Explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet began their journey to map the Mississippi River on May 17th, 1673. The trip started on Lake Michigan. The explorers traveled down the Wisconsin River to reach the Mississippi a month later, near the modern towns of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and Marquette, Iowa.
Marquette and Jolliet passed present-day Kentucky on their trek down the Mississippi. The first Kentucky Derby was run on this day in 1875 — not the first Saturday in May, or even a Saturday at all (it was a Monday). The winning horse was Aristides.
Secretariat set the record for the fastest time at the Kentucky Derby in 1973. “Secretariat” made regular appearances on a late-night talk show (okay, it was two guys in a horse costume) on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Scottish comedian Ferguson was born May 17th, 1962. Before getting the hosting job on “The Late Late Show,” Ferguson played Drew’s boss on “The Drew Carey Show.”
And May 17th is the birthday of an actor famous for roles in movies about a river journey (“Apocalypse Now”) and a motorcycle trek (“Easy Rider”) — Dennis Hopper (born 1936).
June 1st in history:
Kentucky became the 15th state in the Union on June 1st, 1792. It took four more years before a 16th star was put on the flag – for Tennessee, admitted on June 1st, 1796.
There were 18 states in the union by the time President James Madison asked Congress to declare war on Britain on this date. The war became known as … well, Madison’s request came in 1812.
James Buchanan, who was president when Southern states began seceding from the union, died on June 1st, 1868, just seven years after leaving office.
And this is Monroe’s birthday – not President Monroe, but Marilyn Monroe (1926). The actress was known as much for her love life as for her movies. Marilyn married Joe Di Maggio and Arthur Miller, and her relationships included one with Elia Kazan…who directed Andy Griffith (like Monroe, born June 1st, 1926) in his starring role in “A Face in the Crowd.”