What is Kansas Known For? (22 Famous Things, People & Places)
What is Kansas known for?
Kansas is known for its natural beauty, the Wizard of Oz, tornados, and interesting landmarks. “The Wheat State” also has rich agriculture and an equally rich history. Kansas cities such as Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City have also contributed to the Sunflower State’s fame.
“There’s no place like home.” Everyone knows that line from the Wizard of Oz. However, outsiders may be inclined to turn up their noses at a state they regard as flat and boring. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Read on to get a glimpse at just a few of the reasons why there’s no place like Kansas.
- 22 Things Kansas is Known For
- 1. The Great Plains
- 2. Dodge City
- 3. The Wizard of Oz
- 4. Tornados
- 5. The Center of the United States
- 6. Native American Heritage
- 7. Bleeding Kansas
- 8. John Brown
- 9. Civil Rights History
- 10. Wichita
- 11. Grain Production
- 12. The Sunflower State
- 13. Numerous Nicknames
- 14. Ad Astra Per Aspera
- 15. Oil Production
- 16. Beef Cattle
- 17. Aviation
- 18. Amelia Earheart
- 19. The First Woman Mayor
- 20. Kansas City
- 21. Kansas (the band)
- 22. Kansas University
- FAQs About Famous Kansas Things
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22 Things Kansas is Known For
1. The Great Plains
At the heart of America is the Great Plains region. Here one finds rolling hills and broad grasslands, but, as a study from Kansas University points out, the state is far from the “pancake” it is made out to be by outsiders. There is actually a surprising amount of geographical diversity in the state.
2. Dodge City
Kansas is known for its role in America’s westward expansion. Before the Southwest states stole the spotlight, Great Plains states formed the wild frontier.
Founded in 1871, Dodge City quickly grew into an important outpost for the cattle industry, railroad expansion, and westward immigration. Part of Dodge City’s legacy that survives to this day is the phrase “get out of Dodge.”
3. The Wizard of Oz
While most of Dorothy’s adventures take place in the magical land of Oz, Kansas has embraced her tale as part of its heritage. In the town of Wamego in eastern Kansas, visitors to the Oz Museum can explore exhibitions on every aspect of the film and the book from which it was adapted.
Dorothy never could’ve gotten to Oz if it wasn’t for her state’s most famous weather pattern. Kansas is known for its tornados, being smack in the middle of the Tornado Alley states. Weather conditions in this part of the country are ideal for creating twisters, and Kansas ranks third in the nation for the number of tornados per year.
5. The Center of the United States
If you look at a map of the Lower 48 states, you’ll see that Kansas sits right in the middle of it. Kansas is known for being at the center of the contiguous United States. A landmark denoting the geographic center of the nation stands about two miles northwest of the town of Lebanon.
As a point of clarification, the continental United States by official definition includes Alaska. The terms “continental” and “contiguous” are often used interchangeably in everyday speech.
6. Native American Heritage
Many famous tribes such as the Cheyenne, Commanche, and Pawnee called Kansas home for centuries. The state’s name itself comes from a tribe of Native Americans, the Kansa. The word Kansa, when translated, means “south wind people” or “wind people.”
7. Bleeding Kansas
Aside from the usual frontier conflicts between outlaws and lawmen, Kansas had the additional issue of slavery vs. abolition to deal with in its early days. By the 1850s, slavery was an especially contentious issue, especially with the addition of new states to the Union.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 allowed the citizens of each new state to determine for themselves whether or not to enter the Union as a slave state or a free state.
Proponents of the pro-slavery movement and abolitionists rushed into the state to tip the balance in their favor. Armed conflicts even took place between these new settlers, resulting in at least 60 deaths. Eventually, though, Kansas entered the Union among the free states.
8. John Brown
One of the most radical figures on the abolitionist side in this eerie prelude to the Civil War, Brown gained fame, or notoriety, for his militancy and disdain for peaceful solutions.
His capture and subsequent execution in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia further divided the nation. Some hailed him as a martyr and liberator, others as a madman and terrorist.
9. Civil Rights History
The most famous contribution of Sunflower State to the Civil Rights movement is the Brown Vs. The Board of Education trial of 1954.
Topeka resident Oliver Brown sued the local board of education after his daughter was denied entrance to a “white” high school. In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for African-Americans, or any other minority, to be denied access to the same public schools as whites.
Wichita is the largest city in Kansas and has tons to offer visitors. Parks, museums, and biking trails abound throughout the city, as well as performing arts venues, golf courses, and much more. Wichita is the birthplace of such famous chains as Pizza Hut and White Castle, but the city also has numerous restaurants of all kinds.
11. Grain Production
Much of America’s “amber waves of grain” are grown in Kansas. Kansas currently leads the nation in wheat production. Along with wheat, other grains such as sorghum are grown in Kansas.
