This Day in History — May 31

On May 31, 1925, the city of Lexington celebrated its 150th birthday by holding the official Lexington Sesquicentennial Jubilee Celebration. As the Commonwealth of Kentucky was honoring the day in which it was admitted to the union, the week-long Lexington celebration included a historical pageant which highlighted major events of the city’s then 150 year history.

Each day of the celebration had a different theme, from “Old Kentucky Home Day” on June 1 to honor Kentucky’s birthday to “Lexington Founder’s Day” on June 4th which celebrated all founders of Lexington. A “Grand Historical Pageant” was held at the University of Kentucky Athletic field and stadium, featuring 1,500 men and women portraying a large cast of characters in each episode including “Indian Squaws and Maidens” as well as “Delegates at the Boonesboro Convention”. In the episode titled “Raiding with Morgan,” men impersonated members of Morgan’s Raiders and in the World War pageant, men, women and children portrayed Red Cross workers, soldiers, Boy Scouts and the iconic “America,” “Spirit of Lexington,” “Spirit of the Blue Grass,” and a “Voice of Prophecy.” That episode praised Lexington for answering the call to arms when America needed it to assist in the war effort. Box seats for the pageant cost $2.20 and general admission tickets were $1.10. All proceeds from the ticket sales went toward paying for the cost of the Sesquicentennial Celebration.

A “Patriotic Parade” was held which showcased “civic organizations of all kinds” and the other towns which made up the Bluegrass Region. Many Lexington groups such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, Optimists Club, and the like were featured in the parade, for which the route was “all principal streets.” The Sesquicentennial Celebration was a grand homecoming event for Lexington and celebrated the descendents of Lexington’s founders. There were scheduled times for “hand-shaking” and exercises at many local attractions. At Morrison Chapel on the campus of Transylvania University, a “Hall of Fame and Museum” was constructed with many artifacts and relics of Lexington’s history. There were many exhibits in the museum, “Confederate Room”, “Henry Clay Exhibit”, collection of Indian relics, “Daniel Boone relics” and many others. One exhibit was comprised of relics associated with the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to Lexington, the 100th anniversary of which was being celebrated, including the quilt that Lafayette slept beneath. The collection amassed some of the most priceless history ever assembled at that time.

A souvenir program was available detailing all activities in the celebration and featured advertisements from some of Lexington’s largest businesses at the time, including the bygone “Phoenix Hotel.” The program cost 25 cents and was “Published under the auspices of the General Committee Representing all Civic Organization.”

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