Kentucky was the first region west of the Allegheny Mountains to be settled by American pioneers. James Harrod established the first permanent settlement at Harrodsburg in 1774; the following year Daniel Boone, who had explored the area in 1767, blazed the Wilderness Trail through the Cumberland Gap and founded Boonesboro.
Politically, the Kentucky region was originally part of Virginia, but statehood was gained in 1792. Gen. Anthony Wayne's victory in 1794 at Fallen Timbers in Ohio marked the end of Native American resistance in the area and secured the Kentucky frontier.
Kentucky prides itself on producing some of the nation's best tobacco, horses, and whiskey. Corn, soybeans, wheat, fruit, hogs, cattle, and dairy products are among the agricultural items produced.
Among the manufactured items produced in the state are motor vehicles, furniture, aluminum ware, brooms, apparel, lumber products, machinery, textiles, and iron and steel products. Kentucky also produces significant amounts of petroleum, natural gas, fluorspar, clay, and stone. However, coal accounts for 85% of the total mineral income.
Louisville is famous for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and the Bluegrass country around Lexington is the home of some of the world's finest race horses. Other attractions are Mammoth Cave, the George S. Patton, Jr., Military Museum at Fort Knox, and Old Fort Harrod State Park.
In Aug. 2006, Comair Flight 5191 crashed shortly after takeoff from Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, killing 49 of the 50 people on board.
An early 2012 tornado season delivers deadly funnels which kill 24 in Kentucky.
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Selected famous natives and residents:
- John Adair pioneer and political leader;
- Muhammad Ali boxer;
- Alben W. Barkley vice president;
- Louis D. Brandeis jurist;
- John Mason Brown critic;
- Kit Carson scout;
- Champ Clark politician;
- George Clooney actor;
- Rosemary Clooney singer;
- Irvin S. Cobb humorist;
- Jefferson Davis president of the Confederacy;
- Johnny Depp actor;
- Irene Dunne actress;
- Crystal Gayle singer;
- David W. Griffith film producer;
- John M. Harlan jurist;
- Elizabeth Hardwick writer;
- Casey Jones locomotive engineer;
- Ashley Judd actress;
- Naomi Judd singer;
- Wynona Judd singer;
- Barbara Kingsolver writer;
- Abraham Lincoln president;
- Loretta Lynn singer;
- Bill Monroe bluegrass musician;
- Carry A. Nation temperance leader;
- Patricia Neal actress;
- George Reeves actor;
- Wiley B. Rutledge jurist;
- Diane Sawyer broadcast journalist;
- Phil Simms football player;
- Adlai Stevenson vice president;
- Allen Tate poet and critic;
- Hunter Thompson writer;
- Frederick M. Vinson jurist;
- Robert Penn Warren novelist.