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Commonwealth of Kentucky
State flag of Kentucky State seal of Kentucky
(Flag of Kentucky) (Seal of Kentucky)
State nickname: Bluegrass State
Map of the U.S. with Kentucky highlighted
Other U.S. States
Capital Frankfort
Largest city Louisville
Governor Ernie Fletcher (R)
Senators Mitch McConnell (R)

Jim Bunning (R)

Official language(s) English
Area 104,749 km² (37th)
 - Land 102,989 km²
 - Water 1,760 km² (1.7%)
Population (2000)
 - Population 4,041,769 (25th)
 - Density 39.28 /km² (23rd)
Admission into Union
 - Date June 1, 1792
 - Order 15th
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/DST-4 (eastern)
Central: UTC-6/DST-5 (western)
Latitude 36°30'N to 39°9'N
Longitude 81°58'W to 89°34'W
Width 225 km
Length 610 km
 - Highest point 1263 m
 - Mean 230 m
 - Lowest point 78 m
 - ISO 3166-2 US-KY
Web site

The Commonwealth of Kentucky became the 15th U.S. state when it was admitted to the U.S. in 1792.

Kentucky and its residents are probably most well known for thoroughbred horses and horse racing, local whisky distilleries, and enthusiasm for basketball (The two principal basketball rivals in the state are the University of Kentucky (blue and white, Wildcats) and the University of Louisville (red and black, Cardinals)). Kentucky's pastimes are distinctly those of the South, and sports rivalries between the University of Kentucky and the Universities of Tennessee and North Carolina have long existed. Kentuckian cuisine is considered to be a synergistic blend of Midwestern cuisine and Southern US cuisine.


Origin of name

It was once believed that the name Kentucky was derived from the Native American word meaning "dark and bloody hunting ground," which is believed to be due to the fact that many Native American tribes went there to hunt in the game-rich forests and often fought each other there. However, it is now most commonly believed that the name Kentucky can be attributed to various Native American languages with several possible meanings from "land of tomorrow" to "cane and turkey lands" to "meadow lands." This last may come from the Iroquois name for the Shawnee town Eskippathiki. The name Kentucky referred originally to the Kentucky River and from that came the name of the region.


Kentucky is one of four states referred to as a commonwealth. Before the American War of Independence, this land was called Transylvania with its capital at Boonesborough. It was a major gateway for early migration to the west through the Cumberland Gap, and was the first major frontier developed west of the Appalachian Mountains. Guns enabled this movement westward, and even the term shotgun was first coined in Kentucky in 1776. After the war, it became Kentucky County, Virginia and ten constitutional conventions took place at the courthouse of Constitution Square in Danville between 1784 and 1792. In 1790, Kentucky delegates accepted Virginia's terms for separation and the state constitution was drafted at the final convention in April 1792. On June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth state in the union and Isaac Shelby, a Revolutionary War hero from Virginia, was named the first Governor of the Commonwealth Of Kentucky.

Both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were born in Kentucky.
Both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were born in Kentucky.

Kentucky was a border state during the American Civil War and for a time had two state governments, one supporting the Confederacy and one supporting the Union. Fittingly, the Presidents of both the United States (Abraham Lincoln) and the Confederate States (Jefferson Davis) during the Civil War were born in Kentucky.

At the beginning of the war, control of Kentucky was coveted by both sides of the conflict because of its central location. So much so, in fact, that in September 1861, Lincoln wrote in a private letter, “I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game.” The Confederates made advances in the state during the "Kentucky Campaign" of Generals Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith in 1862, but Braggs' retreat following the Battle of Perryville left the state under the control of the Union Army for the rest of the war.

Law and government

The capital of Kentucky is Frankfort and its current governor is Ernie Fletcher (Republican). Kentucky's two U.S. Senators are Jim Bunning (Republican) and Mitch McConnell (Republican). The Kentucky Constitution provides for three branches of government: the legislative, the judicial, and the executive. Kentucky's General Assembly has two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The executive branch is headed by the Governor. See List of Kentucky Governors. The judicial branch of Kentucky is made up of trial courts, called District and Circuit Courts, an intermediate appellate court, called the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and a court of last resort, the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Historically, Kentucky has leaned towards the Democratic Party, and was included among the "Solid South." The majority of the state's voters are officially registered as Democrats, although the majority has slimmed substantially in recent election cycles. Kentucky has voted Republican in five of the last seven presidential elections, but has supported the Democratic candidates of the South. The commonwealth supported Democrats Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, but Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Bush won the state's 8 electoral votes overwhelmingly in 2004 by a margin of 20 percentage points and 59.6% of the vote. The most solidly Democratic counties are in the mountainous eastern unionized coal mining region, especially Pike, Floyd, Knott, Menifee, and Breathitt, and the city of Louisville.


See also: List of Kentucky counties


Kentucky, also known as The Bluegrass State, borders the Midwest and the Deep South. It touches West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee, but is separated by water from Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

Its northern border is the low-water mark on the north side of the Ohio River. Its western border is the Mississippi River. Other major rivers in Kentucky include the Kentucky River, Tennessee River, the Cumberland River, the Green River, and the Licking River.

There are five main regions, the Cumberland Mountains and Cumberland Plateau in the southeast, the north-central Bluegrass Region, the south-central and western Pennyroyal Plateau, also sometimes termed "Pennyrile", the western coal-fields area, and the far-west Jackson Purchase.

