15 Things You Might Not Know About Kentucky

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1. Kentucky Bend is an odd little geographic quirk of the state. At the far southwestern tip of Kentucky, the tiny exclave of Fulton County sits in a meander of the Mississippi River. As an exclave, it’s a portion of Kentucky that doesn’t touch any other part of the state. Kentucky Bend is bordered by Tennessee to the south and Missouri on all other sides. To make things even more confusing for the handful of residents of “Bubbleland,” their mailing addresses are all in Tiptonville, Tenn. Any official function—like voting—forces Bubbleland’s residents to drive 40 miles through Tennessee and back into the main body of Kentucky. 

2. Kentucky was originally a part of Virginia, but that arrangement didn’t work out too well for early Kentuckians. The enormous land area of the state made it tricky for Kentuckians to travel to the capital, and the interests of Kentucky’s residents didn’t always align with those of Virginians. On June 1, 1792, Virginia gave Kentucky the go-ahead to break off on its own to become the 15th state.

3. Technically, Kentucky isn’t a state at all. Like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, it’s officially a commonwealth. What’s the difference? In practice, there isn’t a meaningful one. The designation is a relic of colonial relations with England, and since Virginia was a commonwealth, Kentucky billed itself as a commonwealth when it struck out on its own.

4. Kentucky’s state tree is a surprisingly hot political issue. In 1956, the state legislature named the tulip poplar the state tree, but a clerical error kept the bill giving the tulip poplar the honors from ever being officially added to the books. When this blunder came to light in 1973, the legislature decided to reconsider the issue—it was suddenly open season for fans of other trees to make their case for the state’s highest arboreal honor. Despite hard charges by sycamore and tulip poplar advocates, in 1976, the legislature settled on the Kentucky coffee tree, a relatively rare species whose seeds provided pioneers with a coffee substitute. 

The tulip poplar faction didn’t just roll over and accept this defeat. They kept agitating for the legislature to once again reopen the issue and return the tulip poplar to its rightful throne. After years of campaigning, their efforts finally paid off. In January 1994, the tulip poplar was once again named Kentucky’s state tree. Fans of the Kentucky coffee tree have no doubt spent the last two decades plotting their countermove.

5. Kentucky’s chicken and bourbon get all the publicity, but it’s also a great barbecue state. Owensboro bills itself as “The BBQ Capital of the World,” and while there are plenty of other cities with a reasonable claim to the honor, Owensboro can make a pretty strong case. Unlike the pork of North Carolina or the beef of Texas, Kentucky’s main event BBQ meat is mutton. This mutton is often served with another Kentucky favorite: the thick, spicy vegetable and meat stew known as burgoo.

6. If mutton’s not your thing, Kentucky has plenty of other culinary delights. The state’s signature sandwich, the hot brown, isn’t the healthiest choice, but it’s undeniably delicious. This open-faced delicacy consists of bread piled with turkey, ham, bacon, and sliced tomato, drowned in a rich cheddar sauce and then broiled. The sandwich originated at Louisville’s Brown Hotel in 1923.

7. Rainbows are incredible, but Kentucky is home to an even rarer and more breathtaking sight. In Cumberland Falls on the Cumberland River near Corbin, you might spy a moonbow—a rainbow made from light reflected off of the moon. On clear nights when the moon is full or nearly full, you can see a moonbow in the falls' spray.

8. One more fun stop for foodies. Trigg County is known for its delectably salty country hams, and for 38 years the second weekend in October has seen Cadiz host the Trigg County Ham Festival, a celebration of all things hammy. It’s worth a trip to get a taste of the enormous country ham biscuit that's made for the event every year—it was certified by Guinness as the largest of its kind.

9. Enjoy the Kentucky Derby? Tip your cap to Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Clark watched England’s famed Epsom Derby during an 1872 visit to Europe and wanted to create something equally impressive back home in Kentucky to showcase the local horse breeding industry. Upon his return, he got to work. Clark first founded Churchill Downs on land he leased from his uncles, John and Henry Churchill, and when the track was finally ready to open on May 17, 1875, the featured event on the first day of racing was known as the Kentucky Derby.

