| Historical Timeline of the City of LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, Presented by Louisville.cc
- Louisville History Site - Gereral Louisville History
With a population of about 7,000 people, Louisville becomes an incorporated
city, and elects John Bucklin as the city's first mayor.
The University of Louisville is founded as the nation's first municipal
university. It incorporates, combines with the Louisville Medical Institue
and opens a law school 18 years later.
10,000 spectators attend a thoroughbred horse race at Old Louisville's
Oakland Race Course. The two-horse match, in which Grey Eagle loses to Wagner,
has an enormous $14,000 purse and takes place 36 years before the first Kentucky
Aug. 6, 1855: Bloody Monday Encouraged by the
Louisville Daily Courier's editorials, Germans, Irish and Catholics
are beaten and shot by members of the political American Party (the Know
Nothings). This Election Day uprising leaves 22 dead.
As a 19-year-old telegraph operator living in the Butchertown neighborhood,
Thomas Edison is fired for spilling acid on his boss' desk. After losing
his job, he leaves Louisville and subsequently invents electric lighting and
the phonograph. He also contributes improvements to motion pictures and telegraphs.
Aristides wins the first Kentucky Derby on May 17. The race is held at the
new Louisville Jockey Club track, and is the brainchild of Meriwether Clark
(grandson of William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition). 10,000 people
show up for the first Derby, and the Jockey Club is later renamed Churchill
Professional baseball launches the National League with the Louisville Grays
team as a charter member. The Grays finish the season fifth of six teams.
John ÔÔBud'' Hillerich makes a baseball bat in his
father's wood shop from white ash. He continues making bats and starts
using the name 'Louisville Slugger' about ten years later. The
company he started, Hillerich & Bradsby, now manufactures a million wooden
bats per year, which accounts for 2 of every 3 wooden bats sold worldwide.
They also make about 2 of every 5 aluminum bats sold.
On Feb. 25, the 22-year-old Cassius Clay, defeats Sonny Liston to become the
heavyweight boxing champion of the world. The following day, Clay announces
that he is a member of the Nation of Islam, and has changed his name to Muhammad
On April 3, a tornado reaches 250 mph and stays on the ground for about 20
minutes while tearing through Louisville and damaging 1,800 houses. Two Louisvillians
are killed as well as 85 others in adjacent areas. The same day, more than
100 tornadoes rip though 10 states, killing a total of 322 people.
The Transit Authority of River City (TARC) is established to address the area's
public transportation needs1975
Jefferson County Public Schools are ordered into an immediate busing program
by a Federal Court to racially integrate classes. Police ride aboard school
buses to protect students from white protesters who bombard buses with rocks
in southern Jefferson County.
William DeVries and Allan Lansing of the Humana Heart Institute implant the
Jarvik-7 artificial heart into the chest of Bill Schroeder. He lives 119 days
with the device.
Louisville baseball legend Pee Wee Reese is inducted into the Baseball Hall
of Fame.13,000 BC
The prehistoric era in the Louisville area is divided by today's archaelogists
into six cultural periods: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, Adena, Mississippian
and the Fort Ancient culture, which ended about 1650 AD.
Shawnee tribes from north of the Ohio River fought with Cherokee and Chickasaw
tribes from south of the Cumberland River for control of the 'Great
Meadow.' No Native Americans ever officially held possesion of the land
that became Kentucky.
With the exception of a few remaining bands of Cherokee, Chickasaw and Shawnee,
by the time white pioneers began to actually settle in the Kentucky, most of
the native population had disappeared.1751
Explorer Christopher Gist covers areas along the Ohio River.
Following the French and Indian War, France relenquishes control of the area
of Kentucky to England.
On June 7th, Daniel Boone and John Finley are first see the distant Bluegrass
at Pilot Knob.
Daniel Boone builds the Wilderness Trail and establishes Fort Boonesboro.
Native Americans give Richard Henderson a tract of land between the Ohio River
and Cumberland River for the Transylvania Land Company. The following year,
Virginia declares Transylvania illegal and creates Kentucky County from the
Major George Rogers Clark travels with 150 soldiers and 80 settlers from Redstone,
Pennsylvania, down the Ohio River to Corn Island. A month later, Clark takes
the soldiers to fight the British in the American Revolution. The families
left behind establish Fort Nelson, the first permanent settlement at the site
of Louisville. George Rogers Clark is now recognized as the founder of Louisville.
The Virginia legislature and Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson approve the
town charter of Louisville. The new city is named for French King Louis XVI,
in gratitude for his support of the American colonists. Named after the governor,
Jefferson County is created with Louisville as the county seat. The county
is later divided into 28 counties.
Louisville's first fire department is established.
The last battle of American Revolution is fought at Blue Licks, Kentucky,
near Mount Olivet. Kentuckians suffer great losses against the British and
Indians. One of Daniel Boone's sons is lost in the fight.
