Kansas makes up one of the USA’s most important and iconic states. Much of the USA’s food comes from this state, and it’s also enjoyed references in various fictional works. It also contributed to the USA’s place in world history. How? Learn with these 70 Kansas facts!
- Kansas covers an estimated area of 213,000 km².
- Water makes up only an estimated 1300 km² of Kansas’ total area or only 0.6%.
- An estimated 2.94 million people live in the state today.
- This gives the state an estimated population density of 14 people for every km².
- At its lowest point on the Verdigris River, Kansas has an average elevation of 207 meters above sea level.
- The Kaw and Wichita peoples lived in Kansas long before the coming of the Europeans.
- Francisco de Coronado became the first European to reach Kansas in 1541.
- Spain ruled the region as part of Spanish Louisiana between 1763 and 1803.
- The USA bought most of Kansas along with Louisiana in 1803.
- They took what would become Southwestern Kansas from Mexico after the Mexican-American War.
- Kansas joined the Union as a state of its own, the 34th, in 1861.
- Kansas stayed loyal to the Union during the American Civil War.
- The Dust Bowl devastated Kansas during the 1930s.
- After WWII, the US military based many of their nuclear missiles in Kansas.
- The US military finally removed the nuclear missiles in Kansas during the 1980s.
- The people of Kansas sometimes call themselves Jayhawkers.
- Most of the state falls in the USA’s Central Time Zone, or GMT-6.
- Exceptions include 4 counties that instead belong to the USA’s Mountain Time Zone, or GMT-7.
- The state keeps its capital at Topeka, but Wichita counts as its largest city.
- Kansas officially nicknames itself “The Sunflower State”.
Kansas has a unique geography.
Other states surround Kansas. Nebraska to the north, Missouri to the east, Oklahoma to the south, and Colorado to the west. Most of Kansas forms part of the Great Plains of North America, featuring a flat plain broken only by low hills. Eastern Kansas makes up the exception, however, and features taller hills and more rugged terrain.
The predominantly flat terrain has given the state the reputation of the flattest state in the USA. A commentator in 2003 even described Kansas as “flatter than a pancake”. Scientists disagree, however, with their own studies showing that Kansas counts as the 23rd flattest state in the USA.
Mount Sunflower makes up the state’s highest point.
Despite its name, scientists don’t consider Mount Sunflower as a proper mountain. Instead, the name simply sticks out of common use by the public, while remaining the highest point in Kansas. Mount Sunflower doesn’t even stand apart from the surrounding landscape. The land just rises gently up towards its peak, which stands around 1.2 km above sea level.
Mount Sunflower today makes up private property, owned by Ed and Cindy Harold. In recognition of the site’s importance, they allow and even encourage visitors to come to Mount Sunflower. Its peak features a picnic table, a sunflower sculpture, a memorial plaque, and even a small library.
Kansas’ Monument Rocks enjoy fame.
They’re also known as the Chalk Pyramids, which is a reference to its naturally-formed chalk formations. Located in Kansas’ Gove County, they go back 80 million years ago, the Cretaceous Period. At the time, what would become Kansas lay underwater, in the Western Interior Seaway which split North America into two.
Today the Monument Rocks reach up to 21 meters high and feature natural arches and buttes. Historically, they became the first landmark in Kansas designated by the US Department of the Interior as a Natural Landmark in 1968. And as of 2008, they are designated as one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas.
Various rivers pass through the state.
The Missouri River makes up the most important of these, running as it does along 121 km of Kansas’ northeastern border. The Kansas River, locally known as the Kaw, runs for 270 km across Northern Kansas before flowing into the Missouri River. Other important rivers include the Arkansas River, which actually draws its water from Colorado. It follows a winding course across Western and Southern Kansas, and which gives it a total length of 800 km inside the state.
There’s also the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers, which together form the Kansas River at Junction City. The Saline and Solomon Rivers, in turn, form the Smoky Hill River. There’s also the Big Blue, Delaware, and Wakarusa Rivers, all of which also feed into the Kansas River.
It has a rich biodiversity.
Scientists estimated that up to 238 rare animals live in Kansas, along with another 400 rare plant species. These include the endangered black-footed ferret, which actually went extinct in the wild in 1996. Thanks to a successful captive breeding program, the species thrived again. As of 2008, the species has returned to the wild. It remains an endangered species, though, and is protected legally.
