US and Kansas Flags on Our Flagpole

Kansas – The Sunflower State

Introduction:

Kansas is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States.

Kansas in the United States
Kansas in the United States

Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita.  Kansas is named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area.  The tribe’s name is often said to mean “people of the (south) wind” although this was probably not the term’s original meaning.

History:

For a millennium, the land that is currently Kansas was inhabited by Native Americans.

Kansa Lodge in 1819
Kansa Lodge in 1819

The first European to set foot in present-day Kansas was the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, who explored the area in 1541.  In 1803, most of modern Kansas was acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.  Southwest Kansas, however, was still a part of Spain, Mexico, and the Republic of Texas until the conclusion of the Mexican–American War in 1848, when these lands were ceded to the United States.  From 1812 to 1821, Kansas was part of the Missouri Territory.  The Santa Fe Trail traversed Kansas from 1821 to 1880, transporting manufactured goods from Missouri and silver and furs from Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Wagon ruts from the trail are still visible in the prairie today.

Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail

In 1827, Fort Leavenworth became the first permanent settlement of white Americans in the future state.  The Kansas–Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854, establishing Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory, and opening the area to broader settlement by whites.  Kansas Territory stretched all the way to the Continental Divide and included the sites of present-day Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.

Kansas Territory 1854 - 1861
Kansas Territory 1854 – 1861

Missouri and Arkansas sent settlers into Kansas all along its eastern border.  These settlers attempted to sway votes in favor of slavery.  The second wave of Americans to settle in Kansas Territory were abolitionists from Massachusetts and other Free-Staters, who attempted to stop the spread of slavery from neighboring Missouri.  Directly presaging the American Civil War, these forces collided, entering into skirmishes that earned the territory the name of Bleeding Kansas.

Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state on January 29, 1861, making it the 34th state to join the United States.  By that time the violence in Kansas had largely subsided, but during the Civil War, on August 21, 1863, William Quantrill led several hundred men on a raid into Lawrence, destroying much of the city and killing nearly 200 people.  He was roundly condemned by both the conventional Confederate military and the partisan rangers commissioned by the Missouri legislature.  His application to that body for a commission was flatly rejected due to his pre-war criminal record.

Quantrill’s Raid

After the Civil War, many veterans constructed homesteads in Kansas.  Many African Americans also looked to Kansas as the land of “John Brown” and, led by freedmen like Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, began establishing black colonies in the state.  Leaving southern states in the late 1870s because of increasing discrimination, they became known as Exodusters.

At the same time, the Chisholm Trail was opened and the Wild West-era commenced in Kansas.  Wild Bill Hickok was a deputy marshal at Fort Riley and a marshal at Hays and Abilene.  Dodge City was another wild cowboy town, and both Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp worked as lawmen in the town.  In one year alone, eight million head of cattle from Texas boarded trains in Dodge City bound for the East, earning Dodge the nickname “Queen of the Cowtowns.”

Chisholm Trail
Chisholm Trail

In response to demands of Methodists and other evangelical Protestants, in 1881 Kansas became the first U.S. state to adopt a constitutional amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages, which was only repealed in 1948.

Known as rural flight, the last few decades have been marked by a migratory pattern out of the countryside into cities.  Out of all the cities in these Midwestern states, 89% have fewer than 3,000 people, and hundreds of those have fewer than 1,000.  In Kansas alone, there are more than 6,000 ghost towns and dwindling communities, according to one Kansas historian, Daniel C. Fitzgerald.  At the same time, some of the communities in Johnson County (metropolitan Kansas City) are among the fastest-growing in the country.

Kansas City, KS
Kansas City, KS

Geography:

Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west.  The state is divided into 105 counties with 628 cities, and is located equidistant from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is in Smith County near Lebanon.  Until 1989, the Meades Ranch Triangulation Station in Osborne County was the geodetic center of North America: the central reference point for all maps of North America.  The geographic center of Kansas is in Barton County.