First of ten conventions is held to prepare the way for separation of Kentucky
from Virginia. Louisville's first police officer is sworn in the following
The westernmost region of Kentucky is annexed, following its purchase from
the Chicasaw tribe.
The first major battle on Kentucky soil during the Civil War was fought near
Prestonsburg on January 10. On October 8th, Kentucky's bloodiest Civil
War battle was fought in the Battle of Perryville.
President Lincoln appoints Louisvillian James B. Speed as US Attorney General.
Despite Kentucky's declaration of neutrality, Speed strongly advocates
keeping the state in the Union.
Kentucky has four governors during a span of less than three months, between
early December 1899 and February 1900. One of them, Governor William Goebel,
was shot by an assassin on January 30, 1900.
The Brown Hotel introduces the Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich
covered in cheese sauce.
The US Gold Depository is established at Fort Knox. The vault is built the
Kentucky is first Southern state to pass a comprehensive civil rights law.
Jerry Abramson is elected for the first of four consecutive terms. He earns
the nickname 'Mayor for Life' and spearheads a major revitalization
of the city.
Emergency 911 telephone system initiated.
Scripps acquires the National Spelling Bee from the Courier-Journal. The National
Spelling Bee continues annually today in Washington, DC, under the direction
Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald creates 'The Great Gatsby' during
numerous visits to the Seelbach Hotel. His meetings with gangster George Remus
become the inspiration for the Jay Gatsby character. The Seelbach appears in
his book as the setting for Tom and Daisy Buchanan's wedding reception.
Louisville's Youth Curfew Law goes into effect. Local youth publication
Brat organizes a free concert during which popular local groups play across
the street from City Hall. Hundreds of teens attend the nighttime concert in
defiance of the new law.2001
Miss America 2000, Heather French, and Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Stephen
Henry are married in Louisville.
The one-millionth Ford Explorer produced at Ford's Louisville Assembly
Plant on August 27.
Louisville becomes the 16th largest city in the United States, larger than
Boston, Milwaukee, Nashville, Seattle and Memphis.
President Woodrow Wilson appoints Louisville liberal Louis Brandeis to the
US Supreme Court. He is the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice.
The Ford Motor Company opens its first Louisville assembly factory. Today,
more Ford trucks are made in Louisville than anywhere else.
Lawrence Wetherby, Kentucky's only Louisville-born governor, takes
office. The governor reforms the Commonwealth's tax system and creates
the Department of Mental Health. He also helps secure funding for the state
fairgrounds in Louisville, which includes Freedom Hall and Fairgounds Stadium
(later renamed Cardinal Stadium).
The first issue of Louisville Magazine is published by the Chamber of Commerce.
Louisville schools go co-ed.
Charles Farnsley becomes mayor of Louisville. His term, which lasts through
1953, is instrumental in bringing Louisville into the modern era. His administration
repaves a mile a day of Louisville's roadways and creates the Louisville
Fund for the Arts.
Louisvillian Cassius Clay wins the gold medal in boxing for the United States
at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
In April, Muhammad Ali refuses induction into the United States Army to fight
in Viet Nam. He is stripped of his heavyweight title and his license to fight
professionally. While banned from boxing, Ali becomes an advocate for peace
and conflict resolution by speaking at schools and universities. The Supreme
Court overturns his conviction four years later in an 8-0 decision.
1949 Lyman Johnson, a teacher at Louisville Central Colored High School, and a
group of activists sue the University of Kentucky in an effort to end its segregation
The first segment of the Inner-Belt highway opens between Bardstown Road and
The city commissions legendary Austrian typographer Victor Hammer to design
its official city seal. It is used until 2003, when it is replaced by the merged
Louisville-Jefferson County government with a new design by Glenn Hack. Hammer
also designed the University of Louisville's official seal.
The man who saved Churchill Downs and built the Kentucky Derby into a major
event dies. Matt Winn was witness to all 75 runs of the Kentucky Derby.
Catherine Spalding of Bardstown moves to Louisville to establish Presentation
Academy, a Catholic school for girls, and St. Vincent Orphanage (later renamed
St. Joseph), both of which are still in operation over 170 years later. Spalding
University in Louisville is named after her.
Thomas Rice portrays a character named Jim Crow in the Louisville theater
production 'The Kentucky Rifle.' The term 'Jim Crow' becomes
a well-known slang term for segregation based on the premise of African-American
The Louisville and Portland Canal, begun in 1826, is completed. The canal
allows boat traffic to travel the entire 981 miles of the Ohio River from Pittsburgh
to New Orleans, without dismantling their loads to circumvent the Falls of
the Ohio at Louisville.
A new daily newspaper, The Louisville Journal, is launched by A.J. Buxton
and George D. Prentice.
