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, state, United States

Kansas (kănˈzəs), midwestern state occupying the center of the coterminous United States. It is bordered by Missouri (E), Oklahoma (S), Colorado (W), and Nebraska (N).

Facts and Figures

Area, 82,264 sq mi (213,064 sq km). Pop. (2020) 2,913,314, a 2.1% increase since the 2010 census. As of the 2020 census, the state's population was: White alone, 86.3%; Black alone, 6.1%; Hispanic or Latino, 12.2%; American Indian and Alaska native alone, 1.2%; Asian alone, 3.2%; Two or More Races, 3.1%. Capital, Topeka. Largest city, Wichita. Statehood, Jan. 29, 1861 (34th state). Highest pt., Mt. Sunflower, 4,039 ft (1,232 m); lowest pt., Verdigris River, 680 ft (207 m). Nickname, Sunflower State. Motto, Ad Astra per Aspera [To the stars through difficulties]. State bird, Western meadowlark. State flower, native sunflower. State tree, cottonwood. Abbr., Kans.; KS


Almost rectangular in shape and mostly part of the Great Plains, Kansas is famous for its seemingly endless fields of ripe golden wheat. The land rises more than 3,000 ft (914 m) from the eastern alluvial prairies of Kansas to its western semiarid high plains, which stretch toward the foothills of the Rocky Mts. The rise is so gradual, however, that it is imperceptible, although the terrains of the east and the west are markedly different. The state is drained by the Kansas and Arkansas rivers, both of which generally run from west to east.

The average annual rainfall of 27 in. (69 cm) is not evenly distributed: the eastern prairies receive up to 40 in. (102 cm) of rain, while the western plains average 17 in. (43 cm). Occasional dust storms plague farmers and ranchers in the west. The climate is continental, with wide extremes—cold winters with blizzards and hot summers with tornadoes. Floods also wreak havoc in the state; hence, flood-control projects, such as dams, reservoirs, and levees, are a major undertaking.

Topeka is the capital; other important cities are Wichita (the state's largest city), Lawrence, and Kansas City (adjoining Kansas City, Mo.). Points of historical interest include the boyhood home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Eisenhower Library in Abilene. Medicine Lodge has the home of Carry Nation, who, at the turn of the 20th cent., waged war on the saloons. Fort Leavenworth is the site of a large federal penitentiary. The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is one of the few large tracts of virgin prairie in the United States.


Kansas is historically an agricultural state. Manufacturing and services have surpassed agriculture as income producers, but farming is still important to the state's economy, and Kansas follows only Texas and Montana in total agricultural acreage. The nation's top wheat grower, Kansas is also a leading producer of grain sorghum and corn. Hay, soybeans, and sunflowers are also major crops. Cattle and calves, however, constitute the single most valuable agricultural item. Meatpacking and dairy industries are major economic activities, and the Kansas City stockyards are among the nation's largest. Food processing ranked as the state's third largest industry in the 1990s.

The two leading industries are the manufacture of transportation equipment and industrial and computer machinery. Wichita is a center of the aircraft industry, producing chiefly private planes. Other important manufactures are petroleum and coal products and nonelectrical machinery. The state is a major producer of crude petroleum and has large reserves of natural gas and helium. Kansas was once part of a great shallow sea and has commercially valuable salt deposits.

Government and Higher Education

Government in Kansas is based on the constitution of 1859, adopted just before Kansas attained statehood. An elected governor serves a term of four years. The legislature has a senate with 40 members and a house of representatives with 125 members. Kansas is represented in the U.S. Congress by four representatives and two senators and has six electoral votes in presidential elections. The state has long been a Republican stronghold but has had some Democratic governors.

Institutions of higher learning include the Univ. of Kansas, at Lawrence; Kansas State Univ., at Manhattan; Wichita State Univ., at Wichita; and Washburn Univ. of Topeka, at Topeka.


Early Inhabitants, Exploration, and Relocations

When the Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado visited (1541) the Kansas area in his search for Quivira, a fabled kingdom of riches, the area was occupied by various Native American groups of the Plains descent, notably the Kansa, the Wichita and the Pawnee. Another Spanish explorer, Juan de Oñate, penetrated the region in 1601. A result of Spanish entry into the region was the introduction of the horse, which revolutionized the life of the Native Americans. While not actually exploring the Kansas area, Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, claimed (c.1682) for France all territory drained by the Mississippi River, including Kansas.

