History of Kansas
The area of today’s Kansas was inherited by various Native American tribes before the Europeans came to the region. Tribes in what is today known as west Kansas were mostly nomadic and they sustained themselves with hunting bison, while those in the eastern section of the region mostly inhabited villages in the river valleys.
The first recorded European to come to this region was Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1541. Most of the area of today’s Kansas became a part of the US in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. However, the southwestern region of the state belonged first to Spain, then Mexico, and finally, the Republic of Texas until the Mexican-American War was concluded in 1848. In the period between 1812 and 1821, the region that is today known as Kansas belonged to the Missouri Territory. The famous Santa Fe Trail, which was mainly used for transportation of furs and silver from Santa Fe and manufactured goods from Missouri, went through the region between 1821 and 1880.
The first permanent settlement of white colonists in the region, Fort Leavenworth, was established in 1827. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was adopted, and with it the Kansas and Nebraska territories were officially born. Stretching as far as the Continental Divide, Kansas Territory included the regions of today’s Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Denver.
Most of the people who settled in the eastern part of the region came from Arkansas and Missouri. They lobbied for slavery and tried to persuade the local populace to vote in favor of it. However, there were also a significant number of abolitionist settlers from Massachusetts in the region, who tried to sway the public in the other direction, and make slavery illegal. The, often violent, conflicts between the two groups are what earned this territory the nickname of Bleeding Kansas.
Kansas decided for the latter option and was admitted into the Union in 1861, as a slave free state. It was the 34th state in the US. Once the Civil War was over, a number of veterans settled in Kansas, as did a number of African Americans that were led by freedman. They were leaving the southern states because of the treatment that they have received there. These settlers were known as Exodusters.
This is when the railroad system started going through the state which led to the beginning of the Wild West period. This region has produced some of the most famous people from that period, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson were both sheriffs in Dodge City while Wild Bill Hickok have spent some time as a deputy in Fort Riley. It is in that period that Dodge City has earned the nickname of ‘Queen of Cowtowns’, as at one point 8 million heads of cattle that were being sent to east were boarded in it. The violence that was quite common in this period prompted Kansas to become the first state to completely ban alcohol in 1881.
In 2008 the GSP of Kansas was $122.7 billion, which was at the time the 32nd highest GSP in the US. Per capita income in the same year amounted to $35,013. In 2010 the unemployment rate in the state was estimated to be 6.4%.
Agriculture is one of the most significant industrial branches of the state, with the major products being salt, corn, hogs, cotton, soybeans, sorghum, wheat, sheep and cattle. The eastern part of the state belongs to the Grain Belt, which is the region that is responsible for the largest part of grain produced in the US. Apart from agricultural produce, the industry of Kansas also relies heavily on mining, petroleum, apparel, machinery, chemical products, publishing, food processing, private or commercial aircraft and transportation equipment.
Kansas is the 8th state in the US when it comes to oil production. However, this industry has been on the slow decline, as the resources are getting scarcer. This decline has stabilized for a bit since the 1999 drop in the oil prices, and since then the state has been producing somewhere around 2.8 million barrels per month. As of recently other techniques for oil recovery are being explored, including carbon dioxide sequestration. Kansas is also the 8th state in the US when it comes to natural gas production. This industry has also been on the decline, ever since the Hugoton Natural Gas Field was depleted in the 1990s. In 2004 the state was producing 32 billion cubic feet of gas every month.
When talking about the industry in Kansas, it is important to mention the aerospace industry. There are several important manufacturing facilities in the state, mostly located in Kansas City and Wichita. These facilities are producing parts for major aerospace companies such as Hawker Beechcraft, Learjet, Cessna, Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems.
Finally, Kansas is home to a number of headquarters of some major companies including Wichita based Koch Industries, Topeka based Payless Shoes, Garmin in Olathe as well as YRC Worldwide, Embarq and Sprint Nextel Corporation, all located in the Overland Park.
Income tax in the state comes in three income brackets, going from 6.45% to 3.5%, while the sales tax in the state amounts to 6.3%. Counties or cities in the state also have the authority to modify the sales tax on the local level. The sales tax collections usually follow the expansion of the economy, but in 2001 they were kept at a flat rate.
Kansas Geography and Climate
Kansas has Colorado to the west, Oklahoma to the south, Missouri to the east and Nebraska to the north. There are 628 cities in the state and 105 counties. Kansas is approximately equally distant from the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. It is also where the center of the US contagious states is located, in the proximity of the city of Lebanon in the Smith County.
