Kansas is a Great Plains state in the central region of the United States of America, an area often referred to as the American “Heartland”.
It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa tribe, who inhabited the area.
The tribe’s name (natively kką:ze) is often said to mean “people of the wind” or “people of the south wind”, although this was probably not the term’s original meaning.
Residents of Kansas are called “Kansans”.
Historically, the area was home to large numbers of nomadic Native Americans that hunted bison.
It was first settled by European Americans in the 1830s, but the pace of settlement accelerated in the 1850s, in the midst of political wars over the slavery issue.
When 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 if Kansas would become a free state or a slave state.
Thus, 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 on January 29, 1861, Kansas entered the Union as a free state.
After the Civil War, the population of Kansas exploded when waves of immigrants turned the prairie into productive farmland. Today, Kansas is one of the most productive agricultural states, producing many crops, and leading the nation in wheat and sunflower production most years.
Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. The state is divided up into 105 counties with 628 cities. It is located equidistant from the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans.
The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is located in Smith County near Lebanon, Kansas. The geodetic center of North America was located in Osborne County until 1983.
This spot was until then used as the central reference point for all maps of North America produced by the U.S. government. The geographic center of Kansas is located in Barton County.
Kansas is also one of the six states located on the Frontier Strip and one of several within Tornado Alley.
Kansas contains three climate types, according to the Köppen climate classification: humid continental, semiarid steppe, and humid subtropical. The eastern two-thirds of the state has a humid continental climate, with cold winters and hot summers.
Most of the precipitation falls in the summer and spring. The western third of the state has a semiarid steppe climate.
Summers are hot, often very hot. Winters are cold in the northwest and cool to mild in the southwest. Also, the western region is semiarid, receiving an average of only about 16 inches (40 cm) of precipitation per year. Chinook winds in the winter can warm western Kansas all the way into the 80 degree Fahrenheit (25 °C) range.
The far south-central and southeastern reaches of the state have a humid subtropical climate, with long, hot summers, short, mild winters, and much more precipitation than the rest of the state.
Precipitation ranges from about 46 inches (1200 mm) annually in the southeast of the state, to about 16 inches (400 mm) in the southwest.
Snowfall ranges from around 5 inches (130 mm) in the fringes of the south, to 35 inches (900 mm) in the far northwest.
Frost-free days range from more than 200 days in the south, to 130 days in the northwest. Thus, Kansas is the 9th or 10th sunniest state in the country, depending on the source. Western Kansas is as sunny as parts of California and Arizona.
In spite of the frequent sunshine throughout much of the state, the state is also vulnerable to strong thunderstorms, especially in the spring.
Many of these storms become Supercell thunderstorms. These can spawn tornadoes, often of F3 strength or higher. According to statistics from the National Climatic Data Center, Kansas has reported more tornadoes (for the period 1st January 1950 through to 31st October 2006) than any state except for Texas – marginally even more than Oklahoma. It has also – along with Alabama – reported more F5 tornadoes than any other state. These are the most powerful of all tornadoes.
Kansas averages over 50 tornadoes annually.
According to NOAA, the all time highest temperature recorded in Kansas is 121 degrees F (49.4 C) on July 24, 1936 near Alton, and the all time low is -40 F (-40 C) on February 13, 1905 near Lebanon.
Kansas’ all time record high of 121F/49.4C ties with North Dakota for the fifth highest all time record high recorded in a state in the United States, behind California (134F/56.7C), Arizona (128F/53.3C), Nevada (125F/51.7C), and New Mexico (122F/50C).
For millennia, the land that is presently Kansas was inhabited by Native Americans.
The first European to set foot in present-day Kansas was Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, who explored the area in 1541.
In 1803, most of modern Kansas was secured by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Southwest Kansas, however, was still a part of Spain, Mexico, and the Republic of Texas until the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in 1848.
From 1812 to 1821, Kansas was part of the Missouri Territory. The Santa Fe Trail traversed Kansas from 1821 to 1880, transporting manufactured goods from Missouri and silver and furs from Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Wagon ruts from the trail are still visible in the prairie today.
In 1827, Fort Leavenworth became the first permanent settlement of white Americans in the future state. The Kansas-Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854, establishing the U.S. territories of Nebraska and Kansas, and opening the area to broader settlement by whites.