French traders and Native Americans had a great deal of contact during most of the 18th cent. By the Treaty of Paris of 1763 ending the French and Indian Wars, France ceded the territory of W Louisiana (including Kansas) to Spain. In 1800, Spain secretly retroceded the territory to France, from whom the United States acquired it in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The region was little known, however, and subsequent explorations to include Kansas were the Lewis and Clark expedition (1803–6), the Arkansas River journey of Zebulon M. Pike in 1806, and the scientific expedition of Stephen H. Long in 1819.

Most of the territory that eventually became Kansas was in an area known as the “Great American Desert,” considered unsuitable for U.S. settlement because of its apparent barrenness. In the 1830s the region was designated a permanent home for Native Americans, and northern and eastern tribes were relocated there. Forts were constructed for frontier defense and for the protection of the growing trade along the Santa Fe Trail, which crossed Kansas. Fort Leavenworth was established in 1827, Fort Scott in 1842, and Fort Riley in 1853.

Pro- and Antislavery Factions

Kansas, at this time mainly a region to be crossed on the way to California and Oregon, was organized as a territory in 1854. Its settlement, however, was spurred not so much by natural westward expansion as by the determination of both proslavery and antislavery factions to achieve a majority population in the territory. The struggle between the factions was further complicated by conflict over the location of a transcontinental railroad, with proponents of a central route (rather than a southern route) eager to resolve the slavery issue in the area and promote settlement.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), an attempted compromise on the extension of slavery, repealed the Missouri Compromise and reopened the issue of extending slavery north of lat. 36°30′ by providing for popular sovereignty in Kansas and Nebraska, allowing settlers of territories to decide the matter themselves. Meanwhile, the Emigrant Aid Company was organized in Massachusetts to foster antislavery immigration to Kansas, and proslavery interests in Missouri and throughout the South took counteraction. Towns were established by each faction—Lawrence and Topeka by the free-staters and Leavenworth and Atchison by the proslavery settlers.

Soon all the problems attendant upon organizing a territory for statehood became subsidiary to the single issue of slavery. The first elections in 1854 and 1855 were won by the proslavery group; armed Missourians intimidated voters and election officials and stuffed the ballot boxes. Andrew H. Reeder was appointed the first territorial governor in 1854. The first territorial legislature ousted (1855) all free-state members, secured the removal of Gov. Reeder, established the capital in Lecompton, and adopted proslavery statutes. In retaliation the abolitionists set up a rival government at Topeka in Oct., 1855.

The Wakarusa War and Bleeding Kansas

Violence soon came to the territory. The murder of a free-state man in Nov., 1855, led to the so-called Wakarusa War, a bloodless series of encounters along the Wakarusa River. The intervention of the new governor, Wilson Shannon, kept proslavery men from attacking Lawrence. However, civil war ultimately turned the territory into “bleeding Kansas.” On May 21, 1856, proslavery groups and armed Missourians known as “Border Ruffians” raided Lawrence. A few days later a band led by the abolitionist crusader John Brown murdered five proslavery men in the Pottawatamie massacre. Guerrilla warfare between free-state men called Jayhawkers and proslavery bands—both sides abetted by desperadoes and opportunists—terrorized the land. After a new governor, John W. Geary, persuaded a large group of “Border Ruffians” to return to Missouri, the violence subsided.

The Lecompton legislature met in 1857 to make preparations for convening a constitutional convention. Gov. Geary resigned after it became clear that free elections would not be held to approve a new constitution. Robert J. Walker was appointed governor, and a convention held at Lecompton drafted a constitution. Only that part of the resulting proslavery constitution dealing with slavery was submitted to the electorate, and the question was drafted to favor the proslavery group. Free-state men refused to participate in the election with the result that the constitution was overwhelmingly approved.

Despite the dubious validity of the Lecompton constitution, President James Buchanan recommended (1858) that Congress accept it and approve statehood for the territory. Instead, Congress returned it for another territorial vote. The proslavery group boycotted the election, and the constitution was rejected. Lawrence became de facto capital of the troubled territory until after the Wyandotte constitution (framed in 1859 and totally forbidding slavery) was accepted by Congress. The Kansas conflict and the question of statehood for the territory became a national issue and figured in the 1860 Republican party platform.

Kansas became a state in 1861, with the capital at Topeka. Charles Robinson was the first governor and James H. Lane, an active free-stater during the 1850s, one of the U.S. Senators. In the Civil War, Kansas fought with the North and suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any state in the Union. Confederate William C. Quantrill and his guerrilla band burned Lawrence in 1863.

