On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the United States as the 34th state to enter the Union. Located on the eastern edge of the Great Plains in the Midwestern U.S., the region was the home of nomadic Native American tribes who hunted the vast herds of bison (often called “buffalo”). Kansas is named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which is often said to mean “people of the wind” or “people of the south wind”. The region was explored by Spanish conquistadores in the sixteenth century and was later explored by French fur trappers who traded with the Native Americans. Most of Kansas became permanently part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and was first settled by European Americans in 1812, in what is the now Bonner Springs, Kansas, The pace of settlement accelerated in the 1850s, in the midst of political wars over the slavery issue. When it was officially opened to settlement by the U.S. government in 1854, abolitionist Free-Staters from New England and pro-slavery settlers from neighboring Missouri rushed to the territory to determine whether Kansas would become a free state or a slave state. The area was a hotbed of violence and chaos in its early days as these forces collided, and was known as Bleeding Kansas. The abolitionists eventually prevailed, and Kansas entered the Union as a free state. After the Civil War, the population of Kansas grew rapidly when waves of immigrants turned the prairie into farmland.
Today, Kansas is one of the most productive agricultural states, producing high yields of wheat, corn, sorghum, and soybeans. With its 82,278 square miles (213,100 km²), Kansas is the 15th most extensive and with its about 2.9 million people the 34th most populous of the 50 United States. Residents of Kansas are called “Kansans”, officially. Mount Sunflower is Kansas’s highest point at 4,041 feet (1,232 meters). Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita.
Around 7000 BC, paleolithic descendants of Asian immigrants into North America reached Kansas. Once in Kansas, the indigenous ancestors never abandoned Kansas. They were later augmented by other indigenous peoples migrating from other parts of the continent. These bands of newcomers encountered mammoths, camels, ground sloths, and horses. The sophisticated big-game hunters did not keep a balance, resulting in the “Pleistocene overkill”, the rapid and systematic destruction of nearly all the species of large ice-age mammals in North America by 8000 BC. The hunters who pursued the mammoths may have represented the first of north Great Plains cycles of boom and bust, relentlessly exploiting the resource until it has been depleted or destroyed.
After the disappearance of big-game hunters, some archaic groups survived by becoming generalists rather than specialists, foraging in seasonal movements across the plains. The groups did not abandon hunting altogether, but also consumed wild plant foods and small game. Their tools became more varied, with grinding and chopping implements becoming more common, a sign that seeds, fruits, and greens constituted a greater proportion of their diet. Also, pottery-making societies emerged.
For most of the Archaic period, people did not transform their natural environment in any fundamental way. The groups outside the region, particularly in Mesoamerica, introduced major innovations, such as maize cultivation. Other groups in North America independently developed maize cultivation as well. Some archaic groups transferred from food gatherers to food producers around 3,000 years ago. They also possessed many of the cultural features that accompany semi-sedentary agricultural life: storage facilities, more permanent dwellings, larger settlements, and cemeteries or burial grounds. El Quartelejo was the northern most Indian pueblo. This settlement is the only pueblo in Kansas from which archaeological evidence has been recovered.
Despite the early advent of farming, late Archaic groups still exercised little control over their natural environment. Wild food resources remained important components of their diet even after the invention of pottery and the development of irrigation. The introduction of agriculture never resulted in the complete abandonment of hunting and foraging, even in the largest of Archaic societies.
In 1541, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, the Spanish conquistador, visited Kansas, allegedly turning back near “Coronado Heights” in present-day Lindsborg. Near the Great Bend of the Arkansas River, in a place he called Quivira, he met the ancestors of the Wichita people. Near the Smoky Hill River, he met the Harahey, who were probably the ancestors of the Pawnee. This was the first time that the Plains Indians had seen horses. Later, they acquired horses from the Spanish, and rapidly radically altered their lifestyle and range.
