Kansas State Facts - Kansas History Firsts

Catch up on your state trivia with these Kansas history firsts and interesting fun facts about the state.

Official Name Kansas
Capital Topeka
39.03790 N, 095.69199 W
Constitution Ratified 1859
Statehood January 29, 186
134th state
Number of Counties 93 Counties in Kansas
Largest County
(by population)
Douglas County
457 sq. mi.

Kansas History Firsts & State Facts

  • Father Juan de Padilla1541 - A monument to the first Christian martyr on United States Territory stands along Highway 56 near Lyons. Father Juan de Padilla came to the region with the explorer Coronado in 1541. Father Juan de Padilla (1500-1542), born in Andalusia, was a Spanish Roman Catholic missionary who spent much of his life exploring North America with Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. Padilla and three other Franciscans, together with more than 300 Spanish soldiers and workers, accompanied Coronado on his quest for the Seven Cities of Gold, a mythical land of great wealth. When Coronado abandoned his search, Padilla and others followed him to explore what is now the Southwestern United States; Padilla was one of the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon. But, when Coronado was told by a native named the "Turk" that a great land called Quivira was in modern-day Kansas, Coronado's entire party immediately left in search of it. After reaching the location in 1541, the Spaniards camped alongside a Wichita village for 25 days. Finding no gold, they killed the Turk in fury. Coronado returned to the Southwest and Padilla followed. One year later, the missionary priest returned to Kansas to preach to the Wichita, and establish the first Christian mission in the present-day United States. He was killed in Kansas in 1542 by Native Americans, and is considered to be one of the first Christian martyrs in the U.S
  • 1794 - Graham cracker was named after the Reverend Sylvester Graham (1794-1851). He was a Presbyterian minister who strongly believed in eating whole wheat flour products.
  • 1854 - Between 1854 and 1866, 34 steamboats paddled up the Kaw River (Kansas River). One made it as far west as Fort Riley.
  • 1858 - Fire Station No. 4 in Lawrence, originally a stone barn constructed in 1858, was a station site on the Underground Railroad.
  • 1858 - Kansas was a crucial battleground in the fight over slavery between 1858-1859, and was finally admitted as a free state in 1861, just before the Civil War.
  • 1860 - 1st railroad reaches Kansas
  • 1861 - Kansas State Motto: "Ad Astra per Aspera," Latin for "To the Stars through difficulties." adopted
  • 1866 - Fort Riley, between Junction City and Manhattan, was the cradle of the United States Cavalry for 83 years. George Custer formed the famed 7th Cavalry there in 1866. Ten years later, at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the 7th was virtually wiped out. The only Cavalry survivor was a horse named Comanche.
  • 1874 - First United Methodist Church in Hutchinson was built in 1874 during the time of the grasshopper plagues. The grasshoppers came during the construction of the churches foundation but the pastor continued with the work. As a result, thousands of grasshoppers are mixed into the mortar of the original building's foundation
  • 1881- Kansas becomes 1st state to prohibit all alcoholic beverages
  • 1885 - George Washington Carver, the famous botanical scientist who discovered more than 300 products made from the peanut, graduated from high school in Minneapolis.
  • 1887 - First woman mayor in the United States was Susan Madora Salter. She was elected to office in Argonia in 1887.
  • 1889 -
    • Kansas inventor, Almon Stowger, of El Dorado invented the dial telephone.
    • Handel's Messiah has been presented in Lindsborgeach at Easter since 1889.
    • Kansas passes 1st general antitrust law in US
  • 1890 - Dwight Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, was born in Abilene, Kansas.
  • 1892 - Dalton Gang ends in shoot-out in Coffeville, Kansas bank holdup
  • 1900 - Kansas wheat farmers produced enough wheat to make 33 billion loaves of bread, or enough to provide each person on earth with 6 loaves.
  • 1903 - The State Flower and Floral Emblem of Kansas, The wild native sunflower, was adopted.
  • 1906 - 1st federal penitentiary building completed, Leavenworth, Kansas
  • 1907 - Charles Curtis of Kansas becomes 1st Native American US senator
  • 1909 - William Purvis and Charles Wilson of Goodland invented the helicopter.
  • 1918 - First confirmed cases of the Spanish Flu are observed at Fort Riley, Kansas.
  • 1919 - First airplane factory in Kansas was built in Wichita, which became one of the nation's top plane manufacturing cities.
  • 1930 - 1st night organized baseball game played in Independence Kansas
  • 1936 - 1st alcohol power plant forms, Atchison, Kansas