Kansas Territory stretched all the way to the Continental Divide and included the sites of present-day Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.
Missouri and Arkansas sent settlers into Kansas all along its eastern border.
These settlers attempted to sway votes in favor of slavery. The secondary settlement of Americans in Kansas Territory were abolitionists from Massachusetts and other Free-Staters, who attempted to stop the spread of slavery from neighboring Missouri. Directly presaging the American Civil War, these forces collided, entering into skirmishes that earned the territory the name of Bleeding Kansas.
Kansas was admitted to the United States as a free state on January 29, 1861, making it the 34th state to enter the Union. By that time the violence in Kansas had largely subsided.
However, during the Civil War, on August 21, 1863, William Quantrill led several hundred men on a raid into Lawrence, destroying much of the city and killing nearly two hundred people.
Until the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Quantrill’s raid was the single bloodiest act of domestic terrorism in America.
After the Civil War, many veterans constructed homesteads in Kansas. Many African Americans also looked to Kansas as the land of “John Brown,” and led by men like Benjamin “Pap” Singleton began establishing black colonies in the state.
At the same time, the Chisholm Trail was opened and the Wild West era commenced in Kansas. Wild Bill Hickok was a deputy marshal at Fort Riley and a marshal at Hays and Abilene.
Dodge City was another wild cowboy town, and both Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp worked as lawmen in the town. In one year alone, 8 million head of cattle from Texas boarded trains in Dodge City bound for the East, earning Dodge the nickname “Queen of the Cowtowns.”
In part as a response to the violence perpetrated by cowboys, on February 19, 1881, Kansas became the first U.S. state to adopt a Constitutional amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages.
The 2003 gross domestic product of Kansas was US$98 billion, an increase of 4.3% over the prior year, but trailing the national average increase of 4.8%. Its per-capita income was US$29,438.
The December 2003 unemployment rate was 4.9%. The agricultural outputs of the state are cattle, sheep, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, cotton, hogs, corn, and salt.
The industrial outputs are transportation equipment, commercial and private aircraft, food processing, publishing, chemical products, machinery, apparel, petroleum and mining.
Kansas ranks 8th in U.S. oil production. Production has experienced a steady, natural decline as it becomes increasingly difficult to extract oil over time.
Since oil prices bottomed in 1999, oil production in Kansas has remained fairly constant, with an average monthly rate of about 2.8 million barrels in 2004.
The recent higher prices have made carbon dioxide sequestration and other oil recovery techniques more economical.
Kansas ranks 8th in U.S. natural gas production. Production has steadily declined since the mid-1990’s with the depletion of the Hugoton Natural Gas Field—the state’s largest field which extends into Oklahoma and Texas.
In 2004, slower declines in the Hugoton gas fields and increased coalbed methane production contributed to a smaller overall decline. Average monthly production was over 32 billion cubic feet (0.9 km³).
Kansas has three income brackets for income tax calculation, ranging from 3.5% to 6.45%. The state sales tax in Kansas is 5.3%.
Various cities and counties in Kansas have an additional local sales tax. Except during the 2001 recession (March–November 2001) when monthly sales tax collections were flat, collections have trended higher as the economy has grown and two rate increases have been enacted.
Total sales tax collections for 2003 amounted to $1.63 billion, compared to $805.3 million in 1990.
Revenue shortfalls resulting from lower than expected tax collections and slower growth in personal income following a 1998 permanent tax reduction has contributed to the substantial growth in the state’s debt level as bonded debt increased from $1.16 billion in 1998 to $3.83 billion in 2006.
Some increase in debt was expected as the state continues with its 10-year Comprehensive Transportation Program enacted in 1999. As of June 2004, Moody’s Investors Service ranked the state 14th for net tax-supported debt per capita.
As a percentage of personal income, it was at 3.8%—above the median value of 2.5% for all rated states and having risen from a value of less than 1% in 1992. The state has a statutory requirement to maintain cash reserves of at least 7.5% of expenses at the end of each fiscal year.
Major company headquarters in Kansas include the Sprint Nextel Corporation (with operational headquarters in Overland Park), Embarq (with national headquarters in Overland Park), YRC Corp Overland Park, Garmin in Olathe, and Payless Shoes (National headquarters and major distribution facilities in Topeka).