Following this transformation, the Kansa (Kaw) and Osage Nation (Ouasash) arrived in Kansas in the seventeenth century. By the end of the eighteenth century, these two tribes were dominant in the eastern part of the future state: the Kansa on the Kansas River to the North and the Osage on the Arkansas River to the South. At the same time, the Pawnee were dominant on the plains to the west and north of the Kansa and Osage nations, in regions home to massive herds of bison. Europeans visited the Northern Pawnee in 1719. In 1720, the Spanish military’s Villasur expedition was wiped out by Pawnee and Otoe warriors near present-day Columbus, Nebraska, effectively ending Spanish expedition into the region. The French commander at Fort Orleans, Étienne de Bourgmont, visited the Kansas River in 1724 and established a trading post there, near the main Kansa village at the mouth of the river. Around the same time, the Otoe tribe of the Sioux also inhabited various areas around the northeast corner of Kansas.
Apart from brief explorations, neither France nor Spain had any settlement or military or other activity in Kansas. In 1763, following the Seven Years’ War in which Great Britain defeated France, Spain acquired the French claims west of the Mississippi River. It returned this territory to France in 1803, keeping title to about 7,500 square miles (19,000 km²).
In the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the United States acquired all of the French claims west of the Mississippi River; the area of Kansas was unorganized territory. In 1819, the United States confirmed Spanish rights to the 7,500 square miles (19,000 km²) as part of the Adams–Onís Treaty with Spain. That area became part of Mexico, which also ignored it. After the Mexican–American War and the U.S. victory, the United States took over that part in 1848.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition left St. Louis on a mission to explore the Louisiana Purchase all the way to the Pacific Ocean. In 1804, Lewis and Clark camped for three days at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers in present-day Kansas City, Kansas (today recognized at the Kaw Point Riverfront Park). They met French fur traders and mapped the area. In 1806, Zebulon Pike passed through Kansas and labeled it “the Great American Desert” on his maps. This view of Kansas would help form U.S. policy for the next 40 years, prompting the government to set it aside as land reserved for Native American resettlement.
After a brief period as part of Missouri Territory, Kansas returned to unorganized status in 1821. In 1821, the Santa Fe Trail was opened across Kansas as country’s transportation route to the Southwest, connecting Missouri with the well-established Santa Fe, New Mexico. Because of the burgeoning trade, the United States Army set up posts throughout the area. On May 8, 1827, Cantonment Leavenworth, or Fort Leavenworth, was built to protect travelers.
A section of the Santa Fe Trail through Kansas was used by emigrants on the Oregon Trail, which opened in 1841. The westward trails served as vital commercial and military highways until the railroad took over this role in the 1860s. To travelers en route to Utah, California, or Oregon, Kansas was an essential way stop and outfitting location. Wagon Bed Spring (also Lower Spring or Lower Cimarron Spring) was an important watering spot on the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail. Other important locations along the trail were the Point of Rocks and Pawnee Rock.
Beginning in the 1820s, the area that would become Kansas was set aside as Indian Territory by the U.S. government, and was closed to settlement by whites. The government resettled to Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma) those Native American tribes based in eastern Kansas, principally the Kansa and Osage, opening land to move eastern tribes into the area. By treaty dated June 3, 1825, 20 million acres (81000 km²) of land was ceded by the Kansa Nation to the United States, and the Kansa tribe was limited to a specific reservation in northeast Kansas. In the same month, the Osage Nation was limited to a reservation in southeast Kansas.
The Missouri Shawano (or Shawnee) were the first Native Americans removed to the territory. By treaty made at St. Louis on November 7, 1825, the United States agreed to provide:
“the Shawanoe tribe of Indians within the State of Missouri, for themselves, and for those of the same nation now residing in Ohio who may hereafter immigrate to the west of the Mississippi, a tract of land equal to fifty miles [80 km] square, situated west of the State of Missouri, and within the purchase lately made from the Osage.”
The Delaware came to Kansas from Ohio and other eastern areas by the treaty of September 24, 1829. The treaty described:
“the country in the fork of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, extending up the Kansas River to the Kansas (Indian’s) line, and up the Missouri River to Camp Leavenworth, and thence by a line drawn westerly, leaving a space ten miles (16 km) wide, north of the Kansas boundary line, for an outlet.”
