The first draft of "My Old Kentucky Home" appeared in Stephen Collins Foster's workbook under the title "Poor Uncle Tom, Good Night. It was published in 1853 by New York's Firth, Pound, and Company.
According to folklore, Foster was inspired to write the song when, while traveling from his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to New Orleans, Louisiana, he stopped in Bardstown, Kentucky to visit his cousins, the Rowan family, and saw their magnificent Federal Hill mansion. However, while Foster's trip to New Orleans is well-documented, his stop in Kentucky has not been conclusively substantiated. Also problematic is that the lyrics refer not to a mansion, but a "little cabin". Also, Foster's trip took place in 1852, after the first draft of the song had already been written. Foster's only documented trip to Kentucky occurred in 1833 when his mother took him to visit relatives in Augusta and Louisville.
Another explanation holds that Foster was inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was published in 1851.