The state of Kansas is located in the center of the United States and is one of the Great Plains states. It borders Nebraska to the north, Missouri to the east, Oklahoma to the south, and Colorado to the west.
The population is about 2.9 million and the capital is the city of Topeka. The state’s largest cities are Wichita, Overland Park, Kansas City, and Topeka.
Kansas has a well-developed economy with a strong presence in agriculture as well as auto and aircraft manufacturing. The state is also known for its historic sites, such as the Boot Hill Museum and the Wichita Museum of Art.
Kansas State is also home to several important universities, including Kansas State University, Washburn University, and Wichita State University.
If you look at a map of the United States, the rectangular area of the state of Kansas sort of underlies the entire country as a cornerstone. Much of it is taken up by the Great Plains, celebrated by authors of Native American adventure novels. The state has always been “in the way” of significant events in American history: the conquest of the West and the Indian Wars, the gold rush, and the struggle for independence.
History of the State
The Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (1510-1554) was the first to arrive here in 1541. He came to the southwestern shores of America in search of treasure. Since the 18th century the French became interested in these lands, although the territory of the Great Plains was considered uninhabitable by the Europeans until 1820. And that despite the fact that the Americans had bought from the French a huge “allotment” in the central part of the continent as a result of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 when the US lost more than 2,000,000 sq. km. i.e. about 23% of the current territory of the country. The purchase was made by President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) to gain full control of the important port of New Orleans on the Mississippi River, which had been owned first by the Spanish and then by the French.
The Great Plains, which went to the Americans, is the marginal part of the North American (Canadian) Platform, formed by Precambrian crystalline rocks. The rivers here are fast, but they have little water, the summers are dry, and strong winds often (up to 50 times a year) turn into destructive tornadoes – it was not by chance that the writer L.F. Baum (1856-1919) placed the flying cabin of Dorothy, the heroine of The Amazing Wizard of Oz, on the windy steppes of Kansas. All kinds of grasses grow on the black earth, forest, and sod-podzolic soils. The vast expanses were inhabited by coyotes, rodents, prairie birds, snakes, and once abundant bison, as well as the nomadic Indian tribes that hunted them. The subsoil of the Great Plains is rich in oil, coal, lignite, gas, and table salt. But this would be discovered later, and at first the new lands were perceived as an unconquered space, resisting the penetration of Europeans.
The native inhabitants were the Sioux Indians, some of the most militant members of the prairies. The picturesque appearance of these steppe Indians has been adopted by many adventure novel illustrators and filmmakers: the chiefs had a feathered headdress that could hang below the waist. Everything depended on the importance of the wearer, for each feather was a symbol of distinction for a feat, like an order. The feathers were dyed black at the upper edge and the decoration was supplemented with a red tassel. During nomads, the Indians lived in tipi tent-like dwellings. Despite their militancy, they were displaced from their territories and settled on reservations. The state inherited from the Kansa Indians (the Sioux, who made up the majority of the population until the early 19th century) not only the land but also the name meaning “People of the South Wind.
In the 1820s, missionaries and pioneers appeared, organizing solitary farms. The pursuit of California gold in the late 1840s sent a flood of “fortune seekers” through Kansas. Settlers began to follow in their footsteps. They began farming the land, so labor was soon needed. With this problem began a long struggle between supporters and opponents of slavery in Kansas. Finally, in 1859 a constitution banning slavery was approved. With it, Kansas became the 34th state in 1861.
In 1862 the government issued the Homestead Act, which allowed land ownership in uninhabited areas, the era of the Wild West began. Kansas was again in the path of the flood of settlers from the east. Historically, this era lasted until 1890, when U.S. authorities prohibited free development: they closed the frontier zone between sold and “no man’s land. “The Wild West” was becoming a fantasy cultural phenomenon, moving to Hollywood, losing its historical authenticity and becoming saturated with handsome cowboys, tanned Indians with buffalo, treacherous gold diggers, sheriffs fighting bandits and romantic legends.
Beginning in the late 1860s, the Kansas Pacific Railroad began running a railroad west through the state under the auspices of the Kansas Railroad Company. This played a fatal role in the lives of the Indians. To undermine their way of life, since the 1830s the authorities had been paying hunters well to kill bison, which were the main food and material for clothing and housing. The extermination of bison reached a particular scale in the 1870s, when they were exterminated by the millions. Not only did the railroad increase the flow of people: for publicity purposes, passengers were allowed to shoot the animals from the windows of the cars. “Kansas Pacific Railroad had an agreement with the famous hunter Buffalo Bill (1846-1917), who killed thousands of bison and hired starving Indians for an “ethnic show.” The center of the buffalo slaying was Dodge City, classic Kansas of the Wild West era, the “cowboy capital of the world.” Today it is home to the Booth Hill Museum with its reconstructed Front Street, giving you a chance to immerse yourself in the life of the settlers.