Rural Bluegrass scene
Rural Bluegrass scene

The largest cities in Kentucky in terms of geographic area are the two merged city/county governments of Lexington-Fayette and Louisville Metro, although Louisville and its metropolitan area both have a much larger population than Lexington and its metro area. Northern Kentucky, an assemblage of smaller cities across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio, also has a large metropolitan population. The Lexington MSA and the Kentucky portions of the Louisville and Cincinnati MSAs, together, only make up about 45% of the state population, suggesting how rural the state is although 83% of Kentuckians live in MSAs with populations greater than 65,000. Much of rural Kentucky has become suburban during the last decade of the twentieth century.

Interestingly enough, Kentucky is the only U.S. state to have a non-contiguous part exist as an enclave of another state. Far western Kentucky includes a small part of land on the Mississippi River bordered by Missouri and accessible via Tennessee. This area is known as the Madrid Bend.


Bluegrass Region The Bluegrass region is commonly divided into two regions, the Inner Bluegrass - the encircling ninety miles around Lexington - and the Outer Bluegrass, the region that contains most of the Northern portion of the state, above the Knobs.

Significant natural attractions


The total gross state product for 2003 was $129 billion. Its Per Capita Personal Income was $26,575, 41st in the nation. Kentucky's agricultural outputs are horses, cattle, tobacco, dairy products, hogs, soybeans, corn, and often cotton in the west. Its industrial outputs are transportation equipment, chemical products, electric equipment, machinery, food processing, tobacco products, coal, and tourism.


Historical populations

1790 73,677
1800 220,955
1810 406,511
1820 564,317
1830 687,917
1840 779,828
1850 982,405
1860 1,155,684
1870 1,321,011
1880 1,648,690
1890 1,858,635
1900 2,147,174
1910 2,289,905
1920 2,416,630
1930 2,614,589
1940 2,845,627
1950 2,944,806
1960 3,038,156
1970 3,218,706
1980 3,660,777
1990 3,685,296
2000 4,041,769

As of 2004, there were an estimated 4,145,922 people living in Kentucky. This is a increase of over 104,104 people from 2000. This includes about 95,000 foreign-born (2.3%).

Racially, the population is:

The five largest ancestries in the state are: American (20.9%), German (12.7%), Irish (10.5%), English (9.7%), African American (7.3%).

Blacks, who once represented a quarter of the state's population during the height of the tobacco, cotton, and hemp plantation era, are most concentrated in the southwest (notably Christian County and the city of Paducah), the Bluegrass, and the city of Louisville. "American ancestry" is the largest reported ancestry group throughout most of the state in the Census. Other large reported ancestries are British and German. Germans are especially present in Louisville. The overwhelming majority of people reporting "American" ancestry are ultimately of British extraction, although their ancestry in the United States often predates the creation of the United Kingdom and other European nations.


Religiously, Kentucky is mostly Protestant. The religious affiliations of the state are as follows:

Important cities and towns

Population > 100,000 (urbanized areas)

Population > 10,000 (urbanized areas)

Important suburbs and small towns


Colleges and universities



Community colleges

Professional sports teams

The Minor league baseball teams are:

The United Indoor Football team is:

State symbols


Several U.S. Navy ships have been named USS Kentucky in honor of the state. The USS Paducah and USS Louisville also served as naval vessels.

See also

External links

Flag of Kentucky

Commonwealth of Kentucky

State capital:



Cumberland Plateau | The Bluegrass | Northern Kentucky | Pennyroyal Plateau | Cincinnati metropolitan area | Louisville metropolitan area | Western Coal Fields | The Purchase

Major cities:

Ashland | Bowling Green | Covington | Elizabethtown | Florence | Frankfort | Georgetown | Henderson | Hopkinsville | Lexington | Louisville | Madisonville | Nicholasville | Owensboro | Paducah | Radcliff | Richmond


Adair | Allen | Anderson | Ballard | Barren | Bath | Bell | Boone | Bourbon | Boyd | Boyle | Bracken | Breathitt | Breckinridge | Bullitt | Butler | Caldwell | Calloway | Campbell | Carlisle | Carroll | Carter | Casey | Christian | Clark | Clay | Clinton | Crittenden | Cumberland | Daviess | Edmonson | Elliott | Estill | Fayette | Fleming | Floyd | Franklin | Fulton | Gallatin | Garrard | Grant | Graves | Grayson | Green | Greenup | Hancock | Hardin | Harlan | Harrison | Hart | Henderson | Henry | Hickman | Hopkins | Jackson | Jefferson | Jessamine | Johnson | Kenton | Knott | Knox | LaRue | Laurel | Lawrence | Lee | Leslie | Letcher | Lewis | Lincoln | Livingston | Logan | Lyon | Madison | Magoffin | Marion | Marshall | Martin | Mason | McCracken | McCreary | McLean | Meade | Menifee | Mercer | Metcalfe | Monroe | Montgomery | Morgan | Muhlenberg | Nelson | Nicholas | Ohio | Oldham | Owen | Owsley | Pendleton | Perry | Pike | Powell | Pulaski | Robertson | Rockcastle | Rowan | Russell | Scott | Shelby | Simpson | Spencer | Taylor | Todd | Trigg | Trimble | Union | Warren | Washington | Wayne | Webster | Whitley | Wolfe | Woodford

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