Life on the Prairie

With peace came the development of the prairie lands. The construction of railroads made cow towns such as Abilene and Dodge City, with their cowboys, saloons, and frontier marshals, the shipping point for large herds of cattle driven overland from Texas. The buffalo herds disappeared (some buffalo still roam in state parks and game preserves), and cattle took their place. Pioneer homesteaders, adjusting to life on the timberless prairie and living in sod houses, suffered privation. In 1874, Mennonite emigrants from Russia brought the Turkey Red variety of winter wheat to Kansas. This wheat was instrumental in making Kansas the Wheat State as winter wheat replaced spring wheat on an ever-increasing scale. Corn, too, soon became a major cash crop.

Agricultural production was periodically disrupted by national depressions and natural disasters. Repeated and prolonged droughts accompanied by dust storms, occasional grasshopper invasions, and floods all caused severe economic dislocation. Mortgages often weighed heavily on farmers, and discontent was expressed in farmer support of radical farm organizations and third-party movements, such as the Granger movement, Greenback party, and Populist party. Tax relief, better regulation of interest rates, and curbs on the power of railroads were sought by these organizations. Twice in the 1890s, Populist-Democrats were elected to the governorship.

As conditions improved, Kansas returned largely to its allegiance to the Republican party and gained a reputation as a conservative stronghold with a bent for moral reform, indicated in the state's strong support of prohibition; laws against the sale of liquor remained on the books in Kansas from 1880 to 1949. Over the years the use of improved agricultural methods and machines increased crop yield. Irrigation proved practicable in some areas, and winter wheat and alfalfa could be cultivated in dry regions.

Wars and Depression

Wheat production greatly expanded during World War I, but the end of the war brought financial difficulties. During the 1920s and 30s, Kansas was faced with labor unrest and the economic hardships of the depression. As part of the Dust Bowl, Kansas sustained serious land erosion during the long drought of the 1930s. Erosion led to the implementation of conservation and reclamation projects, particularly in the northern and western parts of the state. In 1924 an effort of the Ku Klux Klan to gain political control was fought by William Allen White, editor of the Emporia Gazette, who supported many liberal causes. Alfred M. Landon, elected governor in 1932, was one of the few Republican candidates in the country to win election in the midst of the sweeping Democratic victory that year. He was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate in 1936.

During World War II agriculture thrived and industry expanded rapidly. The food-processing industry grew substantially, the cement industry enjoyed a major revival, and the aircraft industry boomed. After the war agricultural prosperity once again declined when the state was hit by a severe drought and grasshopper invasion in 1948. Prosperity returned briefly during the Korean War, but afterward farm surpluses and insufficient world markets combined to make the state's tremendous agricultural ability part of the national “farm problem.”

Modern Kansas

Kansas has become increasingly industrialized and urbanized, and industrial production has surpassed farm production in economic importance. Flood damage in the state, especially after a major flood in 1951, spurred the construction of dams (such as the Tuttle Creek, Milford, and Wilson dams) on major Kansas rivers, and their reservoirs have vastly increased water recreational facilities for Kansans. Since the 1970s, Kansas has become increasingly more urban and suburban. Accordingly, the economy has shifted its emphasis to finance and service industries located in and around the major urban centers.

Republican Bill P. Graves (1995-2003), was succeeded by Democrat Kathleen Sebelius (2003-09), who was also the first woman to chair the National Governor's Association; she resigned the governorship in 2009 to become U.S. secretary of health and human services, serving until 2014, and was succeeded by Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, also a Democrat. Republican Sam Brownback was elected in 2010, severly cutting the state's income tax rate in what became known as the "Kansas experiment." Brownback's fiscal policies left the state short of funds, leading mainstream Republicans to back the Democratic candidate when he ran for reelection in 2014, but Brownback prevailed and won. Nonetheless, in 2017 the state legislature repealed his tax cuts, overriding his veto. Brownback resigned in 2018 to join the Trump administration, with his term completed by the lieutenant governor. In the 2018 election, Laura Kelly, a Democrat, was elected governor, pledging to reverse many of Brownback's policies.


See P. Gates, Fifty Million Acres: Conflicts over Kansas Land Policy, 1854–1890 (1954); R. S. Brownlee, Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy (1960); W. T. Nugent, The Tolerant Populists (1963); J. R. Cook, The Border and the Buffalo (1967); C. C. Howes, This Place Called Kansas (1984); H. E. Socolofsky and H. Self, Historical Atlas of Kansas (2d rev. ed. 1989); R. Richmond, Kansas: A Land of Contrasts (3d ed. 1989).