After this point, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 expedited the process. By treaty dated August 30, 1831, the Ottawa ceded land to the United States and moved to a small reservation on the Kansas River and its branches. The treaty was ratified April 6, 1832. On October 24, 1832, the U.S. government moved the Kickapoos to a reservation in Kansas. On October 29, 1832, the Piankeshaw and Wea agreed to occupy 250 sections of land, bounded on the north by the Shawanoe; east by the western boundary line of Missouri; and west by the Kaskaskia and Peoria peoples. By treaty made with the United States on September 21, 1833, the Otoe tribe ceded their country south of the Little Nemaha River.
By September 17, 1836, the confederacy of the Sac and Fox, by treaty with the United States, moved north of Kickapoo. By treaty of February 11, 1837, the United States agreed to convey to the Pottawatomi an area on the Osage River, southwest of the Missouri River. The tract selected was in the southwest part of what is now Miami County.
In 1842, after a treaty between the United States and the Wyandots, the Wyandot moved to the junction of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers (on land that was shared with the Delaware until 1843). In an unusual provision, 35 Wyandot were given “floats” in the 1842 treaty — ownership of sections of land that could be located anywhere west of the Missouri River. In 1847, the Pottawatomi were moved again, to an area containing 576,000 acres (2,330 km²), being the eastern part of the lands ceded to the United States by the Kansa tribe in 1846. This tract comprised a part of the present counties of Pottawatomie, Wabaunsee, Jackson and Shawnee.
Despite the extensive plans that were made to settle Native Americans in Kansas, by 1850 white Americans were illegally squatting on their land and clamoring for the entire area to be opened for settlement. Presaging events that were soon to come, several U.S. Army forts, including Fort Riley, were soon established deep in Indian Territory to guard travelers on the various Western trails. Although the Cheyenne and Arapahoes tribes were still negotiating with the United States for land in western Kansas (the current state of Colorado) — they signed a treaty on September 17, 1851 — momentum was already building to settle the land.
Congress began the process of creating Kansas Territory in 1852. That year, petitions were presented at the first session of the Thirty-second Congress for a territorial organization of the region lying west of Missouri and Iowa. No action was at that time taken. However, during the next session, on December 13, 1852, a Representative from Missouri submitted to the House a bill organizing the Territory of Platte: all the tract lying west of Iowa and Missouri, and extending west to the Rocky Mountains. The bill was referred to the United States House Committee on Territories, and passed by the full U.S. House of Representatives on February 10, 1853. However, Southern Senators stalled the progression of the bill in the Senate, while the implications of the bill on slavery and the Missouri Compromise were debated.
By the summer of 1853, it was clear that eastern Kansas would soon be opened to American settlers. The Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, negotiated new treaties that would assign new reservations with annual federal subsidies for the Indians. Nearly all the tribes in the eastern part of the Territory ceded the greater part of their lands prior to the passage of the Kansas territorial act in 1854, and were eventually moved south to the future state of Oklahoma.
In the three months immediately preceding the passage of the bill, treaties were quietly made at Washington with the Delaware, Otoe, Kickapoo, Kaskaskia, Shawnee, Sac, Fox and other tribes, whereby the greater part of eastern Kansas, lying within one or two hundred miles of the Missouri border, was suddenly opened to white settlement. On March 15, 1854, Otoe and Missouri Indians ceded to the United States all their lands west of the Mississippi, except a small strip on the Big Blue River. On May 6 and May 10, 1854, the Shawnees ceded 6,100,000 acres (25,000 km²), reserving only 200,000 acres (810 km²) for homes. Also on May 6, 1854, the Delaware ceded all their lands to the United States, except a reservation defined in the treaty. On May 17, the Iowa similarly ceded their lands, retaining only a small reservation. On May 18, 1854, the Kickapoo too ceded their lands, except 150,000 acres (610 km²) in the western part of the Territory. In 1854, lands were also ceded by the Kaskaskia, Peoria, Piankeshaw and Wea and by the Sac and Fox.
