Today is Kentucky’s Statehood Day. It was on June 1, 1792, that Kentucky officially became the 15th state to join the United States of America.
The past 224 years have been full of momentous occasions for the commonwealth — industrialization, wars and the resurgence of bourbon’s popularity.
But here in Louisville, many residents seem to have a complicated relationship with Kentucky. The state’s largest city often differs politically from the Republican-leaning rest of the state, and many Louisvillians identify culturally with the city rather than the state as a whole.
So, in honor of Statehood Day, we decided to ask a few Louisvillians on East Market Street a simple question: Do you consider yourself more a Louisvillian or a Kentuckian?
“I guess a Louisvillian because I’ve only lived in Louisville, but Louisville’s part of Kentucky and Kentucky’s pretty badass,” Ellis said. “I think if you’re splitting hairs like that, it’s kind of exclusive in a way. But if you’re really being a Louisvillian and talking about all the great things and how accepting and loving everyone is here, then you wouldn’t make the distinction that you’re different from these other places, you know?”
“I usually give people the preface that ‘I’m from Louisville, Kentucky, it’s more Midwestern than Kentucky,’ partially just because of political values,” Calvert, who now lives in San Francisco, said. “If someone’s really interested, I give more of a historical background that starts with, you know, the Civil War … but usually I say, definitely from Louisville.”
“When I lived overseas, I always said I was from Louisville first, I guess, rather than Kentucky,” Hagest said. “Maybe that’s not because of negative thoughts of the rest of the state, I just feel like I identify more with this specific area than the rest of the state.”
“To me, (Louisville and Kentucky are) two separate places,” Snell said. “But I think that’s true of any city and every city that I’ve lived in, it’s historically been correct. I would say Detroit and Michigan are two different places, just like St. Louis and Missouri are two different places.”
“I’d say Kentuckian, yeah,” Zellers said. “There’s a lot in our state to be proud of, not just being a Louisvillian. I think there’s a mindset in this city that we’re separate from, but I think that’s kind of a toxic mindset, and we need to kind of embrace everybody in the state. I like Kentucky history, and we’ve got a lot of good people in all parts of the state.”
“When I was moving here, my friends were like ‘Kentucky? What’s in Kentucky? Kentucky, isn’t that like Kansas, Tennessee, what’s over there? It’s Kentucky,'” said Huffman, who moved here a few years ago from Arizona. “And then when I’d say Louisville they were like, ‘oh, what’s that city like?’”
And so you can show off at any of those statehood parties we know you’re attending — or, really, for use at any party — here are five lesser-known facts about our commonwealth:
- Kentucky has more miles of running water than any other state in the lower 48 (only Alaska has more). With the commonwealth’s numerous rivers and water impoundments, there’s a total of 1,100 commercially navigable miles.
- John T. Thompson, a Newport, Kentucky native and U.S. Army officer, invented the Thompson Machine Gun. Nicknamed the “Tommy gun,” it was widely embraced during the Prohibition era by organized crime gangs.
- Most of the soldiers killed during the War of 1812 were from Kentucky. According to Kentucky Educational Television, 64 percent of Americans killed in the war were Kentuckians.
- Man o’ War, one of the most famous horses ever born in Kentucky, never ran a race here. According to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, owner Samuel D. Riddle decided to pass on the Kentucky Derby in favor of having “Big Red” make his 3-year-old debut in the Preakness. Man o’ War easily won and went on to also win the Withers, Belmont (a 20-length victory), Stuyvesant and Dwyer.
- The song “Happy Birthday” was composed in 1893 by Louisville sisters, Patty and Mildred Hill. Patty Hill was a kindergarten teacher, and the song — originally called “Good Morning to All” — was intended for use in the classroom. It was first published, along with about 70 other simple songs for children. (It has also been the subject of an epic and ongoing copyright battle.)