10. Kentucky makes a cameo appearance at most birthday parties. “Happy Birthday to You” was originally written by Mildred and Patty Hill, two sisters who taught kindergarten in Louisville. Their original song had different lyrics and was called “Good Morning to All,” but it eventually transformed into the birthday favorite.

11. Thomas Edison made the first major public display of his newly created incandescent light bulb at Louisville’s Southern Exposition in 1883. The visit was something of a triumphant return for Edison—he had lived in Louisville in the mid-1860s while he was working as a Western Union telegraph operator. He was supposedly sacked from that gig after spilling a jar of acid while doing an experiment on company time.

12. Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave lives up to its name. The caverns, which became a national park in 1941, constitute the longest cave system in the world. Over 400 miles of the limestone caves have been explored. The caves are home to a variety of subterranean oddities, including the endangered Kentucky cave shrimp, a blind, albino crustacean.

13. Contrary to popular belief, Kentucky’s state flag does not depict local heavyweights Daniel Boone and Henry Clay embracing. Rather, the two men are supposedly representative of any old statesman and frontiersman. What’s not up for debate: It’s not the world’s most popular flag. When the North American Vexillological Association polled the public on the best state and province flags in North America in 2001, Kentucky’s design finished 66th out of 72 entries.

14. In the mid-20th century, Lexington had a “town dog” named Smiley Pete. The stray dog, who was named for his human-like grin, was a fixture in downtown Lexington. Locals collectively looked after Smiley Pete, and the pooch supposedly had a daily routine that included begging for a hamburger and waffle at a diner and a bowl of draft beer at a tavern. When Smiley Pete passed away in 1957, he was memorialized with a brass plate on the sidewalk in his old sniffing grounds.

15. Don’t be fooled by the booming distilling industry. Kentucky’s official state beverage is milk.

14 Famous People Who Survived the 1918 Flu Pandemic

National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain
National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

Over a century ago, a deadly flu pandemic swept across the globe. The first cases of the so-called Spanish Flu—named because that’s where early news reports of the disease originated, though research has put its actual origin anywhere from China to Kansas to France—are traditionally dated to Kansas in March 1918. The disease ultimately infected some 500 million people, and estimates put the death toll anywhere from 20 to 50 million. The people on this list contracted the deadly flu and lived to tell the tale.

1. Walt Disney

Walt Disney sitting in a chair.
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

If Walt Disney hadn’t contracted the flu, we might never have had Mickey Mouse. Even though he was only 16 at the time, Disney lied about his birth year to sign up for the Red Cross Ambulance Corps at the tail end of WWI. Then he got sick. By the time he was ready to ship out, the war was over.

2. Mary Pickford

A close-up photo of silent film star Mary Pickford smiling.
General Photographic Agency // Getty Images

The silent film star was at the height of her fame when she fell ill; thankfully, Pickford’s bout with the flu was uneventful, but as the disease spread, many movie theaters were forced to close. Irritated theater owners in Los Angeles, claiming they had been singled out, petitioned for all other places that people gathered together (except for grocery stores, meat markets, and drug stores) to be forced to close as well. While stores were not forced to close, schools were and public gatherings were banned.

3. David Lloyd George

David Lloyd George sitting outside with his dog and reading a newspaper.
Ernest H. Mills // Getty Images

Weeks before the end of World War I, Lloyd, Prime Minister of the UK at the time, came very close to dying of the flu. He was confined to his bed for nine days, had to wear a respirator, and was accompanied by a doctor for over a month. Because it was thought that news of the Prime Minister’s illness would hurt the morale of the British people and “encourage the enemy,” his condition was kept mostly hidden from the press.

4. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Portrait of a young Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

In 1918, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and had been in Europe for two months before contracting the flu on the boat home. The New York Times described his illness as “a slight attack of pneumonia caused by Spanish influenza.” Roosevelt convalesced at his mother’s New York City home until he was well enough to head back to Washington, D.C.

5. Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson circa 1912.
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

Considering Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States and he was dealing with the end of WWI, early 1919 was a seriously inconvenient time to get sick. Not only did he get the flu, but he fell ill so violently and so quickly that his doctors were sure he had been poisoned. When Wilson was well enough to rejoin the “Big Three” negotiations a few days later, people commented on how weak and out of it he seemed.