The western part of the state is located in the United States’ great central plain, and as such is mostly covered in flat surfaces and plains, while the eastern part of the state is mostly mountainous. The average elevation of the state is 2,000 feet, which is higher than that of 36 other states. There is a sloping in the elevation from west to the east, while in western parts the elevation reaches 4,000 feet, the eastern parts of the state can be as low as 700 feet. Kansas was believed to be the flattest state in the nation, but this was disputed by relatively recent studies that are, depending on the method of measuring, placing Kansas between 20th and 30th state when flatness is concerned.
Kansas has a number of important rivers including the Missouri River which forms a significant portion of the state’s boundary to the northeast. It is also important to mention the Kansas River which is formed in Junction City by the merger of the Republican River and Smoky Hill River, the Arkansas River and its affluents, Neosho, Verdigris, Cimarron, Cow Creek, Walnut, Ninnescah and Little Arkansas. Other major rivers are Missouri’s tributary, Marais des Cygnes, the tributaries of Kansas River, Wakarusa, Delaware and Big Blue, as well as Solomon River and Saline that flow into the Smoky Hill River.
The state is also quite rich in national parks and protected areas, such as Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve located in the vicinity of Strong City, Santa Fe National Historic Trail, Pony Express National Historic Trail, Oregon National Historic Trail, Nicodemus National Historic Site, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Fort Scott National Historic Site, Fort Larned National Historic Site in Larned, California National Historic Trail and Brown v. Board Of Education National Historic Site in Topeka.
There are three dominant climate types in the state, humid subtropical, semi-arid steppe and humid continental. The eastern parts of the state mostly have the humid continental type, characterized by humid, hot summers and rather cold winters. These parts of the state get most of their rainfall during the spring and the summer. The western part of the state, on the other hand, has the semi-arid climate type with greatly fluctuating winter temperatures and rather hot summers. This part of the state usually gets somewhere around 16 inches of rainfall every year. It is not uncommon for Chinook winds to bring winter temperatures to as high as 80 °F, even though the area can be quite cold when they are not blowing. Finally, the southeastern and central regions of the state have humid subtropical climate that is characterized by mild winters and humid and hot summers, as well as with the highest precipitation in the state. Periods of drought are often followed by periods of heavy rainfall, and the winter temperatures in this region can get both rather high and rather low.
Southeastern parts of the state usually get around 47 inches of annual rainfall, while the southwestern parts average 16 inches. When it comes to snowfall, the northwestern parts are getting somewhere around 35 inches yearly, while the southern parts get 5 inches. Depending on the source, Kansas is the 10th or 9th sunniest state in the US.
Early summer and spring usually mark the beginning of the severe weather period in Kansas. It is then that most of the thunderstorms and tornadoes occur. As a matter of fact, Kansas has had more tornadoes between 1950 and 2006 than any other state apart from Texas. Along with Alabama, it has also had the highest number of the EF5 tornadoes, which is the most powerful type of tornadoes. In average, Kansas has been having 50 tornadoes every year. Hail storms and flash floods are also not uncommon in this state. The highest temperature in Kansas of 121°F was recorded near Alton in 1936, while the lowest was −40°F and it was recorded near Lebanon in 1905.
Population of Kansas
In 2011, the population of Kansas was estimated at 2,871,238 people, which presented a 0.6% increase when compared to the previous year. In 2007, the state had 2,775,997 inhabitants, which is an increase of 0.7% or 20,180 people when compared to 2006 and 3.3% or 87,579 people when compared to the year 2000. The increase in the population between 2006 and 2007 was a combination of 152,585 deaths and 246,484 births which resulted in a natural increase of 93,899 people, and the decrease due to net migrations which led 20,742 people out of Kansas. The population density in Kansas is 52.9 persons per square mile.
In 2010, 78.2% of the state’s population was composed of non-Hispanic white people, 5.6% of Hispanic white, 5.9% of African Americans, 1% of Native Americans of Alaska Natives, 2.4% of Asian people, 0.1% of Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders and 3% of multiethnic people. Most of the inhabitants -33.75%, were of German ancestry, 14.4% were of Irish, 14.1% of English, 7.5% of American, 4.4% of French, 4.2% of Scottish, 2.5% of Dutch, 2.4% of Swedish, 1.8% of Italian and 1.5% of Polish. People with English ancestry are mostly concentrated in the southeastern parts of the state, while those with German can mostly be found in the northwestern regions.
As far as religion was concerned in 2008 86% of the population were Christian of which 52.7% were Protestant, 13.3% United Methodist, 12.8% Baptist, 6.4% Non-denominational Protestant, 5.9% Lutheran, 5.5% Restorationist, 4.3% Presbyterian, 2.4% Episcopalian/Anglican, 29% Roman Catholic, 2% Latter Day Saints/Mormons, 2% Jehovah's Witness, 1% non denominational Christian and 3% other Christian denominations. There were 2% of Jewish people, 9% of the population wasn’t religious and 2% belonged to some of the other religions.
