Throwback Thursday: When the Swedish Nightingale Visited Southern Kentucky

One of the most famous international singers of the mid-19th century brought a tour through
southern Kentucky in the 1850s. Jenny Lind was born in Sweden, and her beautiful soprano
voice became known as the Swedish Nightingale.

On a North American tour, she traveled from Nashville to Louisville for performances.

When she came through southern Kentucky, she left a
few permanent marks along the way.

It was 172 years ago this week that Jenny Lind visited our southern Kentucky cave country on
her North America tour. Born in 1820 in Sweden, she became a famous opera singer who
traveled the globe to perform. In March 1851, she came thru our area of Kentucky.

Her cross-country tour was organized by P.T. Barnum, of the famous Barnum Bailey’s traveling circus.

Barnum even mortgaged his home and businesses to raise enough money to bring her across the
Atlantic, and used over 20 journalists at his employ to tell stories of her incredible performances
far and wide to guarantee ticket sales.

The Swedish Nightingale arrived in New York City, heralded by over 30 thousand people,
according to Kentucky historian Sam Terry. She visited Mammoth Cave on March 31, 1851. Her
tour was led by Stephen Bishop himself, the cave’s first tour guide and whom we have talked
about a few times as a former slave and first-generation cave tour guide.

During her tour, Lind notoriously sat on the rock formation called The Devil’s Armchair on Gothic Avenue, which has
since been renamed Jenny Lind’s Armchair.

While visiting the Mammoth Cave area, Lind stayed overnight at the famous Bell’s Tavern, a
hostel turned hotel that we’ve also shared stories of in years past. She was able to enjoy the
famous “peach and honey” drink the Bell family was known for serving, a mix of peach brandy
and honey.

They say Jenny Lind also stopped in Bowling Green at this time too, visiting the depths of Lost
River Cave as well. Lost River Cave named one of its first cave tour boats in the 1990s after the
Swedish Nightingale.

Jenny Lind performed 93 concerts during her North American tour and ended up with a
paycheck around $350 thousand, equal to nearly $10 million in today’s money.

That’s it for this week, brought to you by Hart County Tourism and the Kentucky Museum. In
Bowling Green, because local matters, Telia Butler, WNKY News 40.