Other animals that live in Kansas include the bobolink, as well as the Peregrine Falcon. Plants that live in Kansas include Boechera laevigata and the Tripsacum dactyloides. More common plants and animals include Indian Grass, Royal Fern, crows, deer, and prairie dogs, among others.
The state has many parks and protected areas.
These include the Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve, located in the Flint Hills north of Strong City. The reserve contains the last remaining 4% of tallgrass prairie that once dominated North America. Covering an estimated area of 1 million km², the preserve also provides a home for the Tallgrass Prairie Bison Herd.
There’s also the El Dorado State Park, located next to the Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve. Covering an area of 16 km², it makes up the largest state park in Kansas. It takes its name from the El Dorado Reservoir, which supports recreational fishing in its waters. Other parks and reserves in Kansas include the Big Basin Prairie Reserve, as well as the Mushroom Rock State Park.
Kansas also experiences various climates.
Northern, Eastern, and Central Kansas all enjoy a humid continental climate, featuring cold winters as well as hot and humid summers. Western Kansas, though, has a semi-arid steppe climate, while Southern Kansas has a humid subtropical climate. The differences in climate cause a marked difference in rainfall across the state as a whole. Western Kansas receives the least rainfall, at only around 400 mm of rain per year. In contrast, Southern Kansas receives the most rainfall, at around 1.2 meters of rain per year. Temperatures across the state in summer average between 42 and 46 degrees Celsius, which usually drops to around 27 degrees Celsius at night.
Humans first arrived in what would become Kansas around 7,000 BC.
Their ancestors originally came from Asia and crossed over to North America during the last Ice Age. They did so by traveling over the ice where the Bering Strait and Sea now flow. Over the following millennia, their descendants spread out south across the continent. At the time, various mammals like camels, horses, and mammoths lived in Kansas. The prehistoric humans did not domesticate them, however, and hunted them instead.
This led to what scientists call the Pleistocene Overkill, localized mass extinction of large land animals in North America. Ironically, the disappearance of their prey animals forced the Prehistoric Americans to change their lifestyles to adapt. While hunting never completely went away, it became less important, and their descendants eventually developed agriculture of their own to diversify their diets.
The Wichita people of Kansas founded a city named Etzanoa during the mid-15th Century.
Today, Kansas’ Arkansas City stands on Etzanoa’s former site, with archaeologists uncovering its ruins along the banks of the Walnut River. Based on the ruins, archaeologists estimate the city’s population around at least 12,000. Spanish records from when they encountered the city give a larger population of around 20,000 people. The Spaniards themselves reached the city in 1601 and called it the Great Settlement. Ironically, the Spaniards’ arrival marked the end of the city, and not because of any direct action on their part. Instead, shortly after their arrival, Etzanoa’s inhabitants simply abandoned the city and moved south towards Oklahoma.
Scientists still aren’t completely sure why they did so, but some think the Wichita had had past dealings with the Spaniards. These dealings went bad, and so when the Spaniards arrived at their city, the Wichita simply decided to leave before things went bad again.
The Spaniards who explored Kansas did so as part of their search for the mythical Seven Cities of Gold.
The Seven Cities of Gold formed a popular story among Spanish explorers during the 16th Century. Also known as Cibola, its origins remain unclear, but it drove Spanish explorers deep into the unexplored American interior in its pursuit. Francisco de Coronado himself made up one of those explorers, leaving Mexico on his quest in 1541.
Over the following years, he crossed what would become Arizona and New Mexico, meeting only disappointment along the way. His interactions with the Native Americans eventually led him to Kansas, after hearing about a rich country called Quivira. He later gave that name to the land around the Arkansas River, which he described as having rich soil. Ironically, scientists now think the historic Quivira actually lay in New Mexico, with its rich copper and turquoise mines.
Various Native American peoples migrated into Kansas under Spanish rule.