The state capital, Topeka, is its administrative, business, financial, and commercial center. The city is the largest employer in the state, with factories of such companies as Good Yer (a tire manufacturer) and Frito Lay (a well-known chipmaker, also in Russia). Beginning as an oil producer, Wichita has become an airplane manufacturing center, housing an Air Force base and concentrating six major U.S. airplane manufacturing companies. Generally speaking, the aerospace industry is a crucial part of the state’s economy. Gangster Kansas City, once famed for its Mafia clans, now forms a huge agglomeration. The gambling jam sessions of its nightclubs became fertile ground for the development of jazz, the real phenomenon in the history of which was the local orchestra of Benny Mooten (1894-1935). Abilene, a railroad hub and cattle ranching center, is famous for dog racing and breeding hounds. Future U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) spent his childhood here. Hutchinson is home to the Kansas Center for Space Exploration. For all its diversity, Kansas has always been close to its roots and has been active in raising and selling cattle, beef, and dairy products. More than 50 percent of the value of the state’s agricultural production to this day is made up of livestock products, and the wheat fields are the glory.
- State of the United States.
- Date of statehood: January 29, 1861.
- Administrative divisions: 105 counties.
- Capital: Topeka, 127,473 people (2010).
- Language: English.
- Ethnic composition: 33.5% – Germans, 14.4% – Irish, 14.1% – English, 7.5% – Americans, 4.4% – French. 4.2% Scots, 2.5% Dutch, 2.4% Swedes, 1.8% Italians, 1.5% Poles, 13.7% others.
- Religions: Christianity – 86% (Protestants – 49%, Catholics – 29%, other – 8%), atheists – 9%, Judaism – 2%, other – 3%.
- Currency unit: U.S. dollar.
- Largest cities: Wichita, Kansas City, and Topeka.
- Major rivers: Missouri, Arkansas.
- Major lake: Tuttle Creek Reservoir.
- Major airport: Kansas City International Airport.
- Area: 213,096 km2.
- Population: 2,853,116 (2010).
- Population density: 13.4 people/km2.
- The highest point: Mount Sunflower (1231 m).
- GRP (per capita): $35,013 (2008).
- Industry: aviation (aircraft construction), mechanical engineering (transport equipment), oil and gas production, oil refining, mining, food industry (meat packing, flour milling), publishing, chemical, light industry.
- Agriculture: cattle breeding (cattle, pig breeding); plant growing (wheat, corn, sorghum, tao, oats, soybeans, cotton), meat and dairy industry.
- Services sphere: tourism, financial, trade.
Climate and weather
- Continental, arid and subtropical.
- Average temperature in January: -3°C.
- Average temperature of July: +27 ºC.
- Average annual rainfall: 1000 mm (southeast), 400 (west).
- Here is one of the windiest places (average about 6.4 m/sec) in the United States – Dodge City.
- Lebanon: stone podium of Libanon Location – geographical center of the United States.
- Topeka: A replica of Washington’s Capitol (93 m high, frescoes by J. Curry, 20th century).
- Kansas City: Union Station (former railroad station, now museum, theater and movie theater), Museum of Fine Arts, Civil War Museum, Missouri Town Museum 1855, National Agricultural Center, Methodist Mission (1839), Wyandotte County Museum.
- Abilene: D. Eisenhower Library and Museum.
- Wichita: farm museum (1870), zoo (1971).
- Dodge City: Booth Hill Museum, former Andrew Carnegie Library – now an exhibition center.
- Kansas actress Hettie McDaniel (1895-1952) was the first black singer whose songs were played on American radio and the first black actress to win an Academy Award. She was recognized by the American Film Academy for her role as Mamushka in the epic Gone with the Wind.
- Under the laws of the state of Kansas is forbidden to catch fish with bare hands – for this offense faces criminal penalties.
- A native of Kansas, Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) was a beautiful aviator, one of the first women pilots and the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.
- From March 1 to April 1, 2010, the city of Topeka was officially called “Google, Kansas – Fiber Optic Capital.” It was renamed to attract the attention of Google Corporation, which for promotional purposes intended to launch a super-fast Network in an American city.
- Kansas City is known not only for its jazz school, but also for its own cuisine: a special style of barbecue, for example. There are more barbecue restaurants per capita here than in any city in the world. It’s also a city of parks, called the “Paris of the Plains,” and a city of fountains – only Rome has more of them. And in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Kansas City was one of the American “capitals” of the Italian Mafia: the Drug Syndicate and the Sugar Syndicate thrived here. Moreover, Johnny Lacia, the boss of the Prohibition-era Mafia, made no secret of some strong alliance with influential politician Tom Pendergast. At the mercy of the Pendergast Machine was the “Little Italy” formed in Kansas by the Sicilians who formed the Black Hand Gang. Today, the criminal past remains only in memory.
- The Kansas City Library was an iconic building in terms of architecture: the residents themselves chose the titles of books that mentioned Kansas, and now, by their choice, a giant “bookshelf” with the spines of their favorite works, among them even Shakespeare and Lao Tzu, adorned the facade of the library.