The final step in Americanizing the Indians was taking land from tribal control and assigning it to individual Indian households, to buy and sell as European Americans would. For example, in 1854, the Chippewa (Swan Creek and Black River bands) inhabited 8,320 acres (33.7 km²) in Franklin County, but in 1859 the tract was transferred to individual Chippewa families.
Upon the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act on May 30, 1854, the borders of Kansas Territory were set from the Missouri border to the summit of the Rocky Mountain range (now in central Colorado); the southern boundary was the 37th parallel north, the northern was the 40th parallel north. North of the 40th parallel was Nebraska Territory. When Congress set the southern border of the Kansas Territory as the 37th parallel, it was thought that the Osage southern border was also the 37th parallel. The Cherokees immediately complained, saying that it was not the true boundary and that the border of Kansas should be moved north to accommodate the actual border of the Cherokee land. This became known as the Cherokee Strip controversy.
The most controversial provision in the Kansas–Nebraska Act was the stipulation that settlers in Kansas Territory would vote on whether to allow slavery within its borders. This provision repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had prohibited slavery in any new states created north of latitude 36°30′. Predictably, violence resulted between the Northerners and Southerners who rushed to settle there in order to control the vote.
Within a few days after the passage of the Act, hundreds of pro-slavery Missourians crossed into the adjacent territory, selected an area of land, and then united with other Missourians in a meeting or meetings, intending to establish a pro-slavery preemption upon the entire region. As early as June 10, 1854, the Missourians held a meeting at Salt Creek Valley, a trading post three miles (5 km) west of Fort Leavenworth, at which a “Squatter’s Claim Association” was organized. They said they were in favor of making Kansas a slave state, if it should require half the citizens of Missouri, musket in hand, to emigrate there, and even to sacrifice their lives in accomplishing this end.
To counter this action, the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company (and other smaller organizations) quickly arranged to send anti-slavery settlers (known as “Free-Staters”) into Kansas in 1854 and 1855. The principal towns founded by the New Englanders were Topeka, Manhattan, and Lawrence. Several Free-State men also came to Kansas Territory from Ohio, Iowa, Illinois and other Midwestern states.
Despite the proximity and opposite aims of the settlers, the lid was largely kept on the violence until the election of the Kansas Territorial legislature on March 30, 1855. On that date, Missourians who had streamed across the border (known as “Border Ruffians”) filled the ballot boxes in favor of pro-slavery candidates. As a result, pro-slavery candidates prevailed at every polling district except one (the future Riley County), and the first official legislature was overwhelmingly composed of pro-slavery delegates.
From 1855 to 1858, Kansas Territory experienced extensive violence and some open battles. This period, known as “Bleeding Kansas” or “the Border Wars”, directly presaged the American Civil War. The major incidents of Bleeding Kansas include the Wakarusa War, the Sacking of Lawrence, the Pottawatomie massacre, the Battle of Black Jack, the Battle of Osawatomie, and the Marais des Cygnes massacre.
The violently feuding pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions tried to defeat the opposition by pushing through their own version of a state constitution, that would either endorse or condemn slavery. Congress had the final say.
The Topeka Constitution was adopted on November 11, 1855 in Topeka by delegates elected from across the Kansas Territory. This Free State document was in response to the fraudulent takeover of the Territorial government by pro slavery forces seven months earlier. The Topeka Constitution’s Bill of Rights proposed “There shall be no slavery in this state.” It was ratified by the people of the Territory on December 15, 1855 and presented in Congress in March 1856. It passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but was prevented from a vote in the Senate by pro slavery southern senators.
The Lecompton Constitution was adopted by a Convention convened by the official pro-slavery government on November 7, 1857. The constitution would have allowed slavery in Kansas as drafted, but the slavery provision was put to a vote. After a series of votes on the provision and the constitution were boycotted alternatively by pro-slavery settlers and Free-State settlers, the Lecompton Constitution was eventually presented to the U.S. Congress for approval. In the end, because it was never clear if the constitution represented the will of the people, it was rejected.
