June 29, 2012

Kentucky – “The Bluegrass State”

Kentucky map


Just the Facts…

bird – cardinal
flower – goldenrod
tree – yellow poplar
capital – Frankfort
union – 15th on June 1, 1792
population – about 4 million




The Basics 

Kentucky is officially known as “The Commonwealth of Kentucky.”  It was part of Virginia until 1792, when it broke off to form its own state.  The name “Kentucky” is thought to have Native American origins.  One possibility is that it comes from the Iroquois word “Ken-tah-ten,” which means “land of tomorrow.”

Two of the nation’s biggest rivers make up part of its borders – the Ohio River forms the northern boundary with Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and the Mississippi River forms the western boundary with Missouri.  Some say Kentucky has more miles of navigable rivers than any other state.  And, those waterways have contributed to its economy over the years.

Kentucky’s landscape is very diverse, with mountain ranges, rolling hills and lush valleys.  The northern part of Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass Region and there are coal fields in both the western and eastern part of Kentucky.  The Pennyroyal region in the south contains The Barrens – a rocky area that has no trees.


Its Claim to Fame

Kentucky is horse country!  The world’s best thoroughbred horse farms are located in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky.  Some of the world’s most expensive horses are bred and raised in Kentucky.  The National Horse Center is located at the Kentucky Horse Park, which is also headquarters for many of the organizations and associations involved in horse breeding, riding, and racing.

The Kentucky Derby is a big tradition in Kentucky and has been held every year since 1875!  Sometimes it is called “the fastest two minutes in sports” and other times it is called the “run for the roses.”  Meriweather Lewis (of the Lewis & Clark Expedition) formed the Louisville Jockey Club after visiting England and France and watching their famous horse races.  The Jockey Club raised the money necessary to build a racetrack – luckily the land was donated by the Churchill brothers (thus the name “Churchill Downs”).  Now, there is an annual Kentucky Derby Festival that is held for the two weeks prior to the race.  “Thunder Over Louisville” kicks off the Festival and is one of the largest fireworks displays in America.


What Makes it Tick

The first colonists to cross the Appalachian Mountains into Kentucky came in search of land to farm, and they found it in central Kentucky.  Farming is still important to Kentucky today.  About one-half of the land within Kentucky is farmland – horse farms, cattle farms, and traditional crop-growing farms.

Like most border states, Kentucky was an important player in the Civil War.  It was officially neutral at the beginning of the War and remained in the Union.  Many people believed in the Confederacy, however, and as a result Kentucky soldiers fought on both sides of the War.  Some families were ripped apart as brothers fought against brothers. Interestingly, two of the most important Civil War leaders were born in Kentucky – Abraham Lincoln (President of the Union) and Jefferson Davis (President of the  Confederacy).

The country’s most productive coal mines are in Kentucky.  Coal was discovered in Kentucky around 1750 and the first commercial mine began operations in 1820.  Kentucky has been a leader in coal production ever since.  Coal helped to fuel the growth of our country in the 19th Century – it powered factories, machines and train engines; it was used to produce the iron and steel needed for large buildings; and it warmed the homes of people all across the country.

Early on, most coal miners and their families lived in “coal patch” towns established by the companies that owned the mines.  These towns were different from most in America because they were not independently governed by elected officials.  The coal company owned and controlled the town – it decided whether there would be electricity, running water, windows and doors in the houses, and how much the workers would have to pay for their food and housing.

If You Visited

If you visited Kentucky, you might go to Mammoth Cave National Park in the Green River Valley of Kentucky.  Mammoth Cave is part of the world’s longest cave system.  Over 350 miles of caves were made over thousands of years.  The caves were made by ground water trickling through the land’s porous limestone and sandstone.  The holes made by the water grew bigger and bigger over time until they became underground caves and passageways.  New parts of the huge cave system are still being discovered and mapped today!

Calling all baseball lovers – the biggest baseball bat in the world is located in Kentucky!   It is six stories high and leans against the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.   The museum has replicas of bats used by famous players through the years – you head to the batting cage with a replica of Babe Ruth’s bat!  Or you could tour the factory and see how a baseball bat is made.  The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory is located in Louisville, Kentucky and has been making baseball bats the same way for over 100 years!

Want to Know More? 

Do you live in Kentucky? Or, maybe you have visited Kentucky?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Kentucky?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Kentucky to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Kentucky.  Visit these websites to learn more: