used) Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth (the others being Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts). Originally a part of Virginia, in 1792 Kentucky split from it and became the 15th state to join the Union. Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and the 26th most populous of the 50 United States.

Kentucky is known as the "Bluegrass State", a nickname based on the bluegrass found in many of its pastures due to the fertile soil. One of the major regions in Kentucky is the Bluegrass Region in central Kentucky, which houses two of its major cities, Louisville and Lexington. It is a land with diverse environments and abundant resources, including the world's longest cave system, Mammoth Cave National Park, the greatest length of navigable waterways and streams in the contiguous United States, and the two largest man-made lakes east of the Mississippi River.

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The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbred horses, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is one and a quarter miles (2 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57.2 kg) and fillies 121 pounds (54.9 kg). The race is known in the United States as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" for its approximate duration, and is also called "The Run for the Roses" for the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing in the US and typically draws around 155,000 fans. It is the oldest organized sporting event of any kind in the South, and the second oldest in the entire nation (only the Travers Stakes at Saratoga is older).

The fastest time ever run in the Derby (at its present distance) was set in 1973 at 1 minute 59 2/5 seconds when Secretariat broke the record set by Northern Dancer in 1964. Not only has Secretariat's record time stood for 34 years and counting, but in the race itself, he did something unique in Triple Crown races: each successive quarter, his times were faster.

The Derby is frequently referred to as "The Run for the Roses," because a lush blanket of 554 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year. The tradition is as a result of New York socialite E. Berry Wall presenting roses to ladies at a post-Derby party in 1883 that was attended by Churchill Downs president, Col. M. Lewis Clark. This gesture is believed to have eventually led Clark to the idea of making the rose the race's official flower. However, it was not until 1896 that any recorded account referred to roses being draped on the Derby winner. The Governor of Kentucky awards the garland and the trophy. Pop vocalist Dan Fogelberg composed a song by that title for the 1980 running of the race.

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Chained Rock Pineville KY.png
Photo credit: A. C. Dixon
Pine Mountain State Resort Park is Kentucky's oldest state park.

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Elizabethtown is the county seat of Hardin County. The population was 22,542 at the 2000 census. Hardin County was established in 1793 and named for Colonel John Hardin, an Indian fighter who had been killed by Native Americans while on a peace mission with tribes in Ohio. It did not take long for the settlement to become an active community. In just a few years, professional men and tradesmen came to live in the area. In 1793, Colonel Hynes had thirty acres of land surveyed and laid off into lots and streets to establish Elizabethtown. Named in honor of the wife of Andrew Hynes, Elizabethtown was legally established on July 4, 1797.

On December 27, 1862, General John Hunt Morgan and his 3,000-man cavalry attacked Elizabethtown. During the battle more than 100 cannon balls were fired into the town. Although he successfully captured Elizabethtown, his goal was to disrupt the railroad. He proceeded north along the route of the railroad burning trestles and destroying sections of the track. After the battle, one cannon ball was lodged in the side of a building on the Public Square.

The town is regionally referred to as "E-town." It is notable as one of two larger towns (the other being Bowling Green) along I-65 between Louisville and Nashville. The movie Elizabethtown (2005) was named after the town, even though the majority of the movie was filmed in Versailles and Louisville because Elizabethtown has lost most of its historic buildings in recent years due to development and sprawl.

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William Henry Harrison

Kentucky Official Symbols

On this day in Kentucky history...

Quotes

"I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky." -- Abraham Lincoln

"I was brought up to believe that Scotch whisky would need a tax preference to survive in competition with Kentucky bourbon." -- Hugo Black

"Tough girls come from New York. Sweet girls, they're from Georgia. But us Kentucky girls, we have fire and ice in our blood. We can ride horses, be a debutante, throw left hooks, and drink with the boys, all the while making sweet tea, darlin'. And if we have an opinion, you know you're gonna hear it." -- Ashley Judd

"Soon after, I returned home to my family, with a determination to bring them as soon as possible to live in Kentucky, which I esteemed a second paradise, at the risk of my life and fortune." -- Daniel Boone

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Belle of Louisville is a steamboat owned and operated by the city of Louisville, Kentucky and moored at its downtown wharf next to the Riverfront Plaza/Belvedere during its annual operational period. Originally named the Idlewild, she was built by James Rees & Sons Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the West Memphis Packet Company in 1914 and was first put into service on the Allegheny River. Constructed with an all-steel superstructure and asphalt main deck, the steamboat is said to hold the all-time record in her class for miles traveled, years in operation, and number of places visited.

The Belle's offices are located within the Mayor Andrew Broaddus, also a National Historic Landmark.

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Thomas Hines (October 8, 1838 – January 23, 1898) was a Confederate spy during the American Civil War. A native of Butler County, Kentucky, he originally served as a grammar instructor, particularly at the Masonic University of La Grange, Kentucky before the war. After several daring adventures and almost-impossible escapes during the war, he settled down after the war with much of his family in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he would go on to serve on the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Thomas Hines was said to resemble noted actor John Wilkes Booth, who would gain some fame immediately after Robert E. Lee surrendered. Hines was five feet nine inches tall, and weighed a mere 140 pounds. With his slim build, he was said to not be particularly menacing in appearance, and a friend said he had a voice like a "refined woman". He had a fondness not only for women, but music and horses as well. Union agents saw Hines as the man they most needed to apprehend, but except for his time at the Ohio State Penitentiary in late 1863, he was never captured.

During his time in the Kentucky Court of Appeals, Thomas Hines was a witness to the assassination of fellow Judge John Milton Elliott on March 26, 1879, while the two were leaving the Kentucky State House. A judge from Henry County, Kentucky, Colonel Thomas Buford, shot Elliott with a double-barreled shotgun filled with twelve buckshot after Hines had turned and walked six feet away from Elliott.

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