, river, United States
Kansas or Kaw, river, 170 mi (274 km) long, formed by the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican rivers in NE Kansas and flowing E to the Missouri River at Kansas City; the system drains parts of Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. Heavy floods (especially in 1951 and 1977) on the Kansas and its tributaries caused great damage to the surrounding farms and Kansas City area. Numerous dams, reservoirs, and levees have since been built to prevent flooding.
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Kansas State Information

Phone: (785) 296-0111

Area (sq mi):: 82276.84 (land 81814.88; water 461.96) Population per square mile: 33.50
Population 2005: 2,744,687 State rank: 0 Population change: 2000-20005 2.10%; 1990-2000 8.50% Population 2000: 2,688,418 (White 83.10%; Black or African American 5.70%; Hispanic or Latino 7.00%; Asian 1.70%; Other 6.40%). Foreign born: 5.00%. Median age: 35.20
Income 2000: per capita $20,506; median household $40,624; Population below poverty level: 9.90% Personal per capita income (2000-2003): $27,694-$29,438
Unemployment (2004): 5.60% Unemployment change (from 2000): 1.80% Median travel time to work: 19.00 minutes Working outside county of residence: 22.60%

List of Kansas counties:

  • Allen County
  • Anderson County
  • Atchison County
  • Barber County
  • Barton County
  • Bourbon County
  • Brown County
  • Butler County
  • Chase County
  • Chautauqua County
  • Cherokee County
  • Cheyenne County
  • Clark County
  • Clay County
  • Cloud County
  • Coffey County
  • Comanche County
  • Cowley County
  • Crawford County
  • Decatur County
  • Dickinson County
  • Doniphan County
  • Douglas County
  • Edwards County
  • Elk County
  • Ellis County
  • Ellsworth County
  • Finney County
  • Ford County
  • Franklin County
  • Geary County
  • Gove County
  • Graham County
  • Grant County
  • Gray County
  • Greeley County
  • Greenwood County
  • Hamilton County
  • Harper County
  • Harvey County
  • Haskell County
  • Hodgeman County
  • Jackson County
  • Jefferson County
  • Jewell County
  • Johnson County
  • Kearny County
  • Kingman County
  • Kiowa County
  • Labette County
  • Lane County
  • Leavenworth County
  • Lincoln County
  • Linn County
  • Logan County
  • Lyon County
  • Marion County
  • Marshall County
  • McPherson County
  • Meade County
  • Miami County
  • Mitchell County
  • Montgomery County
  • Morris County
  • Morton County
  • Nemaha County
  • Neosho County
  • Ness County
  • Norton County
  • Osage County
  • Osborne County
  • Ottawa County
  • Pawnee County
  • Phillips County
  • Pottawatomie County
  • Pratt County
  • Rawlins County
  • Reno County
  • Republic County
  • Rice County
  • Riley County
  • Rooks County
  • Rush County
  • Russell County
  • Saline County
  • Scott County
  • Sedgwick County
  • Seward County
  • Shawnee County
  • Sheridan County
  • Sherman County
  • Smith County
  • Stafford County
  • Stanton County
  • Stevens County
  • Sumner County
  • Thomas County
  • Trego County
  • Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City
  • Wabaunsee County
  • Wallace County
  • Washington County
  • Wichita County
  • Wilson County
  • Woodson County
  • Counties USA: A Directory of United States Counties, 3rd Edition. © 2006 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

    Kansas Parks

    Parks Directory of the United States, 5th Edition. © 2007 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
    The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



    a state in the central part of the USA. Area, 213, 100 sq km; population, 2. 2 million (1970), of which 66 percent is urban. The administrative center is Topeka, and Wichita and Kansas City are its most important cities. Its surface is an undulating plain, sloping gently from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains (altitude, 1, 231 m) to the valley of the Missouri River. In the central part of the state are the Smoky Hills and Blue Hills (maximum altitude, 862 m). The climate is moderately continental, with the mean monthly temperatures ranging from -3°C to 26°C. Annual precipitation is 550–950 mm. In the summer there are frequent droughts. The Kansas and Arkansas rivers have little flow for most of the year.

    Kansas is one of the most important agricultural states of the USA; it is first in the harvest of wheat and second in sorghum and is fourth in the number of cattle. Its most important crop is winter wheat. Nearly two-thirds of the commodity output of agriculture is provided by livestock, with meat production predominating. As of 1970 there were 6. 0 million head of cattle (including 224, 000 dairy cows) and 1. 6 million pigs. Farms occupy 20. 4 million hectares, 95 percent of the state’s territory, of which 400, 000 hectares are irrigated. Large mechanized farms producing grain and meat provide the bulk of the output. The number of farms diminished from 120, 000 in 1954 to 87, 000 in 1969.

