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National Spelling Bee History

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The very first National Spelling Bee, held in 1925, has local ties. The event was first sponsored by Louisville ’s Courier-Journal, after the newspaper had conducted a statewide spelling competition for boys and girls in Kentucky elementary schools. According to text from a 1930 brochure from the bee, "The Kentucky Education Association gave immediate and enthusiastic cooperation, and the preliminary phases of the match were so beneficial that luncheon clubs and other organizations in Louisville and various parts of the state put on separate matches to find their champion spellers."

The Detroit News also had found the spelling bee to be a successful educational tool, and it readily accepted the invitation of The Courier-Journal to enter a National Spelling Bee, in which grade school children from all sections of the country might meet. The Akron Beacon-Journal, The South Bend News-Times and The Hartford Times were among the first nine newspaper sponsors in the 1925 National Spelling Bee.

By 1929, there were twenty-one newspaper sponsors in states from Maine to Nebraska , each offering many local prizes among thousands of contestants. Today the Scripps National Bee has contestants from every state and US territory as the result of locally sponsored bees.

The first National Spelling Bee Champion was Frank Neuhauser of Louisville , who was then an 11-year-old student at the old St. Brigid School. Frank correctly spelled "gladiolus" to win the national competition held in Washington , D.C.

As national champion, Neuhauser was invited to meet President Calvin Coolidge and received a hero's welcome upon his return to Louisville . Frank went on to attend St. Xavier High School and graduated from the University of Louisville Speed School. He worked as a patent attorney before retiring to Potomac , Md. Mr. Neuhauser and his wife attended the 2003 Derby Festival Spelling Bee as special guests for the 10th anniversary.

Sponsored by the E.W. Scripps Company, the National Spelling Bee is the largest and longest-running educational newspaper promotion in the country. Since 1925, it has helped students improve their spelling, increase their vocabulary and develop correct English usage .