Louisville, KY

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has its origins in Kentucky and Appalachian history

Anita Durairaj

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Picture by Scripps National Spelling Bee; Wikimedia Commons; CC-BY-2.0

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has its origins in Kentucky. It was first formed in 1925 when it was organized by The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky.

According to Dave Tabler's article on the website Appalachian History, spelling bees were a routine ritual for students in the one-room schoolhouses of the 1920s in Kentucky. However, spelling bees were more than just a learning event.

Spelling bees were also a form of social activity and it was especially popular in small mountain communities which had no access to big-city entertainment events.

As part of social events of the time, spelling bees were also included in fundraising activities.

Historically, spelling bees were reported in the news as far back as the 1870s.

In 1925, Kentucky's The Courier-Journal along with nine other newspapers organized the first National Spelling Bee.

In the early years of the National Spelling Bee, four winners of the spelling bee hailed from Kentucky.

Currently, the National Spelling Bee is run by the E.W. Scripps Company.

While the spelling bee has its origins in Kentucky, no one from Kentucky has won since 1938. Efforts are being made in the state to get students enthusiastic about the competition.

The University of Kentucky hosts a regional spelling bee and the Bluegrass Literacy Project also hosts a spelling bee as qualifiers for the National Spelling Bee.

In 2021, a young girl, Lindsay Devore, from Lexington, KY qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Although Devore did not win the championship, Kentucky remains hopeful that there will be a National Spelling Bee champion from the state in the near future.

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