The Kansa and Osage peoples arrived during the 17th Century, with the Kansa’s own traditions pointing to their presence in the region since 1673. By the end of the 18th Century, the two peoples had established themselves in Eastern Kansas. In fact, the Kansa would give their name to the Kansas River, as well as the state as a whole. The Osage would claim the area around the Arkansas River for themselves. By the early-18th Century, the Pawnee would move into Northern and Western Kansas. The Otoe Tribe of the Sioux Nation had similarly established themselves in the region, specifically in Northeastern Kansas.
Famous American explorers Lewis and Clark passed through Kansas on their way to the Pacific Ocean.
Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark launched their expedition in 1803 for scientific and political reasons. Scientifically, they had the goal of finding an unbroken land route across North America to the Pacific Ocean. Politically, they received a mandate from US President Thomas Jefferson to stake claims over the interior before European countries could.
During their expedition, Lewis and Clark followed the Missouri River, past the site of what would become Kansas City. They made camp there and made contact with French traders already present in the region. At the same time, they mapped the surrounding lands before continuing on their journey to the West Coast.
Official sources commonly described Kansas as the Great American Desert during the 19th Century.
US Brigadier General Zebulon Pike first used the term in 1806, while passing through Kansas. This came from the fact that at the time, the word desert meant differently than it does today. While it could mean a hot and sandy or rocky region, at the time it could also mean a land unfit for farming. And while various rivers flowed through Kansas, most of the plains depended on rain for water. Without modern irrigation, large-scale farming simply became impossible.
This actually affected the settlement of the region, leading to the US government designating Kansas an Indian Territory, with the lack of settlers headed there. It wasn’t until the mid-19th Century, when irrigation methods began to grow advanced, that settlers began moving into Kansas. And even then, the stigma of the Great American Desert would persist until the end of the century.
The land’s political status repeatedly changed throughout the early-19th Century.
Originally, it belonged to the Louisiana Territory, with the USA having bought it from France and Spain in 1803. Later on, in 1812, when the US government formed the Missouri Territory, they broke off Kansas from Louisiana and added it to the new territory. As time passed, more and more Native Americans found themselves relocated from their former lands into the east to Kansas, the US government finally broke it off in 1825 as the new Indian Territory. By the 1850s, however, white settlers had flooded into and begun squatting on the Indian Territory. They repeatedly called for political recognition, which eventually led to the formation of the Kansas Territory in 1854.
The formation of the Kansas Territory caused violence to erupt in the region.
The violence erupted over the question of slavery, as the US Congress had decided to allow the local citizens to vote on the issue. This led to pro-slavery Missouri deliberately moving settlers into Kansas, hoping to tilt the vote in favor of slavery. Making things worse, many of the settlers from Missouri openly claimed their readiness to use force to make slavery legal in Kansas. In response, anti-slavery settlers similarly flooded into Kansas, most especially from Massachusetts.
This led to a series of violent clashes over the 1850s, between the pro and anti-slavery sides. These include the Wakarusa War in 1855, the Sacking of Lawrence, and the Pottawatomie Massacre in 1856. In the end, the question of slavery never became resolved until statehood, by which time the American Civil War had already begun. Historians now believe that the violence in Kansas proved that the question of slavery in the USA could only have led to civil war.
At its founding, Kansas went through several versions of its constitution.
Once again, the core issue lies in whether or not slavery would become legal in Kansas. The Topeka Constitution became the first of those constitutions, named after the city of the same name, and which banned slavery in Kansas. In 1855, Kansas voted to adopt the constitution, after which they sent it to the US Congress. It passed the House of Representatives, only to die in the Senate thanks to efforts from southern senators.
The pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution followed in 1857, only to have the vote in Kansas suffer a series of boycotts. This meant that when the US Congress received it, they rejected it on the basis that the people of Kansas had no consensus on its legality. The anti-slavery Leavenworth Constitution followed, only to again fail to pass the US Congress, this time in the House of Representatives. Finally, the Wyandotte Constitution followed in 1859, and also banned slavery. This time, it passed the US Congress, and would later remain Kansas’ constitution on statehood in 1861.
Kansas made many sacrifices for the Union cause during the Civil War.
At the time, the undeveloped frontier mostly made up Kansas. In light of that fact, the Union limited Kansas’ quota of troops to only 16,000 men. Instead, Kansas sent 20,000 men to fight for the Union cause. Actual numbers remain unclear, but units from Kansas suffered more losses in battle compared to other units from other states. Even so, their heroic contribution and loyalty to the Union gave Kansas the nickname of the Kansas state for the rest of the 19th Century. Ironically, around 1,000 men from Kansas turned into traitors and fought for the Confederacy.