6. Wilhelm II

Wilhelm II in his uniform.
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

While the German Kaiser was undoubtedly upset to get sick himself, he had reason to be happy about the flu epidemic, or so he thought. One of his military generals insisted—despite the fact that the surgeon general disagreed—that the illness would decimate the French troops, while leaving the Germans mostly unharmed. Since Germany needed a miracle to win the war, the flu must have seemed like a godsend. In the end, it ravaged all armies pretty much equally, and Germany surrendered.

7. John J. Pershing

John J. Pershing in uniform sitting on a horse.
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

While the great American general got sick himself, the flu gave him a much larger problem. His troops were dying at a faster rate from illness than from bullets. Soon there were more than 16,000 cases among U.S. troops in Europe alone. Pershing was forced to ask the government for more than 30 mobile hospitals and 1500 nurses in just over a week.

8. Haile Selassie I

Haile Selassie sitting in a chair drinking tea.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The future emperor of Ethiopia was one of the first Ethiopians to contract the disease. His country was woefully unprepared for the epidemic: There were only four doctors in the capital available to treat patients. Selassie survived, but it's unknown how many people the flu killed in Ethiopia; it killed 7 percent of the population of neighboring British Somaliland.

9. Leo Szilard

A black and white photo of Leo Szilard in a suit and tie.
Department of Energy, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

You may not have heard of him, but the atomic scientist Leo Szilard might have saved the world. While he survived the flu during WWI (he was supposedly cured by spending time in a humid room, the standard treatment for respiratory illness at the time), what he should be remembered for is his foresight before WWII. When he and other physicists were discovering different aspects of nuclear fission, he persuaded his colleagues to keep quiet about it, so that the Nazis wouldn’t get any closer to making an atomic bomb.

10. Katherine Anne Porter

Author Katherine Anne Porter sitting in a chair wearing a hat with a bow on it.
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

The author turned her experience with sickness in 1918 into a short novel called Pale Horse, Pale Rider. The story is told by a woman with the flu who is tended to by a young soldier. While she recovers, he contracts the disease and dies.

11. Alfonso XIII

The King of Spain working at his desk.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Alfonso was the King of Spain when the “Spanish” flu hit, and he was not immune to its outbreak. The flu was no worse in Spain than anywhere else, but unlike most journalists in other countries—who were under wartime censorship—the Spanish media actually covered the pandemic, leading to an unfair association that persists to this day.

12. Edvard Munch

A portrait of Edvard Munch standing in the snow.
Nasjonalbiblioteket, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Munch, the artist behind The Scream, had an apparent obsession with sickness and death long before he came down with the flu—he painted many works on the subject. But the flu obviously affected him especially: He painted a few self-portraits of both his illness and shortly after his recovery.

13. Lillian Gish

A portrait of Lillian Gish.
General Photographic Agency // Getty Images

The silent film star started feeling sick during a costume fitting and collapsed with a 104-degree fever when she got home. Fortunately, she could afford a doctor and two nurses to attend to her around the clock. While she recovered, it wasn’t all good news. Gish complained later, “The only disagreeable thing was that it left me with flannel nightgowns—have to wear them all winter—horrible things.”

14. Clementine Churchill

Clementine Churchill speaks at a microphone.
Arthur Tanner/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

While Winston was in France in 1919, the Churchill household—including his wife Clementine and their nanny Isabelle, who was looking after their young daughter Marigold—contracted the flu. According to Churchill’s daughter Mary Soames, Isabelle grew delirious and took Marigold from her cot despite being sick herself. Clementine grabbed the child and was anxious for days about Marigold’s condition. Isabelle died of the flu, but Clementine and Marigold survived. (Sadly, Marigold would die from a bacterial infection that developed into sepsis in 1921.)

During World War II, Clementine served as a close adviser to Winston. She was also the “Chairman” of the Red Cross Aid to Russia Fund, which raised 8 million pounds during WWII and resulted in her being awarded the Soviet Order of the Red Banner of Labor, being made a Dame, and being given a 19th century glass fruit bowl from Stalin. Churchill’s Chief Staff Officer, General Hastings “Pug” Ismay, would later comment that without Clementine the “history of Winston Churchill and of the world would have been a very different story.”