    In 1969, 12, 000 workers were employed in the extraction industry and 146, 000 in processing. Oil (nearly 12 million tons), natural gas, and helium (of which Kansas is the leading US producer) are the most important raw materials. In value of output, processing is increasingly overtaking agriculture. The most important products are those of the food industry (canned meat, flour, concentrated fodder). The aviation (Wichita), automobile assembly (Kansas City), oil refining, chemical, and agricultural machine industries are developed.


    Prior to its occupation by Europeans, the territory of Kansas was inhabited by Indian tribes. Europeans visited the area for the first time in 1541. In 1803 it became a possession of the USA, which purchased it from France as part of the vast territories of Louisiana. In 1854 it was given the status of a territory of the USA; adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 led to civil war in Kansas between the supporters and opponents of slavery. It has been one of the states of the USA since 1861.

    The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


    Thirty-fourth state; admitted on January 29, 1861

    Kansas Day has been observed since 1877, most often in school programs about the state. The Kansas State Historical Society sponsors celebrations at the Kansas History Center in Topeka.

    State capital: Topeka

    Nicknames: Sunflower State; Wheat State; Jayhawk State

    State motto: Ad Astra per Aspera (Latin “To the Stars Through Difficulties”)

    State amphibian: Barred tiger salamander

    State animal: American buffalo or bison (Bison bison)

    State bird: Western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

    State flower: Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

    State insect: Honeybee (Apis mellifera)

    State march: “The Kansas March”

    State reptile: Ornate box turtle

    State song: “Home on the Range”

    State tree: Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)

    More about state symbols at:



    AmerBkDays-2000, p. 95 AnnivHol-2000, p. 16


    Kansas State Historical Society
    6425 SW Sixth Ave.
    Topeka, 66615-1099
    fax: 785-272-8682
    TTY: 785-272-8683


    State web site:

    Office of the Governor
    State Capitol Bldg
    2nd Fl
    Topeka, KS 66612
    fax: 785-296-7973

    Secretary of State
    120 SW 10th Ave
    1st Fl
    Topeka, KS 66612
    fax: 785-296-4570

    Kansas State Library
    300 SW 10th Ave
    Capitol Bldg Rm 343N
    Topeka, KS 66612
    fax: 785-296-6650

    Legal Holidays:

    Day After ThanksgivingNov 25, 2011; Nov 23, 2012; Nov 29, 2013; Nov 28, 2014; Nov 27, 2015; Nov 25, 2016; Nov 24, 2017; Nov 23, 2018; Nov 29, 2019; Nov 27, 2020; Nov 26, 2021; Nov 25, 2022; Nov 24, 2023
    Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


    a state of the central US: consists of undulating prairie, drained chiefly by the Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri Rivers; mainly agricultural. Capital: Topeka. Pop.: 2 723 507 (2003 est.). Area: 213 096 sq. km (82 277 sq. miles)
    Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
    References in periodicals archive ?
    Kansas customers with questions can contact their local State Farm agent to discuss their individual situation.
    Kansas' Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act is similar to Louisiana's 2016 Act 264 Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act that is currently in federal court litigation.
    But Michaela Shelton of the Shelton Law Office in Overland Park, Kansas, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the Kansas agency shared large amounts of information with social workers in Missouri during a long period of time.
    Most of the tornadoes brought minimal damage in Kansas, except the one at Concordia that snapped power lines and downed power poles, said Mick McGuire, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita.
    Harrison, one of the happy customers of Kansas City Concrete Solutions delightedly commented, "Excellent work!
    The partnership between Kansas.gov and the state operates under a self-funded model where no tax dollars were used to develop and maintain the payment service.
    Kansas Blue provides or administers health coverage for about 917,000 people.
    He focuses on the escapades of several people in Kansas who merely used Iowa as a pass-through, thus causing the state to become the setting for history in this book but not intricately involved or causational.
    Kansas City's first black public school, the Lincoln School, was originally opened as a privately funded Sabbath elementary school around 1865 before becoming part of the Kansas City School District in 1867, the district's inaugural year (Aaron 2008).
    The Treasurer's Association is a statewide organization dedicated to providing quality, professional service to the citizens of Kansas. It was formed for the purpose of providing mutual assistance; building a more uniform system of keeping accounts in the office of the County Treasurer in the counties of the state of Kansas; and to provide a legislative voice on behalf of the association.
    Synopsis: From the windswept plains to the majestic Flint Hills, the subtle beauty of Kansas (known as the Sunflower State) is best appreciated from its myriad wide-ranging trails.

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