The Confederacy attacked Kansas several times during that same war.
The Lawrence Massacre in 1863 made up the most infamous of these attacks. In that year, Confederate militia entered Kansas and attacked the city of Lawrence. They did so in retaliation for a Union attack on the city of Osceola in Missouri. The Confederates sacked Lawrence and then set it on fire before leaving. The massacre horrified the Confederate government, which immediately condemned the attack, and moved to bring all militia forces under tighter control.
Other battles in Kansas include Baxter Springs, also in 1863. The next year, Union forces fought the Confederates at Marais des Cygnes, and again at Mine Creek. In both battles, the Union fought against invading Confederates, before counterattacking and defeating the Confederates at Vernon County in Missouri. This marked the end of Confederate activity in both Kansas and Missouri, with the Confederate Army retreating to Arkansas.
Kansas also became a battlefield for the Indian Wars.
This actually predated the American Civil War, with the US Army using Fort Larned in Central Kansas as their main base against Native Americans in the region. By 1864, tensions between Native Americans and settlers had reached the point that both sides attacked each other’s civilians brutally. Attempts to resolve the issue peacefully failed, and by 1867 the US Army had launched a military campaign to bring the Native Americans to heel. This led to the Battle of Prairie Dog Creek in that same year, which forced the Native Americans to the defensive. The fighting in Kansas continued until 1869, by which time the Native Americans had no choice but to submit and get herded into reservations.
The USA later built a transcontinental railroad through Kansas in the late 19th Century.
It actually started as far back as 1863, during the middle of the American Civil War. Kansas lay along the southern route of the planned transcontinental railroad, with the US Congress voting both funds and land donations for the plan. Construction began at Kansas City, with the railroad extending west over the following years. In 1864, the railroad reached Lawrence, Junction City in 1866, then Salina in 1868.
Finally, the Kansas branch of the project ended when it reached Denver in neighboring Colorado. Both the US Congress and private investors considered plans for other railroads, but those plans ended with the Panic of 1873, which resulted in a global depression.
Various factors contributed to the Dust Bowl phenomenon of the early 20th Century.
The Dust Bowl took place in the 1930s when a combination of drought and improper farming methods caused the topsoil to get blown away by the wind. This led to massive dust storms across the Great Plains which tore down buildings and buried the ruins afterward. Ironically, in Kansas, the farmers had long known about soil conservation methods that could have prevented the Dust Bowl. However, they ignored the methods in favor of traditional farming.
Surprisingly enough, however, Kansas did not suffer a massive migration of ruined farmers like what happened in neighboring states. Instead, the rural population actually increased, as a side-effect of the Great Depression. The large numbers of urban unemployed that resulted actually moved back to the countryside, which finally began to recover in 1940 thanks to federal aid.
Kansas contributed heavily to the US war effort in both WWI and WWII.
A lot of the oil the USA sold to the Allies in WWI before they actually joined the war came from Kansas. In fact, many people at the time called Kansas’ El Dorado Oil Field, as it was the single most productive oil field in the USA at the time. It’s also the oil field that helped win the war.
Later on, during WWII, while many men from Kansas signed up for the military, the state’s biggest contribution came in the form of wheat and other agricultural products. This actually led the US government to agree to a petition from Kansas farmers to exempt farmworkers from military duty. Plane factories in Kansas also produced various warplanes for the US war effort.
Segregation became a hot topic in Kansas in the mid-20th Century.
This came from the fact that Kansas enforced racial segregation in its schools. After the US Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional in 1954, protests erupted across Kansas. In fact, segregation across the USA as a whole found itself pushed into the limelight thanks to a court case from Kansas. Specifically, an African-American resident named Oliver Brown found his daughter barred from a nearby school over her race. She had to attend a school much further away, which led her father to gather other parents and take the issue to a federal court. This eventually escalated to the US Supreme Court, which made the previously mentioned ruling.
The 1966 Tornado Outbreak devastated parts of Kansas.