7 Timeless Facts About Paul Rudd

Rich Fury, Getty Images
Rich Fury, Getty Images

Younger fans may know Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, one of the newest members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the actor has been a Hollywood mainstay for half his life.

Rudd's breakout role came in 1995’s Clueless, where he played Josh, Alicia Silverstone's charming love interest in Amy Heckerling's beloved spin on Jane Austen's Emma. In the 2000s, Rudd became better known for his comedic work when he starred in movies like Wet Hot American Summer (2001), Anchorman (2004), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), and I Love You, Man (2009).

It wasn’t until 2015 that Rudd stepped into the ever-growing world of superhero movies when he was cast as Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man, and became part of the MCU.

Rudd has proven he can take on any part, serious or goofy. More amazingly, he never seems to age. But in honor of (what is allegedly) his 51st birthday on April 6, here are some things you might not have known about the star.

1. Paul Rudd is technically Paul Rudnitzky.

Though Paul Rudd was born in Passaic, New Jersey, both of his parents hail from London—his father was from Edgware and his mother from Surbiton. Both of his parents were descendants of Jewish immigrants who moved to England from from Russia and Poland. Rudd’s last name was actually Rudnitzky, but it was changed by his grandfather.

2. Paul Rudd's parents are second cousins.

In a 2017 episode of Finding Your Roots, Rudd learned that his parents were actually second cousins. Rudd responded to the discovery in typical comedic fashion: "Which explains why I have six nipples." He also wondered what that meant for his own family. "Does this make my son also my uncle?," he asked.

3. Paul Rudd loved comic books as a kid.

While Rudd did read Marvel Comics as a kid, he preferred Archie Comics and other funny stories. His English cousins would send him British comics, too, like Beano and Dandy, which he loved.

4. Paul Rudd wanted to play Christian in Clueless. And Murray.

Clueless would have been a completely different movie if Rudd had been cast as the suave Christian instead of the cute older step-brother-turned-love-interest Josh. But before he was cast as Cher’s beau, he initially wanted the role of the “ringa ding kid” Christian.

"I thought Justin Walker’s character, Christian, was a really good part," Rudd told Entertainment Weekly in 2012. "It was a cool idea, something I’d never seen in a movie before—the cool gay kid. And then I asked to read for Donald Faison's part, because I thought he was kind of a funny hip-hop wannabe. I didn’t realize that the character was African-American.”

5. Paul Rudd idolizes Paul Newman.

In a 2008 interview for Role Models, which he both co-wrote and starred in, Rudd was asked about his real-life role model. He answered Paul Newman, saying he admired the legendary actor because he gave a lot to the world before leaving it.

6. Before Paul Rudd was Ant-Man, he wanted to be Adam Ant.

In a 2011 interview with Grantland, Rudd talked about his teenage obsession with '80s English rocker Adam Ant. "Puberty hit me like a Mack truck, and my hair went from straight to curly overnight," Rudd explained. "But it was an easier pill to swallow because Adam Ant had curly hair. I used to ask my mom to try and shave my head on the sides to give me a receding hairline because Adam Ant had one. I didn’t know what a receding hairline was. I just thought he looked cool. She said, 'Absolutely not,' but I was used to that."

Ant wasn't the only musician Rudd tried to emulate. "[My mom] also shot me down when I asked if I could bleach just the top of my head like Howard Jones. Any other kid would’ve been like, 'F*** you, mom! I’m bleaching my hair.' I was too nice," he said.

7. Romeo + Juliet wasn’t Paul Rudd's first go as a Shakespearean actor.

Yet another one of Rudd's iconic '90s roles was in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, but it was far from the actor's first brush with Shakespeare. Rudd spent three years studying Jacobean theater in Oxford, England, and starred in a production of Twelfth Night. He was described by his director, Sir Nicholas Hytner, as having “emotional and intellectual volatility.” Hytner’s praise was a big deal, considering he was the director of London's National Theatre from 2003 until 2015.

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