Geography and Landforms:

Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north and Oklahoma on the south. To the east is Missouri and to the west is Colorado. It is the 15th largest of the 50 states.

Kansas is almost rectangular in shape is lies mostly in the Great Plains. The land consists of rolling plains and can be divided into three geographic regions: the Dissected Till Plains in the northeast, the Southeastern Plains to the west, and the Great Plains covering the western half of the state. Mount Sunflower is the highest point in Kansas and is located in the Great Plains near the Colorado border. Major rivers include the Arkansas River, the Kansas River and the Missouri River.

The eastern part of the state receives the greatest amount of rainfall, and occasional dust storms plague farmers and ranchers in the west.


Spanish explorer Francisco de Coronado is believed to have been the first European to explore what is now Kansas in 1541.

Sieur de la Salle's extensive land claims for France (1682) included present-day Kansas, and between then and 1739, a number of explorers from Spain and France came to this area in search of gold and to trade with the Indians. Ceded to Spain by France in 1763, the territory reverted to France in 1800 and then was sold to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, and Stephen H. Long explored the region between 1803 and 1819. The first permanent white settlements in Kansas were outposts--Fort Leavenworth (1827), Fort Scott (1842), and Fort Riley (1853)--established to protect travelers along the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. In 1806, explorer Zebulon Pike declared the land unsuitable for farming, which discouraged white settlers. Instead, in 1830 the government passed the Indian Removal Act which designated Kansas as part of "Indian Territory" and relocated native people to the area from their home lands further east.

Kansas became a United States Territory in 1854 with the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, at a time which the country was bitterly divided by slavery. When the state was admitted as a territory, the U.S. government determined that the people who lived there should vote on whether slavery should be permitted. People who didn't want slavery quickly moved to Kansas hoping they could outnumber those moving from Missouri, who did want it. At stake was both the status of slaves in the state, and the political leanings of any legislators to be elected once the Territory became a state. There were many fights among these people, but eventually those against slavery won, and Kansas became a "free state" in 1861. Because of the great violence during this time, Kansas became known as "Bleeding Kansas."

After the Civil War expansion of the rail system to Kansas and the increasing number of immigrants lured to the state by offers of cheap land, Native Americans were forced into smaller and smaller reservations. Ultimately their removal to Indian Territory forced the final confrontation in the late 1870's that ended the independent life of the Native Americans. The army established military posts along the railroads and the trails used by those traveling west. Such towns as Dodge City, Abilene, and Wichita became known as "cow towns" because of their prominence along the routes used by ranchers to move cattle for sale.


Historically, Kansas has had an agricultural economy. Today, manufacturing and services produce more income, but farming is still important, and Kansas ranks third in the U.S. in the number of acres devoted to agriculture. Kansas leads the country in its production of wheat, and is also an important producer of grain sorghum, corn, hay, soybeans, and sunflowers. However, Kansans started raising cattle in the 1880s and cattle and calves represent its most valuable agricultural product. The Kansas City stockyards are among the largest in the U.S., and food processing is the state's third largest industry.

In the manufacturing arena, transportation equipment and industrial and computer machinery are important, as are petroleum and coal products. The state is a major producer of crude petroleum and has large reserves of natural gas. Kansas is the nation's leading producer of helium.

First Inhabitants:

Archaeologists tell us that people have been living in the area now known as Kansas since 12,000 BC, during the end of the Ice Age. Huge animals such as mammoth and mastodon lived in the area until climate change made it too warm for them to survive. It is believed that the first people who migrated to Kansas were descendents of people from Asia who crossed into North America through Alaska. These people were known as Paleo-Indians and were nomadic hunter-gatherers. These people hunted the mammoth and mastodon as well as eating berries, seeds, roots, and other small animals. They used spears tipped with stone points for hunting.

The Archaic Period (7000 BC--1 AD) began with continued warming of the climate and the ending of the Ice Age. Because the big game they had been hunting had died out, their diet changed to include more small game, and more plant foods. In order to grow enough food, they became less nomadic, and gradually established settlements. The people in these settlements began to grind seeds into meal. There is evidence that by about 3500 BC these people began to make ceramic objects.

The Woodland Period (1 AD--1000) brought great change to the people living in the area. Use of pottery increased, and hunters began to use bows and arrows in place of the atlatl (a kind of spear thrower). Toward the end of the period, agriculture began in earnest and the people began to grow corn. Archaeologists have also found evidence of ceremonial burial and the building of burial mounds.

Between 1000 and the time of "first contact" with white explorers, the people of Kansas depended upon two main food sources: bison hunting and the cultivation of corn, squash and beans. They also practiced small-scale hunting and gathered wild foods. People lived in rectangular earth lodges in the northern part of the area; in the south, they built houses covered with thatched grass. The population grew, and people lived in villages. We also know that the people began to trade more extensively with groups around them, particularly with the Puebloan Indians of the Southwest.

By the time European explorers arrived, we are able to identify the people living in Kansas with tribes such as the Pawnee, Kansa, Wichita, and Apache. There is evidence of contact between the Indians and Europeans, including fragments of Spanish chain mail armor found among the grass huts of the Wichita people.