The largest denominational groups in the year 2000 were Mainline Protestant, Evangelical Protestant and Catholic. The largest congregations in the state are the Catholic Church with 405,844members, the United Methodist Church reporting 206,187 adherents and the Southern Baptist Convention with 101,696 members.
Kansas Government and Legislature
The executive branch of Kansas is led by six officers, all of whom are elected, not appointed. Lieutenant Governor and Governor are elected on the same ticket, while the State Insurance Commissioner, State Treasurer, Secretary of State and the Attorney General are all being elected individually. Lieutenant Governor and Governor are being elected to serve four year terms, and they can’t serve for more than two consecutive terms. In case that the Governor is somehow prevented from performing his or her duties, the position is being temporarily filled with the Lieutenant Governor. Currently, all of the officers in Kansas’ executive branch hail from the Republican Party.
Legislative branch is similar to those of other states. It’s General Assembly consists of two houses, the upper house, Kansas Senate, consisting of 40 members who serve four years terms, and the lower house, the Kansas House of Representatives that has 125 members who serve two year terms. This branch is in charge of proposing and passing laws and bills. In order for a law to be adopted, it needs to be passed by both houses. The Governor of the state has the right to veto a law, even though the houses have passed it, but they can then overturn the Governor’s veto by a sufficient majority of votes.
The highest court of the judicial branch is Kansas Supreme Court that has 7 justices. If one of the seats becomes open, the Governor is meant to pick one of the three candidates proposed by a 9 member committee. The committee in question consists of 4 members that the Governor selected, and five lawyers chosen by their peers. The Supreme Court rarely has original jurisdiction, but instead, most of the cases are being relegated to it from other, lower courts.
This state has led the way in some issues, for instance, it was the first state that regulated the securities industry in 1911, and the first state that instituted the worker’s compensation system in 1910. Women’s suffrage was permitted in the state since 1912, which is ten years before it was required by the federal constitution. The state was also important for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case which ended racial segregation in the US schools.
Transportation in Kansas
The total length of Kansas’ roads system is somewhere around 900 miles. This includes 3 bypasses, 2 spur routes and 2 interstate highways. The first interstate highway in the state was I-70, which was opened in 1956. It stretches from west to the east connecting Denver, Hays, Salina, Junction, Topeka, Lawrence, Kansas City and St. Louis. The other interstate highway, I-35, stretches from the south to the north and passes by Oklahoma City, Wichita, El Dorado, Emporia, Ottawa, Kansas City and Des Moines.
The spur routes are used to connect the highways. I-135 stretches from south to the north, connecting I-35 interstate highway at Wichita to I-70 highway at Salina, while I-335 stretches from southwest to the northeast and connects I-35 at Emporia with I-70 highway at Topeka. There is one US Route going through Kansas, US Route 69, going from Texas to Minnesota. It passes through eastern parts of the state, connecting Baxter Springs, Pittsburg, Frontenac, Fort Scott, Louisburg and Kansas City. Because of the state’s many counties, the state highway system is the second largest in the US.
Kansas has only one Class C commercial airport, Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, with the second largest being Manhattan Regional Airport that is providing daily flights to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. People interested in air travel usually use Kansas City International Airport in Missouri if they are located in the northeastern part of the state, or Denver International Airport if they live in the western part of Kansas. Other, smaller airports can also be found in Salina, Hutchinson, Hays, Great Bend, Garden City and Dodge City.
Sports in Kansas
Kansas has a number of sports clubs, including Sporting Kansas City, a soccer club from Kansas City, the first Major League Soccer club in the state, also Kansas City based baseball team, Kansas City T-Bones, Overland Park based indoor soccer team, Kansas Magic, Topeka based indoor football team, Kansas Koyotes, baseball team Topeka Golden Giants, also from Topeka, Kansas City based football team, Kansas City Storm and Topeka based ice hockey team Topeka Roadrunners, to name but a few. It is not uncommon for people from Kansas to support major league teams from Denver, Dallas or Kansas City, Missouri.
The state has no franchises of the major leagues, but college sport events are getting a lot of attention, especially ones involving the KSU’s (Kansas State University) Wildcats or KU’s (University of Kansas) Jayhawks. Apart from these two universities it is important to mention the Wichita state University that also has a well developed and popular sports program, with the greatest successes achieved in 1989, when their baseball team, the Shockers, won the College World Series. Other smaller, but still noteworthy colleges include the Fort Hays State University, Washburn University, St. Benedict's College and Pittsburg State University. Each of the mentioned colleges has achieved some level of success on the national level at one point.