Kansas is underlain by a sequence of horizontal to gently westward dipping sedimentary rocks.  A sequence of Mississippian, Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks outcrop in the eastern and southern part of the state.  The state’s western half has exposures of Cretaceous through Tertiary sediments, the latter derived from the erosion of the uplifted Rocky Mountains to the west.  These are underlain by older Paleozoic and Mesozoic sediments which correlate well with the outcrops to the east.  The state’s northeastern corner was subjected to glaciation in the Pleistocene and is covered by glacial drift and loess.

The Great Plains of Kansas
The Great Plains of Kansas

The western two-thirds of the state, lying in the great central plain of the United States, has a generally flat or undulating surface, while the eastern third has many hills and forests.  The land gradually rises from east to west.  The highest point, 4,039 feet is Mount Sunflower, 0.5 miles from the Colorado border.  It is a common misconception that Kansas is the flattest state in the nation.  In fact, Kansas has a maximum topographic relief of 3,360 feet making it the 23rd flattest U.S. state measured by maximum relief.

In south-central Kansas, the Wichita metropolitan area is home to over 600,000 people.

Wichita
Wichita

Wichita is the largest city in the state in terms of both land area and population.  ‘The Air Capital’ is a major manufacturing center for the aircraft industry and the home of Wichita State University.  With a number of nationally registered historic places, museums, and other entertainment destinations, it has a desire to become a cultural mecca in the Midwest.  Wichita’s population growth has grown by double digits and the surrounding suburbs are among the fastest growing cities in the state.

Economy:

Nearly 90% of Kansas’ land is devoted to agriculture.  The state’s agricultural outputs are cattle, sheep, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, cotton, hogs, corn, and salt.  As of 2018, there were 59,600 farms in Kansas, 86 (0.14%) of which are certified organic farms.  The average farm in the state is about 770 acres (more than a square mile), and in 2016, the average cost of running the farm was $300,000.

By far, the most significant agricultural crop in the state is wheat.  Eastern Kansas is part of the Grain Belt, an area of major grain production in the central United States.  Approximately 40% of all winter wheat grown in the US is grown in Kansas.  Roughly 95% of the wheat grown in the state is hard red winter wheat.

Kansas Wheat Corn and Storm Front
Kansas Wheat Corn and Storm Front

The industrial outputs are transportation equipment, commercial and private aircraft, food processing, publishing, chemical products, machinery, apparel, petroleum, and mining.

The largest private employers in Kansas as of 2016 are:

Kansas is ranked eighth in US petroleum production.  Production has experienced a steady, natural decline as it becomes increasingly difficult to extract oil over time.  Since oil prices bottomed in 1999, oil production in Kansas has remained fairly constant, with an average monthly rate of about 2.8 million barrels in 2004.  The recent higher prices have made carbon dioxide sequestration and other oil recovery techniques more economical.

Kansas is also ranked eighth in US natural gas production. Production has steadily declined since the mid-1990s with the gradual depletion of the Hugoton Natural Gas Field, the state’s largest field which extends into Oklahoma and Texas.  Average monthly production was over 32 billion cubic feet.

Oil and Gas in Kansas
Oil and Gas in Kansas

The state’s economy is also heavily influenced by the aerospace industry.  Several large aircraft corporations have manufacturing facilities in Wichita and Kansas City, including Spirit AeroSystems, Bombardier Aerospace (LearJet), and Textron Aviation (a merger of the former Cessna, Hawker, and Beechcraft brands).  Boeing ended a decades-long history of manufacturing in Kansas between 2012 and 2013.

Major companies headquartered in Kansas include the Sprint Corporation (with world headquarters in Overland Park), YRC Worldwide (Overland Park), Garmin (Olathe), Payless Shoes (national headquarters and major distribution facilities in Topeka), and Koch Industries (with national headquarters in Wichita), and Coleman (headquarters in Wichita).