It lasted two weeks, from June 2 to June 12 of that year. In those weeks, 57 different tornadoes swept across the Great Plains, as well as neighboring Texas and Florida. Kansas took the worst damage, though, on June 8 when an F5 tornado swept through the city of Topeka. The tornado tore through 35 kilometers of the city and left a path of destruction 800 meters wide behind it. 850 homes suffered complete destruction, along with another 250 businesses. At least 3,000 more homes suffered serious damage, and another 2,390 businesses also suffered serious damage.
The estimated cost of the damages and destruction came to around $250 million at the time but adjusted to around $750 million today. Only 16 people died thanks to an early warning by news reporter Bill Kurtis. Without his warning, or had the tornado struck at night, scientists estimate the predicted casualties at around 5,000 dead.
Kansas has a diverse demographic.
Whites still make up the majority at around 83%. African-Americans come in at second place, at around 6%. Asian-Americans follow at third place, making up 2% of the population, followed by Native Americans at 1%. Interestingly, around 3% of Kansas’ citizens identify themselves as either biracial or multiracial.
German-Americans make up the largest ethnic group among white, at around 34%. This actually caused them problems in WWI and WWII, with many German-Americans having to change their names to avoid accusations of sympathizing with the enemy. They also had to avoid speaking German, and in many cases, actually discouraged from participating in politics or the community.
The same goes for the state’s religions.
Protestant denominations make up the small majority of religions in Kansas, followed by an estimated 57% of the population. Roman Catholics follow in second place, at 18% of the population, while Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, make up around 1% of the population each.
Interestingly, around 20% of Kansas’ citizens do not identify themselves as either followers of one religion or another, or even as atheists. In fact, atheists only make up an estimated 2% of the state’s population. Agnostics similarly make up only an estimated 3% of the population. And most surprisingly, a very small number of people in Kansas, at less than 1%, claim they don’t know what or if they follow a religion at all.
Rural flight has heavily-affected Kansas from the late 20th century onward.
Rural flight involves migration from the countryside to the cities. In Kansas, this has heavily affected rural communities, with the state now having an estimated 6,000 ghost towns. Of the rural communities that continue to have stable populations, 89% have populations that number less than 3,000 people. Others have even smaller populations, not even reaching 1,000 people.
In contrast, Kansas’ cities have experienced booming populations, with some such as Kansas City, having the largest population growth rates in the entire USA. In fact, at this point, less than half of Kansas’ population lives in the countryside and has largely concentrated in the state’s cities.
The state capital of Topeka goes back to the early 19th Century.
The first settlers arrived in the 1840s, having traveled over 3000 kilometers along the Oregon Trail from Missouri. They set up a ferry service over the Kansas River, which remained the limit of development until the 1850s. By that point, growing trade meant a booming town sprang up along the riverbanks, led by the Topeka Town Association. The town’s position on the river made it into an important port for river trade and traffic, and a major commercial center by the 1860s. This later contributed to Topeka’s selection as the state capital in 1869. The construction and extensions of railways linking the city to other cities only further encouraged Topeka’s growth through the 19th Century.
Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten tried to change the city’s name in 2010.
He wanted to change the name of the city to Google, and advertise it as the capital of fiber optics technology. However, legal experts warned the mayor and the city council against actually going through with the plan. They later revealed that the whole plan involved a show of support for Google, as well as a publicity stunt to encourage Google to expand their fiber optics services to the city. Google later made a joking statement about renaming itself Topeka in recognition of the city’s show of support. In fact, on April Fool’s Day of 2010, Google actually did rename itself Topeka for the day, before returning to normal on the following day.
Topeka also has the infamous distinction of being home to the Westboro Baptist Church.
Officially, they’re just a small local Christian denomination, as well as a hate group with an infamous reputation. In particular, they hold protests against honoring dead soldiers and have even publicly thanked God for their deaths. They also promote and make hate speech against various targets, such as homosexuals, Jews, Muslims, and transgender people.
They’ve also vandalized and burned the American flag as part of their protests, which has caused anger even among other conservative organizations. At this point, though, the Westboro Baptist Church has reached such extreme levels that only its founder, Fred Phelps, and his extended family remain members. In fact, former members have even accused the church of using brainwashing on its followers.
Kansas’ largest city of Wichita goes back to the late 19th century.