While the Lecompton Constitution was being debated, a new Free-State legislature was elected and seated in Kansas Territory. The new legislature convened a new convention, which framed the Leavenworth Constitution. This constitution was the most radically progressive of the four proposed, outlawing slavery and providing a framework for women’s rights. The constitution was adopted by the convention at Leavenworth on April 3, 1858, and by the people at an election held May 18, 1858 (all while the Lecompton Constitution was still under consideration).
President Buchanan sent the Lecompton Constitution to Congress for approval. The Senate approved the admission of Kansas as a state under the Lecompton Constitution, despite the opposition of Senator Douglas, who believed that the Kansas referendum on the Constitution, by failing to offer the alternative of prohibiting slavery, was unfair. The measure was subsequently blocked in the House of Representatives, where northern congressmen refused to admit Kansas as a slave state. Senator James Hammond of South Carolina characterized this resolution as the expulsion of the state, asking, “If Kansas is driven out of the Union for being a slave state, can any Southern state remain within it with honor?”
Following the failure of the Lecompton and Leavenworth charters, a fourth constitution was drafted; the Wyandotte Constitution was adopted by the convention which framed it on July 29, 1859. It was adopted by the people at an election held October 4, 1859. It outlawed slavery but was far less progressive than the Leavenworth Constitution. By the time the Wyandotte Constitution was framed in 1859, it was clear that the pro-slavery forces had lost in their bid to control Kansas. With this dawning realization and the departure of John Brown from the state, Bleeding Kansas violence virtually ceased by 1859.
After years of small-scale civil war, Kansas was admitted into the Union as a free state under the “Wyandotte Constitution” on January 29, 1861. Most people gave strong support for the Union cause. However, guerrilla warfare and raids from pro-slavery forces, many spilling over from Missouri, occurred during the Civil War.
At the start of the war in April 1861, the Kansas government had no well-organized militia, no arms, accoutrements or supplies, nothing with which to meet the demands, except the united will of officials and citizens. During the years 1859 to 1860, the military organizations had fallen into disuse or been entirely broken up. The first Kansas regiment was called on June 3, 1861, and the seventeenth, the last raised during the Civil War, July 28, 1864. The entire quota assigned to the Kansas was 16,654, and the number raised was 20,097, leaving a surplus of 3,443 to the credit of Kansas. Statistics indicated that losses of Kansas regiments in killed in battle and from disease are greater per thousand than those of any other State.
Apart from small formal battles, there were 29 Confederate raids into Kansas during the war. The most serious episode came when Lawrence, Kansas came under attack on August 21, 1863, by guerrillas led by William Clarke Quantrill. It was in part retaliation for “Jayhawker” raids against pro-Confederate settlements in Missouri. After Union Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr. ordered the imprisonment of women who had provided aid to Confederate guerrillas, tragically the jail’s roof collapsed, killing five. These deaths enraged guerrillas in Missouri. On August 21, 1863, William Quantrill led Quantrill’s Raid into Lawrence, burned much of the city and killed over 150 men and boys. In addition to the jail collapse, Quantrill also rationalized the attack on this citadel of abolition would bring revenge for any wrongs, real or imagined that the Southerners had suffered at the hands of jayhawkers.
After the Civil War, the railroads did not reach Texas, so the herdsman brought their cattle to Kansas rail heads. In 1867, Joseph G. McCoy built stockyards in Abilene, Kansas and helped develop the Chisholm Trail, encouraging Texas cattlemen to undertake cattle drives to his stockyards from 1867 to 1887. The stockyards became the largest west of Kansas City. Once the cattle was drove north, they were shipped eastward from the railhead of the Kansas Pacific Railway.
In 1871, Wild Bill Hickok became marshal of Abilene, Kansas. His encounter there with John Wesley Hardin resulted in the latter fleeing the town after Wild Bill managed to disarm him. Hickok was also a deputy marshal at Fort Riley and a marshal at Hays in the Wild West. In the 1880s at Greensburg, Kansas, the Big Well was built to provide water for the Santa Fe and Rock Island railroads. At 109 feet (33 meters) deep and 32 feet (9.8 meters) in diameter it is the world’s largest hand-dug well. Coronado, Kansas, was established in 1885. It was involved in one of the bloodiest county seat fights in the history of the American West. The shoot-out on February 27, 1887, with boosters — some would say hired gunmen — from nearby Leoti left several people dead and wounded.
