As the 13th largest state in the country, Idaho offers excitement at every corner. Also known as the Gem State for its rare precious and semi-precious stones, Idaho is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream with a rich, interesting history. Here are seven facts about Idaho’s unique past that you might not have known:
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1. Birthplace of Appaloosa Horse
During the 1700s, horses had reached Idaho for the first time, which enabled the local Nez Perce tribe, who had always been sedentary fishermen, to develop skills in horsemanship and hunting. They became known for their breeding programs, which developed a new breed of horse with colorful spotted patterns covering their coats. Settlers called these “a Palouse horse,” referencing the Palouse River located in north central Idaho.
However, the name evolved over the years, and the modern Appaloosa horse is now one of the most beloved equine breeds in the world. In 1938, the Appaloosa Horse Club was chartered, and in 1975 this breed was named the state horse of Idaho.
2. State Seal was Designed by Woman
Emma Edwards Green was visiting from art school in New York City when she decided to stay in Idaho and open an art school of her own. Soon after, she entered a competition sponsored by the First Legislature for the State of Idaho for designing the new state seal.
Entries arrived from all over the country, but Green won. She has the distinct honor of being the only woman in history to design a seal for one of the United States.
3. Last of U.S. States to be Explored by European-Americans
It’s also the homeland of Sacajawea, and in 1805 she and her tribe assisted Lewis and Clark on their journey into modern day Montana. While in Idaho, the Corps of Discovery ran into some trouble, and it was the Nez Perce tribe who saved them from starvation. In return, Lewis and Clark gave the tribe their horses before attempting to cross the Salmon River, also known as “The River of No Return” due to its rock walls and intense rapids.
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4. Ketchum was Former, Final Home of Ernest Hemingway
Sun Valley had just opened the first ski resort in America when Ernest Hemingway paid a visit to Idaho
. Soon thereafter in 1959, he bought a house in Ketchum, where he continued to suffer from hemochromatosis, depression and various injuries caused by two near-fatal plane accidents that occurred while visiting Africa in 1954. Once in Idaho, he sought specialists for help, but after several rounds of electroshock therapy at the Mayo Clinic, he committed suicide on July 2, 1961, in his home overlooking the Big Wood River at age 61.
5. Rigby is the birthplace of television
Technically, Idaho is the birthplace of a sketch drawn by inventor Philo Farnsworth.
The story goes that while in his chemistry class at the local school he devised an idea for a vacuum that would make television possible. In 1938, he unveiled his prototype for the first all-electric television. The Farnsworth TV Pioneer Museum still contributes exhibitions of the pre-electric and early electric era in Idaho.
6. President Theodore Roosevelt established Caribou National Forest in 1907
While the Caribou National Forest has since merged with the Targhee National Forest, it was President Theodore Roosevelt who established this park in 1907. Today, it spans across 2.8 million acres, including parts of Utah and Wyoming. In addition to peaks exceeding 10,000 feet, this area also boasts the first National Recreation Water Trail, which includes a five-mile lazy river that offers views of the local wildlife.
7. Ghost Towns are Scattered Throughout State
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Once gold was discovered in Idaho, it didn’t take long for an influx of people to settle there. In fact, in the 1860s, the entire economy of Idaho City developed around gold mining. However, once the gold ran out, the majority of gold miners left, leaving behind close to 100 ghost towns in Idaho.
Famous examples include Silver City, Gold Dredge, Yankee Fork and the Sierra Silver Mine. You can still visit these historic sites, many of which have been preserved.
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