The trader Jesse Chisholm first set up a trading post on the city’s future site in the 1860s, which formed part of the Chisholm Trail south to Texas. Investors led by James Mead began serious development of the area in 1897, building a community center, hotel, and a post office. The settlement grew over the following decades as hunters and traders settled down on the site. Wichita officially became a city in 1870, after William Greiffenstein laid down Wichita’s first proper street plans. Growth increased after railroads linked up with the city, which became the destination for cattle drives from the surrounding countryside.
Industry boomed in the city from the early 20th century onward.
It began with the discovery of oil and gas deposits near the city in 1914 and 1915. Petrochemical industries quickly took advantage, building their headquarters, fuel stations, and refineries in Wichita. By 1917, five refineries stood in the city, which grew to 12 over the 1920s. The oil and gas boom also encouraged further industrialization, in particular, the aviation industry.
Cessna built a factory in the city in 1917, with other aviation companies following in the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, Wichita’s aviation industry grew so big that in 1920 the city became declared the Aviation Capital of the World. It only continued to grow during WWII, with Boeing becoming the city’s biggest employer. In particular, they built B-29 bombers in the city, one of which would later drop the nuclear weapons which ended the war on Japan.
Kansas City also goes back to the late 19th century.
It’s actually officially called Kansas City, Kansas, to differentiate it from its namesake city in Missouri. The city goes back to 1872, with Old Kansas, only to see itself refounded as New Kansas in 1886. New Kansas integrated five municipalities together: Armourdale, Armstrong, OId Kansas, Riverview, and Wyandotte.
The city boomed from the 1890s onward, as a suburb for its namesake city in Missouri. In fact, between 1890 and 1960, it always counted as one of the biggest cities in the USA. Starting in 1970, however, the city began to undergo a demographic shift, with the white population shrinking. In 1970, whites made up an estimated 76% of the city’s population. However, by 2010, that number dropped to only an estimated 40%.
The US military maintains various facilities in Kansas today.
The US Army continues to operate Forts Leavenworth and Riley, while the US Air Force maintains McConnell Air Force Base. An estimated 25,000 soldiers find themselves stationed in Kansas today, along with another estimated 8,000 civilian employees of the US Department of Defense. The US Army also maintains a reservist headquarters in Wichita, the 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command. The Air National Guard also keeps an intelligence base at Wichita, while maintaining Forbes Field at Topeka. Smoky Hill also has one of the biggest and busiest bomb test ranges in the entire USA. In fact, many of Wichita’s municipal airports today started out as military airfields from WWII.
Kansas produces the most wind power out of any US state.
In fact, Kansas holds the number one spot among all US states when it comes to wind power. With an estimated 3,900 wind turbines across the state, an estimated 5.6 GW of electricity gets produced every year from wind power. Scientists estimate that fully-developed, wind power in Kansas could produce a maximum of 3.1 TW of electricity. This easily accounts for 75% of all electricity used in the USA today, worth a predicted amount of around $290 billion. Wind power has enjoyed steady growth in Kansas, with the state setting a goal for itself of 20% wind power by 2020. As of 2019, it has long since met and even gone beyond this goal, with wind power accounting for 41% of Kansas’ electrical needs.
The state still produces oil and gas today.
In fact, Kansas today ranks eighth among US states when it comes to producing oil and gas. That said, most of the state’s oil and gas reserves, such as from the Hugoton Natural Gas Field, have already become depleted. However, the drop in world oil prices from the ’90s onward has actually helped keep production steady. And while world oil prices have recently risen, investments in new technologies have also helped maintain steady production. On average, Kansas produces an estimated 3 million barrels of oil per year, along with 32 billion cubic feet of natural gas every year. The state also produces an additional 2.27 billion liters of biofuel every year.
Agriculture makes up the heart of Kansas’ economy, however.
Farms even occupy an estimated 90% of developed land in the state, with your average farm covering an estimated 2.59 km² of land. Winter wheat makes up the most important crop grown in Kansas, with 40% of the USA’s winter wheat coming from the state. Hard red winter wheat makes up the primary breed of wheat grown in Kansas, at around 95%.
Other crops include corn, sorghum, and soybeans, as well as cotton for non-edible crops. Farmers in Kansas also raise large numbers of cattle, pigs, and sheep. Salt production also makes up a large part of the agricultural sector in Kansas.