A testament to Kansas’ unparalleled production of grains is the DeBruce Grain Inc. grain elevator, the world’s largest grain elevator. Sumner County in Kansas boasts of being the “Wheat Capital of the World,” although, when it comes to actual numbers, it may be hard for one county to compete with entire foreign nations.
12. The Sunflower State
While wheat may be what most people associate with Kansas right off the bat, Kansas is known for its sunflowers as well. The large yellow flower is native to the state, and, in 1903, was declared the official state flower. Interestingly enough, when it comes to commercial production of sunflowers, Kansas ranks 4th in the nation, with the Dakotas outpacing all other states by a longshot.
13. Numerous Nicknames
Kansas has many nicknames. For one, the abundant wheat harvests led to the title of “The Wheat State.” Jayhawker State (or sometimes Jayhawk State) came from the term Jayhawker, originally an anti-slavery guerilla fighter from the early conflicts with pro-slavery Missourians and other pro-slavery settlers from the Bleeding Kansas conflict.
Another nickname, “The Grasshopper State,” comes from the 1874 Grasshopper Plague. Fortunately, the Kansas settlers and farmers proved resilient, quickly rebounding from this insect incursion with a bountiful harvest in 1875. Kansas’ agricultural wealth has led some to dub it the “Garden State,” although New Jersey lays claim to this title too.
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14. Ad Astra Per Aspera
Kansas’s state motto, when translated from Latin, reads “To the stars through difficulties.” Given the many conflicts throughout the state’s history, it seems a very fitting motto.
15. Oil Production
While Texas is famous for its oil production, Kansas has its share of black gold as well. Oil and gas production consistently ranks among the top three industries in Kansas, with fields of these resources located throughout the state.
Before 1915, Kansas produced a negligible amount of oil, but the discovery of the El Dorado field near Wichita saw the beginning of Kansas’ oil boom.
16. Beef Cattle
One of Kansas’ oldest industries is the cattle industry. The plentiful amount of grain in the state plus its relatively flat terrain made it ideal for cattle ranching. Kansas ranks third in the nation for beef production, with the industry forming a major part of the state’s economy.
The city of Wichita is known as the Air Capital of the World. Several major airplane manufacturers are located in the city. Back in 1916, Clyde Cessna began manufacturing planes in Wichita. Today, his name is practically synonymous with small planes.
18. Amelia Earheart
One of history’s most famous aviators was born and raised in Kansas. Earhart rose to fame as the first female aviator to fly a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. Her legendary status was cemented by her mysterious disappearance five years later in an attempt to fly around the world.
The place of her birth in her hometown of Atchinson, Kansas houses a museum in her memory. A local bridge over the Missouri River was also named in her honor. There is also the Amelia Earheart Hangar Museum, dedicated to her accomplishments in the world of flight, scheduled to open in 2023.
19. The First Woman Mayor
Another female first from Kansas is Susanna Madora Salter. On April 4, 1887, she became the first woman mayor in America, presiding as mayor of the town of Argonia.
Although her term as mayor of the small town was fairly uneventful, her election drew national attention. Today, a commemorative plaque in her honor stands in the town square in Argonia.
20. Kansas City
Most of this city is actually in Missouri, with the part that is in southeast Kansas being incorporated after several decades. It was named “Kansas” City for the nearby Kansas River, a tributary of the Missouri River. Much of the suburban area on the Kansas side today is in Overland Park, which, while being zoned as its own city, is effectively a suburb of Kansas City.
21. Kansas (the band)
If you’re wondering what Kansas is known for, well how about … Kansas?
Not the state: I mean the band bearing its name. What began as a local garage band in Topeka, Kansas would go on to become one of the biggest names in rock music. Given the etymology of the name Kansas (people of the wind), it seems fitting that one of this band’s greatest hits was “Dust in the Wind.”
👉 Read Next: What is Each US State Famous For?
22. Kansas University
This university is known for the KU Medical Center (and accompanying medical program) in Kansas City. Kansas residents may know it better for the Jayhawks football and basketball teams, though. The team mascot is not based on any actual species of bird. While Kansas is home to many other birds, this fictional species embodied the state’s heritage far better than others.
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FAQs About Famous Kansas Things
What is the highest elevation in the state?
The highest point is Mount Sunflower at 4039’. The surrounding landscape is rather flat, but the height is due to the site’s location in western Kansas. The land in Kansas almost imperceptibly rises the further west one goes. Ironically, the flattest part of the state is also the highest.
What is the state abbreviation?
The state abbreviation for Kansas is KS.
Now you don’t have to wonder “what is Kansas known for?”
And you can see why Dorothy was so eager to get back to Kansas. The Sunflower State is a fascinating place and well worth a visit, even if it isn’t home for you.
Next up, learn what Delaware is famous for (we promise there are a few interesting things!).