After brief visits by the Spanish explorer, Coronado, in the area, the French arrived around 1750, and formed an alliance with the Kansa Indian tribe. Europeans were interested in the lucrative fur trade with the native people, and began to travel through the area with more frequency. However, widespread settlement did not happen until Kansas became a territory in 1854, because prior to that time the state was part of the large area known as "Indian Territory" where displaced tribes from further east were forced to relocate.

Books Related To Kansas

100 Cupboards - N.D. Wilson
(978-0375838828) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-8, Lexile: 650, ESL level: 2 - 3
Henry and his cousin Henrietta explore hidden doors and passageways in an attic in Henry's new home in Kansas.

Cabin in the Snow - Deborah Hopkinson
(978-0689843518) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 50, ESL level: 2 - 3
A young boy must take care of his family during a wicked Kansas blizzard in the absence of his father.

Caleb's Story - Patricia MacLachlan
(978-0064405904) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 290, ESL level: 2
The Witting family discovers their grandfather on their farm, a man they had believed lost.

Moon over Manifest - Clare Vanderpool
(978-0375858291) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-8, Lexile: 800, ESL level: 3 - 4
Abilene goes to live with her father's old friend; she hopes to make sense of some mysteries about her drifter father there.

Out of Patience - Brian Meehl
(978-0440420903) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 770, ESL level: 2 - 3
Jake thinks his small town in Kansas is the pits until he has interactions with a toilet plunger in this humorous novel.

Riddle of the Prairie Bride - Kathryn Reiss
(978-1607544203) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 800, ESL level: 3 - 4
When Ida Kate's father greets his mail-order bride, something tells Ida that this may not be the woman he selected.

S is for Sunflower: A Kansas Alphabet - Devin Scillian
(978-1585360611) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Kansas.

The Van Gogh Caf? - Cynthia Rylant
(978-0152057503) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 810, ESL level: 3 - 4
A mysterious caf? in small town Kansas has everyone wondering about the weird things that happen there.

Wagon Wheels - Barbara Brenner
(978-1430108078) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-4, Lexile: 380, ESL level: 2
An African American family moves to Kansas to claim land through the Homestead Act.

Famous Citizens:

Walter Percy Chrysler
Chrysler was born in Wamego, Kansas, and began his career as a machinist's apprentice. He worked his way up in the automobile industry to become vice-president of operations at General Motors in 1919. In 1920, he formed his own company and shortly became one of the largest automobile manufacturers.

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas and is one of the world's best known aviators. In the early days of flight, Earhart began taking flying lessons in 1921. By 1922, she had broken the women's altitude record, flying to a height of 14,000 feet. In 1928, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She was presumed dead when her plane went down in 1937 while she was flying between Lae, New Guinea to Howland Island.

Buster Keaton
Born Joseph Francis Keaton in Piqua, Kansas, he is considered by many to be one of the greatest comic actors in film history. He began as a child actor in vaudeville, and then starred in many silent comedies as a deadpan hero who survives despite incredible odds. One of the few who made the successful transition from silent movies to the "talkies" he had a second career as a supporting actor in Sunset Boulevard and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Emmett Kelly
Emmett Kelly was born in Sedan, Kansas and went on to become one of the best known clowns in the United States. In the 1930s, he developed the character of "Weary Willie" with his woeful expression and tattered clown outfit. He worked with various circuses until he gained a place with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1942. One of his best known skits was to try and "sweep away" the circus spotlight.

Capital: Topeka
Entered Union: January 29, 1861
Population: 2,904,021
Area 82,277
Bird Western Meadowlark
Flower Sunflower
Nickname: Sunflower State
Governor Sam Brownback

Places to Visit in Kansas: (Click the links to learn more.)

National Teachers Hall of Fame - Emporia
The mission of The National Teachers Hall of Fame is to recognize and honor exceptional teachers and the teaching profession; to promote excellence in teaching by creating a national center for the study of American education; and, to preserve the richness of American education as well as demonstrate exciting ventures into the future. Visitors to the Hall of Fame also may visit a one-room school that appears just as it did in the mid-1800s.

Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Museum - Hutchinson
Having one of the largest collections of space artifacts in the world, this Kansas museum is a chronicle of the American space program. See the actual Apollo 13 command module and the Mercury Redstone and Gemini Titan rockets among the collection.

Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum - Atchison
The home where aviator Amelia Earhart was born and grew up, this museum features personal and family memorabilia, and is a National Historic Site.

Boothill Museum - Dodge City
The Boothill Museum was founded in 1947 to collect, preserve and interpret the history of Dodge City. Its exhibits, reconstructed business buildings and other interpretive programs provide a glimpse into the town's early history when it was a buffalo hunters' trade center and, later, a cattle town. Boot Hill Museum actively collects objects, photographs, and documents relating to Dodge City's past. It preserves and exhibits them in settings which recreate the Dodge City of the 1870s.

Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site - Topeka
On October 26, 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-525 establishing Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to commemorate the landmark Supreme Court decision aimed at ending segregation in public schools. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously declared that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" and, as such, violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees all citizens "equal protection of the laws." The site consists of the Monroe Elementary School, one of the four segregated elementary schools for African American children in Topeka, and the adjacent grounds.