The state has a solid infrastructure network.
Kansas has two interstates, first is the east-west I-70 which links Denver in Colorado with Kansas City in Missouri. Then, there’s the north-south I-35, which links Oklahoma City in Oklahoma with Des Moines in Iowa. Over a dozen federal freeways also pass through Kansas, with the US-69 route linking Oklahoma and Missouri as the most important.
Kansas has only one major airport, though, the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. That said, regional airports like the Manhattan Regional Airport offer air links to other cities in the USA. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route also passes through Kansas, the railroad linking the cities of Dodge, Garden, Hutchinson, Lawrence, Newton, and Topeka together.
The same goes for its educational system.
Kansas’ oldest universities go back to the mid-19th Century when the territorial government-chartered 10 schools for tertiary education. Of those, three continue to operate today: Baker University, Blue Mont Central College, and Highland University. They and the other universities at the time even became the first coeducational universities in the entire USA.
Today, universities in the state operate separately from primary and secondary schools. Primary and secondary schools operate under the Kansas State Board of Education, while the Kansas Board of Regents oversees tertiary education. The Kansas State Board of Education actually courted controversy in 1999, when they allowed pseudoscientific ideas about evolution and the origin of the universe in school curriculums. They rescinded this in 2001, only to return it in 2005. This policy finally ended in favor of only scientific ideas in 2007.
The Republican Party dominates Kansas’ politics.
In fact, Kansas has only ever voted for three Democratic Presidents: Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson. No Democrat has also become a US Senator from Kansas since 1932, the longest losing streak for any party in any US state. Historians believe this tendency comes from Kansas’ origins and its early domination by anti-slavery settlers. The state’s loyalty and dedication to the Union cause during the American Civil War also contributed to its loyalty to the Republicans. That said, Democrats have become state governors, such as Kathleen Sebelius in 2003, and more recently Laura Kelly in 2018.
US President Dwight D. Eisenhower came from Kansas.
Eisenhower grew up in the city of Abilene, which he considered his hometown. Before he became President of the USA, Eisenhower served for decades in the US Army. In that time, he served in various stations, both in the Continental USA, as well as in the Philippines. However, the height of his career took place in WWII, when he became Supreme Allied Commander for Europe. His fame led to the Republicans considering him for the Presidency in 1948, but Eisenhower refused.
He changed his mind by 1952, however, and won the election against Harry Truman’s reelection bid. As President of the USA, Eisenhower continued to support a Communist containment policy. He also reversed Truman’s policy of preserving an American nuclear monopoly and supported Britain and France’s nuclear programs. Reelected in 1956, Eisenhower won the goodwill of the Arab World by supporting Egypt against Britain and France over the Suez Canal. Domestically, Eisenhower’s solid Cabinet choices led to a saying that during his administration, the USA all but forgot it even had a President at all.
The famous aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart also came from Kansas.
Originally from Atchison City, Earhart began flying lessons with fellow female aviation pioneer Anita Snook in 1921. Even before earning her license, she set a world record in 1922 for the then-highest altitude reached by a female pilot of 4.3 km. When she earned her pilot’s license in 1923, she became the 16th woman in US history to receive one. Her greatest achievement took place five years later in 1928 when she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in a single flight.
Nine years later in March 1937, she made her first attempt to fly around the world, only to abort after a poor takeoff damaged her plane. She tried again in July, only to disappear somewhere over the Pacific Ocean around New Guinea. Despite decades of searching, no one has found any trace of Earhart, her copilot, and their plane. Most historians believe their plane crashed and sank in the ocean, with Earhart and her copilot either dying in the crash or drowning in the water.
Kansas has a football history of its own.
The first football game in Kansas goes back to 1890, between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Baker Methodists, with the latter winning 22-9. The first night football game west of the Mississippi River took place in Wichita in 1905. Later on, in 1911, the Kansas Jayhawks played against the Missouri Tigers in the first-ever homecoming football game.
Similarly, the first-ever televised homecoming football game took place in Kansas in 1939, between the Kansas State Wildcats and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Other football milestones in Kansas include Coach Harold Hunt rejecting one of his team’s touchdowns in 1951 after the player went out of bounds.
