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Kansas (KS): State Guide and Fun Facts

When did Kansas become a state?
January 29, 1861

Who were the first Europeans in Kansas?
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado

First Native American settlers:
Arapaho, Comanche, Kansa, Kiowa, Missouri, Osage, Otoe, Pawnee

Square Miles:

US Rank:

State Flower:
Native Sunflower

State Bird:
Western Meadowlark

State Motto:
“As astra per aspera” To the stars through difficulties

Capital City

Topeka Kansas was founded in 1854, seven years before Kansas became a state. A new road built between two forts traveled through [what is now] Topeka, and a group of men decided to found a town in the location. They built homes and began to put together the infrastructure of a city, with steamboats making regular deliveries of provisions. The area grew quickly, and when Kansas became a state in 1861, Topeka was named its capital city.
The largest employers in Topeka are banking, energy, retail, financial and insurance industries.


What is Kansas famous for?

1. Home of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz
Kansas is well known as the home of Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto. In the American musical, the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and Toto are swept away during a tornado and transplanted to the magical Land of Oz. She begins a journey to try and find her way home to Kansas, and meets a mess of friends along the way who help her find the Wizard of Oz, who they say can bring her back home. In one of the most famous lines of the musical, Dorothy says, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

2. Home to Laura Ingalls Wilder during her toddler years
The Ingalls’ family cabin, located in Independence, Kansas, is believed to be the site of the former home of the Ingalls family, and of Laura Ingalls when she was only three years old. Although her Little House on the Prairie books are not based on memories from this home in particular, it is said that she drew memories from her family for inspiration in the books, which might have stemmed from this homestead.
The building on the site now is a recreation of what the home was believed to have looked like when it was built in the late 19th century.

3. Birthplace of Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was born in 1897 in Atchison Kansas. She lived in the town first with her parents, and then with her grandparents, until she was 12, at which point she moved to Des Moines to once again live with her parents. Earhart was always pushed by her mother to achieve more than other girls of her time. Amelia always dreamed that she would become successful in a male-oriented field. She ensured that her dreams came true, become one of the early 20th century’s most adventurous aviators.

What is Kansas’ economy?

1. Agriculture
The agricultural economy of Kansas owes itself to a few large industries and a number of smaller ones. First, Kansas is a large producer of beef cattle and calves. This commodity alone accounts for 60% of the state’s total agricultural receipts. Other livestock include pigs and sheep, and the state also uses cows and chickens to produce dairy products and eggs.

2. Manufacturing
The largest manufacturers in Kansas are responsible for the production of transportation equipment. This includes airplanes, missiles and railroad cars. The state also has large flourmills, animal feed factories and meatpacking plants.

3. Services
The services industry in Kansas includes primarily small businesses and personal services. Health care companies, hotels, retail stores and law firms are among the state’s top income generators. Other services industries include wholesale trade, such as food, cars, machinery and farming equipment. Public schools and hospitals are also an important component in the state’s GDP.

Kansas Historical Landmarks

1. Fort Leavenworth
Fort Leavenworth was built in 1827 by the US Army. In its beginnings, the ford was used as a stopping point for soldiers, settlers, Native Americans and emigrants moving westward. In addition to serving travelers, the fort was a command center for the US Army Training and Doctrine Command. Today, the fort includes the United States Disciplinary Barracks, a maximum security prison for military personnel that have been convicted of crimes that violate their Code of Military Justice.. Other army offices are located within the compound as well. The building is one of the longest occupied US Army sites in the US, having been in continuous use for 183 years as of 2010.

2. Hollenberg Pony Express Station
The Hollenberg Pony Express Station was built in 1858 by Great Hollenberg as a stopping point along the Oregon Trail. In addition to becoming an important trading post with travelers and those emigrating to the west, the station was also a stop along the Butterfield Overland Mail. This system was similar to the Pony Express, and was part of the first American mail system, delivering mail between its westernmost point at San Francisco and its easternmost points in Tennesseeand Missouri. It was also a stop along the Pony Express, which connected mail between Missouri and SacramentoCalifornia.

3. Nicodemus, Kansas
The town of Nicodemus was founded in 1877 by a group of African Americans who were runaway slaves after the American Civil War. The group was led by W.H. Smigh and W.R. Hill . The two laid out the plans for a town and settled there. Within a few years, the town had grown to include a few churches, stores, hotels, a bank and two newspapers. The town today is no longer population but still includes a number of original buildings including the town hall, two churches, a school building and a hotel.

How Did Popular Sovereignty Fail in Kansas?

Popular sovereignty, in the American context, refers to the plan to allow federal territories that were in the process of becoming states choose whether they would allow slavery or not. While at first the use of democratic means to determine which territories would allow slavery should have diminished friction between proslavery groups and abolitionists, the lack of clarity as to when this would be decided, and the fact that popular sovereignty was in contradiction to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, caused it to be a new source of friction between the North and the South. This fact, together with other factors, contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War.

The Missouri Compromise was an agreement, which determined that all new states north of the southern border of Missouri, would be free, or in other words slavery would not be allowed. Missouri was the exception, because there, the status of slavery was left undetermined. This compromise allowed the admittance of Missouri to the Union, while preserving more or less the balance of power between the Northern free states and the Southern proslavery states.

The proposal to allow popular sovereignty in U.S. territories, and specifically in Kansas and Nebraska, was introduced by Senator Steven A. Douglas. Senator Douglas was the senator of Illinois and had made his fortune in the railroad industry. Douglas hoped that resolution of the question of slavery, in Kansas and Nebraska to the North, would allow progress to be made on the location of the termini of the transcontinental railroad then planned, as well as its path to the Pacific. Thus, he inserted a clause in his proposal for Kansas allowing popular sovereignty, despite the fact that the Missouri compromise dictated that Kansas, being north of the southernmost border of Missouri, should have been a free state.

Because the nature of the state of Kansas was not determined, rather left undecided, it became a platform for both sides to attempt to influence public opinion. Influence is a mild term, for what actually occurred was a prelude of what later became the Civil War. Societies and individuals from both the North and South came to Kansas to try to influence the outcome of the future vote on a state constitution, the document which would determine whether Kansas would be admitted to the Union as a free or slave state.

One of the most infamous events in the battle for the soul of Kansas, which was termed “Bleeding Kansas” or “Bloody Kansas” due to the violent nature of the dispute, was when a group of Southerners, called “Border Ruffians” ransacked Lawrence Kansas, which was considered a stronghold of free state supporters. Northerners and free staters also used violent means to further their aims. As a reaction to the raid on Lawrence, John Brown captured seven proslavery Southerners, and killed five of them. John Brown later organized a slave insurrection in Virginia, for which he was ultimately hung.

The situation is Kansas was especially sensitive, as it was bordered both by free and slave states, and thus both camps did their utmost to bring Kansas into their sphere of influence. At one point, there were actually two territorial capitols, one of the proslavery forces and one of the abolitionists. Of course, each considered the other illegitimate and illegal. A number of constitutions were prepared, but the voting on them by the residents of the territory were highly irregular, in one vote the number of ballots cast was more than twice the number of registered voters. This was mainly a result of proslavery Missourians swarming over the border and voting for a constitution allowing slavery. Thus, all this violence was a result of the proposal for popular sovereignty.