More Kansas History Firsts & State Facts

  • A ball of twine in Cawker City measures over 38' in circumference and weighs more than 16,750 pounds and is still growing.
  • Dodge City is the windiest city in the United States.
  • Sumner County is known as the Wheat Capital of the World.
  • In Lucas, Civil War veteran S.P. Dinsmoor used over 100 tons of concrete to build the Garden of Eden. Even the flag is made of concrete.
  • Russell Springs in Logan County is known as the Cow Chip Capital of Kansas.
  • At Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine waterbeds are used in surgery for horses.
  • The graham cracker was named after the Reverend Sylvester Graham. He was a minister who strongly believed in eating whole-wheat flour products
  • A grain elevator in Hutchinson is 1/2 mile long and holds 46 million bushels in its 1,000 bins.
  • Pizza Hut restaurants opened its first store in Wichita, Kansas.
  • South of Ashland the Rock Island Bridge is the longest railroad bridge of its kind. It measures 1,200 feet long and is 100 feet above the Cimarron River.
  • At Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine waterbeds for horses are used in surgery.
  • Dodge City is the windiest city in the United States.
  • At one time it was against the law to serve ice cream on cherry pie in Kansas.
  • Smith County is the geographical center of the 48 contiguous states.
  • Amelia Earhart, first woman granted a pilot's license by the National Aeronautics Associate and first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean was from Atchison.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower from Abilene was the 34th President of the United States.
  • Silent comedian Buster Keaton, of early film success, was from Piqua, Kansas.
  • The three largest herds of buffalo (correctly called bison) in Kansas are located on public lands at the Maxwell Game Preserve (McPherson), Big Basin (Ashland), and Buffalo Game Preserve (Garden City).
  • Wyatt Earp, James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok and William B. "Bat" Masterson were three of the legendary lawmen who kept the peace in rowdy frontier towns like Abilene, Dodge City, Ellsworth, Hays, and Wichita.
  • The public swimming pool at the Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City occupies half a city block and holds 2 1/2 million gallons of water.
  • Cedar Crest is the name of the governor's mansion in Topeka, the state capital.
  • Barton County is the only Kansas County that is named for a woman; the famous volunteer Civil War nurse Clara Barton.
  • The Arkansas River may be the only river whose pronunciation changes as it crosses state lines. In Kansas, it is called the Arkansas (ahr-KAN-zuhs). On both sides of Kansas (Colorado and Oklahoma), it is called the Arkansaw.
  • Civil War veteran S.P. Dinsmoor used over 100 tons of concrete to build the Garden of Eden in Lucas. Even the flag above the mausoleum is made of concrete.
  • Hutchinson is nicknamed the Salt City because it was built above some of the richest salt deposits in the world. Salt is still actively mined, processed and shipped from Hutchinson.
  • There are 27 Walnut Creeks in the state.
  • There are more than 600 incorporated towns in the state.
  • Morton County sells the most trout fishing stamps of all the Kansas counties.
  • The Hugoton Gas Field is the largest natural gas field in the United States. It underlies all or parts of 10 southwestern Kansas counties as well as parts of Oklahoma and Texas. The gas field underlies almost 8,500 square miles, an area nearly 5 times as large as the state of Rhode Island.
  • The Kansas Speleological Society has catalogued at least 528 caves in 37 Kansas counties. Comanche County has at least 128 caves and Barber County has at least 117 caves.
  • Kansas has the largest population of wild grouse in North America. The grouse is commonly called the prairie chicken.
  • Milford Reservoir with over 16,000 acres of water is the state's largest lake. The reservoir is located northwest of Junction City.
  • The Geodetic Center of North America is about 40 miles south of Lebanon at Meade's Ranch. It is the beginning point of reference for land surveying in North America. When a surveyor checks a property line, he or she is checking the position of property in relation to Meade's Ranch in northwest Kansas.
  • In Italy the city of Milan is 300 miles northwest of Rome. In Kansas, Milan is less than 25 miles northwest of Rome, in Sumner County.
  • Holy Cross Shrine in Pfeifer, was known as the 2 Cent Church because the building was built using a 2 cent donation on each bushel of wheat sold by members of the church.
  • The American Institute of Baking is located in Manhattan.
  • A 30 foot tall statue of Johnny Kaw stands in Manhattan. The statue represents the importance of the Kansas wheat farmer.
  • The rocks at Rock City are huge sandstone concretions. In an area about the size of two football fields, 200 rocks, some as large as houses, dot the landscape. There is no other place in the world where there are so many concretions of such giant size.
  • A hailstone weighing more than one and a half pounds once fell on Coffeyville.
  • The Oregon Trail passed thru six states, including Kansas. There were no Indian attacks reported on the Oregon Trail as the travelers passed through the state.
  • Russell Springs located in Logan County is known as the Cow Chip Capital of Kansas.
  • The world famous fast-food chain of Pizza Hut restaurants opened its first store in Wichita.
  • Sumner County is known as The Wheat Capital of the World.
County Information and County History
State Facts & History Firsts
State Fun Facts - History Firsts