Transportation:

Roads:

Kansas is served by two Interstate highways with one beltway, two spur routes, and three bypasses, with over 874 miles in all.  The first section of Interstate in the nation was opened on Interstate 70 (I-70) just west of Topeka on November 14, 1956.

Kansas Transportation Map
Kansas Transportation Map

I-70 is a major east–west route connecting to Denver, Colorado and Kansas City, Missouri.  Cities along this route (from west to east) include Colby, Hays, Salina, Junction City, Topeka, Lawrence, Bonner Springs, and Kansas City.

I-35 is a major north–south route connecting to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Des Moines, Iowa. Cities along this route (from south to north) include Wichita, El Dorado, Emporia, Ottawa, and Kansas City.

Air Travel:

The state’s only major commercial airport is Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, located along US-54 on the western edge of the city.  Manhattan Regional Airport in Manhattan offers daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, making it the second-largest commercial airport in the state.  Most air travelers in northeastern Kansas fly out of Kansas City International Airport, located in Platte County, Missouri, as well as Topeka Regional Airport in the state’s capital.

Wichita Airport
Wichita Airport

In the state’s southeastern part, people often use Tulsa International Airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma or Joplin Regional Airport in Joplin, Missouri.  For those in the far western part of the state, Denver International Airport is a popular option.  Connecting flights are also available from smaller Kansas airports in Dodge City, Garden City, Hays, Hutchinson, Liberal, or Salina.

Rail:

The Southwest Chief Amtrak route runs through the state on its route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Stops in Kansas include Lawrence, Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City, and Garden City.

Flag of Kansas:

Description of the Flag and the Seal:

The flag of the state of Kansas was adopted in 1927.  The elements of the state flag include the state seal and a sunflower.  This original design was modified in 1961 to add the name of the state at the bottom of the flag.

The official flag of Kansas is represented by a dark-blue silk rectangle representing Kansas arranged horizontally with the state seal aligned in the center.  Above the seal is a sunflower which sits over a bar of gold and light blue.  Below the seal is printed the name of the state “KANSAS”.

Flag of Kansas
Flag of Kansas

The state seal centered on the flag tells the history of Kansas and his figures representing pioneer life. The seal contains:

  • Landscape with a rising sun (the east)
  • River and steamboat (commerce)
  • Settler’s cabin and a man plowing a field (agriculture) [foreground]
  • Wagon train heading west (American expansion)
  • Indians hunting American Bison (the buffalo are fleeing from the Indians)
  • Cluster of 34 stars (top of the seal)
  • State motto “Ad Astra per Aspera” – Latin : “To the Stars through Difficulties” (above the stars)

The thirty-four stars clustered at the top of the seal identify Kansas as the 34th state to be accepted into the Union of the United States.

History of the Flag:

The flag of Kansas was designed in 1925 by Hazel Avery and first used in a Fourth of July parade in Lincoln, Kansas.  The flag was officially adopted by the Kansas State Legislature in 1927 and modified in 1961 to add the word “Kansas” gold block lettering below the seal.  The flag was first flown at Fort Riley by Governor Benjamin S. Paulen in 1927 for the troops at Fort Riley and for the Kansas National Guard.

Flag of Kansas 1927-1961
Flag of Kansas 1927-1961

From 1925 to 1927, Kansas used a state banner instead of a flag.  The Kansas state banner, which consisted of a large sunflower and the word “Kansas” on a blue field, was intended to be hung from a horizontal bar, rather than a vertical flag pole.  It was given a unique design to avoid “competition” with the United States flag.  However, after the banner was rejected for display in Washington, D.C., and generated complaints for its awkward method of hanging, the state legislature adopted a state flag that saw the addition of the word “Kansas” at the bottom in 1961 but has otherwise retained its original design.

State Nickname:

The official nickname for Kansas is “The Sunflower State.”

Native Kansas Sunflower
Native Kansas Sunflower

The sunflower is also the official state flower of Kansas and appears on the state flag and the Kansas quarter.

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