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This volume is the first comprehensive and in-depth history of Kentucky during the first half of the twentieth century. State Historian James C. Klotter examines in depth not only the people and their lives but also the state’s economy, educational system, cultural activities, politics, and folkways. He demonstrates how, enduring images and stereotypes developed that have shaped the state’s progress throughout the century. In his view, the first half of the century were years of unrealized promises and failed dreams. Yet amid poverty there was plenty; along with educational weaknesses were cultural strengths; beside partisanship there was leadership.

“This is an account of what happened in Kentucky and to Kentucky,” Klotter writes. “It focuses on the process and the possibility of change, and how the people sought to adjust and to balance the positives of their past with the promises of their future. To know better what happened between 1900 and 1950 requires a study of not only the formal actions taken, but also the irony of actions, the presence of paradoxes, and the quieter things that shaped the state’s character, its essence, its heart and its soul.”

A landmark in historical writing about the state, Kentucky: Portrait in Paradox is complemented by more than one hundred photographs and illustrations.

Published by the Kentucky Historical Society and distributed by the University Press of Kentucky.

James C. Klotter, State Historian and professor of history at Georgetown College, is the author and editor of several books, including A New History of Kentucky, History Mysteries, Our Kentucky, Kentucky: Land of Tomorrow, Kentucky:Decades of Discord, William Goebel, and Faces of Kentucky.

"The sweep of Kentucky: Portrait in Paradox is immense. Nearly every social and political development in the first half of the Commonwealth’s twentieth-century history receives some treatment. As such, it remains an essential starting point for any related future work."—Ohio Valley History

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Kentucky, Kentucky history


United States History

Kentucky: Portrait in Paradox, 1900-1950
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