On February 19, 1881, Kansas became the first state to amend its constitution to prohibit all alcoholic beverages. This action was spawned by the temperance movement, and was enforced by the ax-toting Carrie A. Nation beginning in 1888. After 1890 prohibition was joined with progressivism to create a reform movement that elected four successive governors between 1905 and 1919; they favored extreme prohibition enforcement policies, and claimed Kansas was truly dry. Kansas did not repeal prohibition until 1948, and even then it continued to prohibit public bars, a restriction which was not lifted until 1987. Kansas did not allow retail liquor sales on Sundays until 2005, and most localities still prohibit Sunday liquor sales. By the Alcohol laws of Kansas today 29 counties are dry counties.
In 1916, Kansas troops served on the U.S.–Mexico border during the Mexican Revolution. 80,000 Kansans enlisted in the military after April 1917 when the United States declared war on Germany. They were attached mostly to the 35th, the 42nd, the 89th, and the 92nd infantry divisions. The state’s large German element had favored neutrality and were under close watch. Often they were forced to buy war bonds or not speak German in public.
In 1915, the El Dorado Oil Field, around the city of El Dorado, was the first oil field that was found using science/geologic mapping, and part of the Mid-Continent oil province. By 1918, the El Dorado Oil Field was the largest single field producer in the United States, and was responsible for 12.8% of national oil production and 9% of the world production. It was deemed by some as “the oil field that won World War I”.
While urban areas prospered in the 1920s, the farm economy had overexpanded when wheat prices were high during the war, and had to cut back sharply.
Between 1922 and 1927, there were several legal battles Kansas against the KKK, resulting in their collapse in the state.
The flag of Kansas was designed in 1925. It was officially adopted by the Kansas State Legislature in 1927 and modified in 1961 (the word “Kansas” was added below the seal in gold block lettering). It was first flown at Fort Riley by Governor Ben S. Paulen in 1927 for the troops at Fort Riley and for the Kansas National Guard.
The state’s main contribution to the World War II effort, besides tens of thousands of servicemen and servicewomen, was the enormous increase in the output of grain production. Farmers nevertheless grumbled about price ceilings for their wheat, production quotas, the movement of hired hands to well-paid factory jobs, and the shortage of farm machinery; they lobbied the Congress to make sure that young farmers were deferred from the draft. Wichita, which had long shown an interest in aviation, became a major manufacturing center for the aircraft industry during the war, attracting tens of thousands of underemployed workers from the farms and small towns of the state.
Kansas state law permitted segregated public schools, which operated in Topeka and other cities. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education unanimously declared that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal and, as such, violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees all citizens “equal protection of the laws.” Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka explicitly outlawed de jure racial segregation of public education facilities (legal establishment of separate government-run schools for blacks and whites). The site consists of the Monroe Elementary School, one of the four segregated elementary schools for African American children in Topeka, Kansas (and the adjacent grounds).
During the 1950s and 1960s, intercontinental ballistic missiles (designed to carry a single nuclear warhead) were stationed throughout Kansas facilities. They were stored (to be launched from) hardened underground silos. The Kansas facilities were deactivated in the early 1980s.
Scott #4483 was issued on January 27, 2011, in Topeka, Kansas, to mark the 150th anniversary of Kansas statehood. The “Forever” (priced at 44 cents), was designed by Howard E. Paine and released in a pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) pane of 20 stamps. The stamp features artwork by renowned commercial and fine-art painter Dean Mitchell of Tampa, Florida. In the foreground stands a type of efficient windmill pioneered in America during the mid-nineteenth century, first made of wood but later out of metal (like the one shown on the stamp) and fitted with a tail, like a weather vane, to change the direction of the wheel relative to the wind. In the background stand five modern wind turbines that demonstrate continuity and the forward-looking nature of the modern Kansas economy. The stamp was printed using the offset process by Ashton-Potter Ltd. using the Mueller Martini A76 press at Williamsville, NY.