The state has also participated in other sports.
Minor league baseball actually started professional sports in Kansas in 1886, with the Topeka Capitals and the Leavenworth Soldiers. The Topeka Capitals even had an African-American player, Bud Fowler, but he quit a year later thanks to segregation laws. The first night game in professional baseball also took place in Kansas, between the Muscogee Indians and Independence Producers in 1930, with the former winning 13-3.
That year also saw Kansas having the first permanent lighting system for exhibition gaming. It was first used in a match between the Independence Producers and the House of David from Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Kansas has a mixed history when it comes to alcohol.
The state actually adopted Prohibition decades even before the USA adopted it as a whole in 1919. An amendment to Kansas’ constitution banned alcoholic drinks in the state in 1881. When Prohibition ended in 1934, a vote held in Kansas on whether to do the same for the state constitution saw the ban continue. Starting in 1948, though, Kansas began allowing private clubs and similar establishments to sell liquor.
The ban returned in 1970, however, with the state government raiding trains and inspecting travelers passing through the state for alcohol. They also demanded airlines stop serving alcohol when passing through Kansas airspace. The ban loosened again in 1986 after a statewide vote, and in 2005, the state government decided to leave enforcement to local governments. Today, 29 counties in the state continue to enforce the ban outside of licensed establishments, while 17 other counties have dropped the ban entirely.
The state has a musical history of its own.
The rock band Kansas named themselves after their state and performed mostly in the city of Topeka. Many of the band’s members also originally came from that city. The guitarist Joe Walsh, who played as part of the Eagles rock band, also originally came from Wichita.
Various singers came from Kansas, such as Melissa Etheridge, Jennifer Knapp, Martina McBride, Janelle Monae, and Jerrod Niemann among others. Kansas native Brewster Higley also composed the iconic song of the American Old West, Home on the Range, in the 19th century. This later led to that song becoming Kansas’ state anthem in 1947.
The Wizard of Oz makes up the most famous work from Kansas.
Originally written as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, it became one of the biggest bestsellers in history. Its first edition numbered 100,000 copies and sold out by 1901, barely a year after its first publishing. This popularity not only led to a second edition getting published but also a Broadway adaptation produced in 1902. A famous film adaptation in 1932 starring Judy Garland as Dorothy was also created and is known to be the most famous iteration of the story.
Clark Kent is the most famous fictional character from Kansas.
Born Kal-El from the planet Krypton, he was sent to Earth to escape the destruction of his planet. Kal-El’s pod crashed on a farm in Kansas, where he’s found and raised by the Kents, an elderly farming couple. With powers such as super strength, laser eyes, and flight, Kal-El who was later named Clark Kent became the superhero we all know and love.
Originally written by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman quickly became one of DC Comics’ top characters. The character and the story received film adaptations as early as 1940, but would never really become iconic on the big screen until the 1978 Superman starring Christopher Reeve. Reeve completely redefined Superman’s characterization, with both Siegel and Shuster unreservedly praising him for his performance.
The state has a history in film.
Lawrence City in Kansas had one of the oldest movie theaters west of the Mississippi River, the Patee Theater. It needed its own power generator when it first opened in 1903, as Kansas still had an incomplete electrical network at the time. Similarly, Ottawa City in Kansas has the oldest operating movie theater in the world, Plaza Cinema, which first opened in 1907. Other theaters in Kansas include the Jayhawk Theater in Topeka, which dates back to 1926 but still operates today. In addition to films, the Jayhawk Theater also hosts plays and concerts among other theatrical presentations. Hutchinson City in Kansas also has its Fox Theater from 1930, which has a place in the National Register of Historic Places.
The film Mars Attacks! also has scenes set in Kansas.
Mars Attacks!, first shown in theaters in 1996, is a science fiction comedy film involving an invasion of Earth by Martians. The film became famous for how the Earthlings defeated the Martians: by broadcasting the song “Indian Love Call” by Slim Whitman. The song’s echoes inside the Martians’ helmets proved too much for their oversized brains, which literally exploded into green goo. Various scenes in the movie were filmed in the Kansan cities of Burns, Lawrence, and Wichita. The fictional town of Perkinsville also supposedly stands in Kansas.