On February 14, the last edition of The Louisville Times is published. The
Bingham family had sold the newspaper to Gannett the previous year along with
White Castle builds an 18,000 square-foot plant in Louisville to produce and
package its square burgers to be sold in grocery stores.
Jerry Abramson is elected to his fourth consecutive term as mayor, taking
over 90% of the vote.
Louisville sisters Patty Smith Hill and Mildred Jane Hill write the song 'Happy
Birthday To You' for their kindergarten class. The song is originally
titled 'Good Morning to You,' but doesn't catch on popularly
until the words are changed.
Kentucky voters approve the creation of a state lottery.
Zambelli Fireworks takes control of the Kentucky Derby Festival's Thunder
Over Louisville. The enormous display is unchallenged as the largest annual
fireworks exhibition in North America.
Abram H. Bowman leases a piece of land from the federal government to open
the area's first airfield. After several years it is named Bowman Field,
and begins offering passenger flights through TWA, Eastern, and Continental
A major tornado system rips through Louisville on March 27th. It carves a
path from the Parkland neighborhood to Crescent Hill, killing 78 people and
destroying 766 buildings. Another 250 Louisvillians are injured.
The last passenger train leaves Louisville on October 31 enroute to Nashville.
The Union Station terminal on West Broadway closes after serving passengers
for 85 years.
The Courier-Journal creates and hosts the first National Spelling Bee.
Louisville Fire Department completes its transition to motorized vehicles
by removing its last horse-drawn vehicle from service.
In January, Ohio River flood waters cover 75% of the city. 230,000 people
are forced to evacuate and 90 people die. The river crests at 27.15 feet above
flood stage. A pontoon bridge is constructed out of empty whiskey barrels which
allows people to reach dry ground in the Highlands.
The Louisville Orchestra performs its first concert on November 2.
Margaret Bourke-White makes a famous photograph of a line of Louisville flood
victims in front of a billboard that reads 'World's highest standard
of Living: There's no way like the American way.'
The Enterprise, the first steamboat to travel from New Orleans to Louisville,
Former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson is elected the first mayor of the newly
merged Louisville-Jefferson County Metro government.
Construction begins on downtown's $42 million Muhammad Ali Center.
The center will house international cultural and educational programs as well
as an Ali museum.1774
James Harrod begins constructing the first permanent settlement in Kentucky
at Fort Harrod. Native Americans temporarily force the white settlers to withdraw
from Harrodstown (now called Harrodsburg), but they return the following year.1669
If Prince Madoc of Wales wasn't the first European to visit the site
that would later become Louisville, many accounts indicate that French explorer
René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, was. Some historians dispute this
claim, but if it wasn't La Salle or Madoc, no one can say for sure who
In the 1850 Cenus, Louisville is the nation's 10th biggest city. Kentucky
is the 8th most populous state.
Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company is founded.
Louisvillian Zachary Taylor, a hero of the Mexican War, becomes 12th president
of United States. 'Old Rough and Ready' served only four months
before dying in office of cholera. He is buried in Louisville at Zachary Taylor
National Cemetary on Brownsboro Road.
Kentucky declares its neutrality in American Civil War. The state had sent
about 86,000 troops to the north and 40,000 troops to the south. A testament
to Kentucky's 'border state' status, it is the birthplace
of both Union President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson
On June 1st, Kentucky becomes the 15th state. Frankfort outbids Louisville
to become the state capital, and Isaac Shelby becomes Kentucky's first
Wilderness Road in eastern Kentucky opens to wagon traffic.
Kentucky Legislature passes resolutions opposing United States Alien and Sedition
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark use the Falls of the Ohio and the Louisville
area as the meeting point to begin the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The trip
takes them across the western part of the US, surveying the Louisiana Purchase,
and eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean.
State lawmakers Henry Clay of Lexington and Humphrey Marshall of Louisville
duel on the Southern Indiana shore. Clay is wounded slightly in the thigh and
Marshall is grazed in the abdomen. The duel emerged after a debate in which
Humphrey called Clay a liar and Clay suggested Marshall was less than honorable.
Marshall then called Clay a "poltroon,'' or coward,
after which only bullets could settle the matter.
A Louisville ordinance is adopted requiring all property owners with more
than $40 of annual income to provide two buckets per household for fire protection.Ê 1981
United Parcel Service begins a new overnight-delivery business with hub operations
at Louisville's airport. Due to the UPS presence, Louisville's airport is now
the fifth largest air cargo port in the US and the eighth largest in the world.
Over 20,000 Louisvillians are employed at the site.
At Kaelin's Restaurant on Newburg Road, the first US instance of a
hamburger being served with a slice of cheese on top is documented as the 'cheeseburger.'1891
Union Station passenger train hub opens September 7, with the 7:30 AM arrival
of the first train. It is recognized as the largest train station in the South
at the time.
