Kansas State History

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General State History
Historic Figures

General Kansas State History

Kansas has had a dramatic history, even before it became the 34th state. Historians have reported that Native Americans were living in Kansas as early as 12,000 B.C. They were followed for centuries by many different tribes making the history of Kansas entwined with the first Americans.

Between 1541 and 1739 explorers from Spain and France came to the area in search of gold, knowledge and trade with the Indians. In 1803, Kansas became a part of the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Fifty-one years later it was organized as a territory which included the eastern half of Colorado.

Conflict over slavery led to bloody battles between free-staters (anti-slavery) and pro-slavery forces. This led to the attack on Lawrence by pro-slavery forces and the widespread public outcry associated with "Bleeding Kansas." Kansas became part of the United States as a free state in 1861.

After the Civil War expansion of the rail system to Kansas and the increasing stream of immigrants lured to the state by offers of cheap land, Native Americans were forced into smaller and smaller reservations. Ultimately their removal to Indian Territory forced the final confrontation in the late 1870's that ended the independent life of the Native Americans.

The establishment of military posts to protect the railroads and trails used by immigrants led to the establishment of small towns which followed the posts. By 1870, the Kansas cow towns, following the westward expansion of the railroads, became well established. Such towns as Dodge City, Abilene, Caldwell, Newton and Wichita took their turns as the Queens of the Trail. To this day, the cattle industry remains an important part of the state's economy.

The introduction of Turkey Red Winter Wheat by Mennonites from Russia in 1874 was a milestone in Kansas agriculture. The wheat was ideally suited to the Kansas climate and has made Kansas one of the leading wheat-producing states in the nation.

The 20th century brought mining, oil production, the discovery of natural gas and helium, the meatpacking industry, automobile manufacturing and the aircraft industry. In this century Kansas has changed from being primarily a cattle and wheat state to a thriving industrial and agricultural state. As the center of the 48 contiguous states, Kansas has proven to be an attractive location for many companies serving national and international markets.

Kansas Historic Figures

George Washington Carver
1861-1943: Agricultural chemist, educator, botanist; born near Diamond Grove, Mo. Born to slave parents, he began his education at age 14 and earned a B.S. and M.S. in agriculture (1894, 1896) from Iowa State College. He directed the agricultural research department at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama (1896--1943), teaching and pioneering an extension program of "movable schools" to train black farmers in agriculture and home economics. Aiming to revitalize and conserve depleted soil, Carver influenced the southern shift from single-crop to diversified agriculture by developing hundreds of products made from peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other crops, many of them commercially viable. He developed a hybrid cotton and was a noted collector of fungi. Working with severely limited resources outside the white scientific establishment, Carver published little more than his 44 Tuskegee Experiment Station bulletins (1898--1942) and, wishing his work to be widely available, obtained only three patents; nevertheless he became a researcher of international stature. He chose not to challenge the system of segregation that existed during his lifetime, but he became one of the chief models of what African-Americans could accomplish.

Walter H. Beech
1891-1950: Aviation manufacturer, born in Pulaski, Tennessee, USA. In 1932, after serving as a pilot in the US Army, working as a test pilot, and organizing his first company, Travel Air, he founded the Beech Aircraft Company, which incorporated in 1936. During World War 2 the company produced over 7,000 planes, including Model 18 twin engines.

Amelia Earhart
1897-1937: Aviator; born in Atchison, Kansas. Earhart became the first female pilot to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean -- the first to succeed since Charles Lindburgh's legendary flight in 1927. Four years later, Earhart attempted a flight around the world. She disappeared en route, and was never heard from again.

Henry Bloch
1922- Present: Accountant, born in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Sons of a lawyer whose own father came west as a scout for Kit Carson, the brothers founded the tax preparation firm H & R Block in Kansas City in 1955, opening a branch in New York City the following year. By the mid-1980s the firm, with 9,000 offices in North America, prepared 10 percent of all US and Canadian tax returns.

Walter P. Chrysler
1875-1940: Manufacturer; born in Wamego, Kans. He left the American Locomotive Company in 1912 to become works manager of the Buick Motor Company; he was Buick's president from 1916 to 1921, when he became president of the Willys-Overland and Maxwell Motor Company; this became the Chrysler Corporation in 1925. In 1928 he bought Dodge Brothers, Inc., and introduced the Plymouth car which had the industry's first high compression engine. When he retired in 1935, Chrysler Corporation was the second largest auto manufacturer in the world. His autobiography, The Life of an American Workingman, was published in 1937