From Then Til Now: Kentucky History at a Glance

Exploring history starts with the present. Keep scrolling to learn more about the events and stories that make up Kentucky History.

1792

On June 1, Kentucky is admitted to the union as the 15th state and the first state west of the Appalachian Mountains.

1796

Wilderness Road opens to wagons, allowing more settlers and their families to come into Kentucky.

1811-12

New Madrid earthquakes reroute Mississippi River and create a small portion of far Western Kentucky not connected to the rest of the state.

1817

The first commercial steamboat route from Louisville to New Orleans opens.

1830

The Louisville and Portland Canal opens, changing commercial navigation on the Ohio River and helping to expand the population and commerce of the United States.

1830

The third state capitol building opens in Frankfort on Broadway Street.

1836

The Kentucky Historical Society is formed by a group of prominent Kentuckians and charged with preserving the history of the Commonwealth.

1850

Louisville & Nashville Railroad receives a charter from the Commonwealth of Kentucky “...to build a railroad between Louisville, Kentucky, and the Tennessee state line in the direction of Nashville."

1861

In September, Kentucky declares full allegiance to the United States, which was in the early months of the Civil War.

1861

In October, Southern sympathizers establish a provisional Confederate government of Kentucky in Bowling Green.

1875

The first Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Aristides wins with African-American jockey Oliver Lewis. (Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Derby Museum)

1884

Hillerich & Bradsby, makers of the Louisville Slugger bats, is founded in Louisville. (Photo courtesy of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory)

1891

The present Kentucky constitution is adopted.

1893

Mildred and Patty Hill of Louisville write the melody to the song “Good Morning to All,” which later became “Happy Birthday.”

1896

Emma Guy Cromwell becomes the first woman to hold a statewide office in Kentucky when she is elected state librarian by a vote of the State Senate.

1903

The Kentucky Historical Society publishes the first issue of The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. It remains the scholarly journal of record for Kentucky history.

1909

The present Kentucky State Capitol opens in Frankfort.

1926

Mammoth Cave National Park is established.

1937

The United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox accepts its first gold shipments.

1937

The Ohio River reaches its highest level in modern history.

1946

Kentuckian Frederick M. Vinson is sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

1954

The Kentucky Historical Society becomes an independent agency of Kentucky state government, but remains a membership organization.

1960

Muhammad Ali (then Cassius M. Clay Jr.) wins a gold medal in the light heavyweight division of boxing at the Olympic Games in Rome.

1964

President Lyndon Johnson launches his War on Poverty initiatives from Martin County. Among other things, the War on Poverty created Medicare and Medicaid, expanded Social Security benefits, made the Food Stamp Act permanent, and established the Job Corps, the VISTA program, the federal work-study program and Head Start. (LBJ Library photo by Cecil Stoughton)

1966

Kentucky passes the first statewide comprehensive Civil Rights Act in the South. The act prohibits discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on race, national origin, color and religion. It also disallows housing discrimination.

1973

Kentucky Historical Society’s History Mobile, a mobile exhibit and learning lab, takes to the road for the first time.

1976

The Kentucky Oral History Commission is created. It remains the only state agency of its kind in the United States committed to statewide oral history documentation through granting programs and outreach. The Kentucky Historical Society administers KOHC.

1983

Martha Layne Collins is elected governor of Kentucky. She is the first woman to hold that office.

1999

The Kentucky Historical Society moves into the Kentucky History Center at 100 Broadway St. in Frankfort.

2001

Louisville physicians perform the first self-contained artificial heart implant. The patient, Robert L. Tools, 59, lived 151 days with the device. (Photo courtesy of the University of Louisville)

2005

The Kentucky History Center is renamed Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in honor of the Kentucky historian laureate, who died at age 102 just before the dedication.

2010

The Kentucky Horse Park in Fayette County hosts the World Equestrian Games, the first time the games had taken place outside of Europe. (Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Horse Park)

2012

Morehead State University and its partners launch the first satellite built entirely in Kentucky. Its 10-year mission is to provide information on the underlying physics of the early universe. A nano-satellite, it is the size of a loaf of bread and weighs five pounds. (Photo courtesy of Morehead State University)

2013

Kentucky legalizes the growing of hemp, once an important cash crop for Kentucky for the production of rope and sailcloth.

  • 1792
  • 1796
  • 1811-12
  • 1817
  • 1830
  • 1830
  • 1836
  • 1850
  • 1861
  • 1861
  • 1875
  • 1884
  • 1891
  • 1893
  • 1896
  • 1903
  • 1909
  • 1926
  • 1937
  • 1937
  • 1946
  • 1954
  • 1960
  • 1964
  • 1966
  • 1973
  • 1976
  • 1983
  • 1999
  • 2001
  • 2005
  • 2010
  • 2012
  • 2013
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