Ghost Writer To Daniel Boone

John Filson first brought the frontier hero to notice, giving him fine words that made him the idol of the romanticists


Daniel Boone’s position in the pantheon of American heroes is due probably to merit and certainly to good fortune. The former has been questioned by a few historians; but the latter, although not often recognized explicitly, has never been denied. Although practically an illiterate, Boone told the story of his adventures in Chateaubriand-like prose to Americans and Europeans alike almost as soon as the Indian wars in Kentucky were over.

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The Derby



The hills of Kentucky have a tempered roundness to them, as if cupped in the hollow of God’s palm. A man named Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., played out his life among them. Here, a century and a quarter ago, on a coil of land just south of Louisville, he christened the Kentucky Derby, a race that would dominate his life and ultimately consume him. When he died in 1899, friends laid his body in this soil, under a blanket of bluegrass.

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There was a miraculous and all-conquering horse, a filly, not a colt, who in nine out of ten races broke or equaled speed records that had stood for years and decades, who in fire and presence and appearance was Black Beauty personified, and was, the author of The Black Stallion said, the mental picture he had of his creation. In her greatest moment she was struck down. She struck herself down. What had made her great de stroyed her. Tens of thousands watched in person, and millions on television. No small number wept.Read more »

Nicknames On The Land

A small but dependable pleasure of travel is encountering such blazons of civic pride as “Welcome to the City of Cheese, Chairs, Children, and Churches!”

Stephen Vincent Benét confessed that he had fallen in love with American placenames, and George R. Steward, author of the classic Names on the Land, wrote that he was born with rapturous feelings towards the names and cities that “lay thickly over the land.” Read more »

The Short, Dramatic Life Of The Steamboat Yellow Stone

She lived only six years, but it was a history-packed career

Old rivermen used to talk of the first time the steamboat Yellow Stone reached the fur-trading posts on the upper Missouri. Belching smoke, roaring like a cannon, and spurting steam into the air, she penetrated farther up the river than a boat under its own power had ever gone before. Her owner, John Jacob Astor, never saw her, although from his New York office he sent fleets of ships on trading missions from Liverpool to Canton.Read more »


In the early years of this century, when an American scholar, James Schouler, could still define history as the record of “consecutive public events,” it would have been inconceivable for the American contribution to the world’s varieties of distilled spirits to be considered a proper subject of academic inquiry.Read more »

The Kentucky Rifle As Art

The Kentucky rifle, which because of its astonishing accuracy earned. A substantial credit for American victories in both the Revolution and the War of 1812, was unknown by that name until after the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. A highly popular ballad of that year described how ”…Jackson he was wide awake and wasn’ t scared at trifles/ For well he knew what aim we take, with our KENTUCKYRIFLES.” It was true that most of Jackson’s riflemen at New Orleans were from Kentucky; but in fact, most of their rifles had been made in Pennsylvania.Read more »

The Untold Delights Of Duluth

A few dazzling words about that emerging metropolis, delivered in 1871 by Congressman J. Proctor Knott. Edited for 1971 visitors by David G. McCullough

On January 27, 1871, a forty-year-old congressman from Kentucky sought recognition on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Upon being recognized by the Speaker, the Honorable James G. Blame, the congressman expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of time he had been allotted on past occasions and so requested, and was granted, one full, uninterrupted half hour to speak his mind. The congressman was a Democrat, an able lawyer, ambitious, learned in the classics, and generally well liked by his colleagues.Read more »

The “mostest Hoss”

Concerning the long life, fast times, and astonishing fecundity of Man o’ War

In 1920 William T. Waggoner of Fort Worth, Texas, possessed a string of racehorses, hundreds of thousands of acres of prime cattle land dotted with oil wells, and the firm conviction, apparently born of experience, that everything has a price. That year a lustrous chestnut colt was running away from the nation’s best three-year-olds with ridiculous ease, and it occurred to Waggoner that this colt was the greatest thoroughbred that he or any other American horseman had ever seen or was ever likely to see.Read more »

The Rage Of The Aged Lion

Alone in his empty mansion, the venerable Cassius Clay took unto himself a scandalously youthful bride; when the posse came for him, they met more than their match

Cassius Marcellus Clay was one of the most colorful, pugnacious, and irrepressible sons of that most colorful, pugnacious, and irrepressible state, the Kentucky of old-time blue-grass tradition. Son of a pioneer Indian fighter and frontier soldier, General Green Clay, and cousin of the great Henry Clay, he was born in 1810 and he lived until 1903, surprising everyone (including himself) by dying peacefully in his bed.