The city's first library, the Louisville Library Company, opens to
the public with subscription-based service.
The Louisville Free Public Library opens. It is the city's thirteenth
library, and ultimately becomes its most successful and enduring.
The Inner-Belt highway is renamed the Henry Watterson Expressway in honor
of the 50-year editor of the Courier-Journal. In the next ten years, 'the
Watterson' is extended to connect Dixie Highway and Shelbyville Road.
Bill Samuels, Sr., destroys his family's bourbon formula and sets out
to create a new recipe. His refurbished distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, releases
Maker's Mark in 1959.
General Electric Appliance Park opens near Buechel.
The Louisville Water Company, established in 1854 as a private corporation
by the Kentucky legislature, begins pumping water to customers. Work on the
100-million-gallon Crescent Hill Reservoir begins the following year.
The city-owned Louisville Zoo opens on Trevilian Way with 134 acres of exhibit
Courier-Journal publisher Walter Haldeman launches The Louisville Times as
an afternoon newspaper designed to compete with the Evening Post.
The Natural History Museum opens. Its name is changed in 1985 to the Museum
of History and Science, and again in 1994 to the Louisville Science Center.
WHAS goes on the air as the city's first radio station.
Prince Madoc of Wales leads an expedition to the west with as many as ten
ships. Some historians believe Madoc and his entourage were the first Europeans
to visit America, and subsequently the future site of Louisville. The Welsh
were possibly the builders of a number of stone forts along the rivers between
Mobile Bay, Alabama, and the Louisville area. Neither Native Americans nor
prehistoric cultures built stone structures of this kind. One fort in Indiana
across from Louisville is dated to this era. Cherokee and other tribes spread
tales of Welsh people who settled these areas, and later, of fair-skinned Welsh-speaking
Indians. Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition hear many of these stories
600 years later. Prince Madoc's expedition predated that of Christopher
Columbus by over 300 years.
A stone fort dating back as far as the 12th century, and possibly built by
Welsh explorers, is dismantled to make way for construction of the Big Four
After six years as a military operation for building and modifying World War
II aircraft, Standiford Field opens to commercial passengers on November 15.
American, Eastern, and TWA initially carry a weekly load of about 1,300 passengers
out of Louisville.
Doctors at Jewish Hospital perform the world's first successful human
hand transplant. The patient, Matt Scott, a New Jersey college teacher, had
lost his dominant hand in a fireworks accident 14 years earlier.
After numerous attempts dating back to 1956, voters finally approve merging
the governments of Louisville and Jefferson County.
During a three-hole playoff at Louisville's Valhalla, Tiger Woods defeats
Bob May to become the second golfer in history to win three majors in one seas
SIEUR DE LA SALLE
FALLS OF THE OHIO
AS SEEN IN 1796THE NEW ORLEANS
IS THE FIRST STEAMBOAT TO
VISIT LOUISVILLE, 1811 THUNDER OVER LOUISVILLE CHURCHILL DOWNS CITY HALL IN
1910 VICTOR HAMMER FLAGS DISPLAYED ON
FOURTH AVENUE IN 1929 ZACHARY TAYLOR
' Those persons who came by the
first road, seated themselves in the vicinity of Logan's Station, Harrodsburg,
Boonesborough, and Lexington, and many of those who descended the river,
landed at Limestone, and pursued their way to Lexington; others, however, not intimidated by the
reports of sickness prevalent at Louisville, and of the murders committed on its settlers, continued on to that place.'
from Sketches of Louisville and Its Environs by H. McMurtrie, 1819
CHURCHILL DOWNS IN 1901
DERBY DAY 1927
LEWIS, CLARK AND SACAGEWA
THE SEELBACH HOTEL LOUISVILLE
REGION SEEN FROM SKYLAB 2 IN 1975
UNION AND CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS SHAKING HANDS WITH KENTUCKY'S
MOTTO: UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL
APRIL 3, 1974 TORNADO
LOUISVILLE'S FLAG ADOPTED OCTOBER 5, 1949
BOWMAN FIELD TERMINAL
CRESCENT HILL RESERVOIR
CONTRACT SIGNED IN LOUISVILLE PAYING A PRICE FOR INDIAN SCALPS
CAMPING IN CRESCENT HILL
AT THE PRESENT SITE OF ST. JOSEPH CHILDREN'S HOME VICTOR HAMMER'S CITY SEAL ILLUSTRATIONS: U.S. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, HISTORICAL AMERICAN
BUILDINGS SURVEY, K COMPOSITE MAGAZINE, ISAAC
SHELBY JEFFERSON COUNTY COURT HOUSE ST. JAMES NEIGHBORHOOD IN 1897 AEGON CENTER,
COMPLETED IN 1993 KENTUCKY'S TALLEST BUILDING GEORGE ROGERS CLARK