Life in Louisville in the 1800's

Through the 1800’s in Louisville

1820: The first Fire Department was organized and several hand engines were purchased.

1821: George Keats opened a lumber business in Louisville. He was the brother of the famous English poet, John Keats, who died that same year.

1828: Lemon and Son, jewelers was established and is Louisville’s oldest retail firm operating continuously since its inception.

1832: Pearson, a mortician established Pearson & Son, Funeral Directors and has been serving the families of Louisville for over 181 years.

1850: Jenny Lind, the American Idol singer of the time gave a concert in Louisville. The streets were crowded with people hoping to get a glimpse of the “Swedish Nightingale”. Concert tickets were sold at an auction, with the first selling for $175; many sold for over $100 each, enormous amounts at that time.

1852: The American Printing House for the blind started, moving to its present site on Frankfort Avenue. It quickly became the world’s largest nonprofit company creating products and services for blind or visually impaired people. It is still doing so 161 years later.

1854: November 17 a large meeting was held, attended by the Governor of Indiana, to discuss a plan to build a tunnel under the Ohio River to connect Louisville to Indiana. They estimated it would cost over a million dollars and take 12 months to complete…

1855: No tunnel, but the Ohio froze solid for 11 days beginning February 3.

1856: Hillerich and Bradsby Co. opened their first shop on Clay Street near the river. They are best known as the maker of the famous Louisville Slugger bats.

1859: The first train left Louisville on the new L&N rails, arriving in Nashville ten hours later.

1860: Theodore Ahrens, Sr. started a brass foundry on Market Street, the very beginning of The Standard Sanitary Corporation, which later joined with others to become American Standard.

1861: Moses Levy and Henry Levy started Levy Bros. clothing store at Third and Market. The beautiful building was also the first building in Louisville to be lit entirely by the new electric lights. When Levy’s closed in 1979, the lower floor became the Spaghetti Factory.

1863: J. B. Gathright, a mechanic for Kentucky Cavalry saddles during the Civil War, and John J. Harbison (who organized the first YMCA in Louisville) went on to form Harbison & Gathright, now a supplier of automobile parts.

--Jacob Schulz started his florist business, which continues today.

1874: Louisville had always had horses, and therefore there were frequent races in the area. This year brought the organization of the Louisville Jockey Club, and Churchill Downs was established.

1885: Louisville was the third city in the nation to have telephone lines underground rather than on overhead wires.

1887: Louisville opened the first free kindergartens on February 1.

1889: On September 21, people turned out in droves to see the first horseless streetcar run on Green Street. A true wonder!

1891: J. C. Heitzman’s Bakery opened for business, still going strong after 122 years.

1893: Du Pont Manual began as a manual training school; through mergers over the years, Manual held its own, and the home of the Crimsons is now listed on the top 100 high schools in America, and is a Magnet school with the highest ACT scores in Kentucky. Go Manual!

1896: The running of the Kentucky Derby was changed from 1-1/2 miles to 1-1/4 miles.

1897: Robert Wedekind, M.D. established Wedekind Optical Co., the first lens grinding operation in Louisville; in 1906 it became Southern Optical Co.

1898: Louisville said goodbye to gas street lights and welcomed the first electrically-powered automobile.

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