Nestled at the heart of the Great Plains is the state of Kansas. It was the inspiration behind Dorothy’s song “No place like home” in the popular children’s book and film “The Wizard of Oz”, and is home to some ridiculously good American beef. But it wasn’t all butterflies and sunshine in this Midwest state. Its history is a long and bloody tale of nomadic Native American tribes, bison, and Spanish colonizers. Keep on reading to learn 75 facts about Kansas.
Fact 1: Kansas is a U.S. state in the Midwestern section of the United States.
Fact 2: The capital city of Kansas is Topeka. It currently has a population of 127,500 people all of which are spread over an area of roughly 159 km2. This gives the city a population density of 800 people per square kilometer.
Fact 3: The largest city in the state of Kansas is Wichita. With a population of 382,368 and a population density of 900 people per square kilometer, Wichita ranks as the 51st largest city in the USA.
Fact 4: As an industrial hub, Wichita is the state and regional center for media, culture, and trade. The city is home too many universities, theatres, large museums, parks, and entertainment venues.
Fact 5: The state was named after the Kansas River. The river was named after the Kansa Native Americans who lived along its banks. The river feeds into the Missouri River in Kansas City.
Fact 6: For thousands of years, Kansas was the home of various Native American tribes. Tribes in the eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys.
Fact 7: Tribes in the western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted the large herds of bison.
Fact 8: On January 29, 1861, Kansas became the 34th state to join the United States of America. This was nearly 2 years after Oregon became a member state in 1859.
Fact 9: The state of Kansas has an area of 213,099 square kilometers. This makes it the 15th largest state by area. For comparison of how big that area is, Alaska, which has an area of 1,723,337 km2, is near enough 8 times larger!
Fact 10: Kansas only has 1,346 km2 of surface water such as lakes and reservoirs. That means water makes up on 0.6% of the states total area.
Fact 11: It’s the 34th most populous of the 50 U.S. states with a total population of 2.91 million people. That makes it 13.5 times smaller than the state of California which has a population of 39,512,223 people.
Fact 12: Thrusting its peak 1,231 meters into the sky, Mt. Sunflower (Lovely name for a mountain!) is Kansas’ tallest peak. However, the average elevation of the entire state of Kansas is about 610 meters. So the mountain never seems that tall when seen in person.
Fact 13: In 1939, the structure called “The Samson of the Cimarron” was built to span the Cimarron River. What sets this bridge apart is the fact that 3 bridges had previously collapsed while trying to tame the Cimarron. And it was only by building this mammoth 365 meters long beast, 35 meters above the water, that has let it survive as long as it has.
Fact 14: Kansas women were granted the right to vote in school district elections as early as 1861. By 1887, women were participating in municipal elections, and by 1912 Kansas had finally extended them equal voting rights, eight full years before the 19th amendment was ratified.
Fact 15: The first humans arrived in Kansas around 12,200 years ago. This was based on mammoth bones that archaeologists have dug up. The bones featured markings from human tools on them, a sign that humans had hunted the creatures.
Fact 16: In 1541, Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado became the first European to reach Kansas.
Fact 17: Coronado led a large expedition from Mexico to present-day Kansas through parts of the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542.
Fact 18: French explorers and fur traders arrived in the region during the 1700s.
Fact 19: France later took ownership of the territory in 1800, and sold it off to the United States in 1803, effectively becoming U.S. territory. This transaction was called the Louisiana Purchase.
Fact 20: Kansan man, Francis A. Johnson, rolled out a giant twine ball over the course of 29 years that eventually weighed a whopping 7893 kg!
Fact 21: Francis A. Johnson’s twine ball is now the world’s largest twine ball rolled by one man. Frank Stoeber created a ball that had 1.6 million feet of twine and 11-foot-diameter when he died in 1974. Cawker City built an open-air gazebo over Stoeber’s ball where every August a “Twine-a-thon” is held and more twine is added to the ball.
Fact 22: One of Kansas’ quirky roadside attractions is the Subterra Castle. The structure formerly served as an underground missile launch complex before being transformed into a modern, liveable home.
Fact 23: The lowest elevation in the entire state is on the River Verdigris on the Oklahoma border. It’s only 207 meters above sea level.
Fact 24: Kansas has a bizarre grassroots sculpture garden which is also the oldest intact folk art environment in the United States. The garden showcases political and religious-themed works.
Fact 25: Kansan woman, Hattie McDaniel, was the first black woman to win an Academy Award. She is best known for her role as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind (1939), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Fact 26: In 1889, Kansas inventor Almon Stoeger of El Dorado invented the dial telephone.
Fact 27: Kansas has a population density of only 13.5 people per square kilometer. For comparison, the state with the highest population density is the District of Columbia, where Washington D.C. is, with a population density of 4251 people per square kilometer. The state with the lowest population density is Alaska which averages less than one person per square kilometer. I bet that it would be a lovely and quiet place for me to do all my writing!
Fact 28: Omar Knedlik of Coffeyville invented the first frozen carbonated drink machine in 1961.
Fact 29: Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy sang about Kansas, blurting out that “there’s no place like home”. The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical fantasy film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Fact 30: The Wizard Of Oz is widely regarded to be one of the greatest films in cinema history, it is the most commercially successful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Fact 31: The average Kansan earns $56,422 a year. This places them in 31st position out of all the states for the average wage of the people living in the state. For comparison sake, West Virginia has the lowest average earnings of $43,469 per year.
Fact 32: Pizza Hut is an American restaurant chain and international franchise that was founded in 1958 in Wichita, Kansas by Dan and Frank Carney. The company is known for its Italian-American cuisine menu, including pizza and pasta, as well as side dishes and desserts.
Fact 33: Kansas became the setting for the 1965 best-selling novel “Cold Blood”. In Cold Blood is a non-fiction novel by American author Truman Capote, first published in 1966. The novel details the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas.
Fact 34: The first film theatre in Kansas was the Patee Theatre in Lawrence. Most theatres at the time only showed films as part of vaudeville acts but not as an exclusive and stand-alone form of entertainment.
Fact 35: There are currently 105 counties in the state of Kansas. That’s the fifth-highest total of any states in the United States of America. And oddly enough, if you have a look at a map of Kansas, you’ll notice that all of the counties are like tiny little squares and oblongs.
Fact 36: The largest county in Kansas is Butler County. It has an area of over 3699 km². For comparison sake, the next largest county is Finney county which has a total area of 3367 km², just over 30 km² less.
Fact 37: As of 2020, Kansas’ road network is 228,613 km long. To give you some idea of the size of this number, the entire United States has over 6,580,000 km of road crisscrossing the country. That’s a lot of tarmac!
Fact 38: Kansas’ railroad network amounts to over 7800 km of track. However, this is nothing compared to the United States total of 240,000 km.
Fact 39: The first permanent settlement of white Europeans and Americans in the future state of Kansas was in 1827 in a fort called Leavenworth.
Fact 40: Kansas shares a border with four other US States. They are Missouri on the east border, Colorado on the west border, Nebraska on the north border, and Oklahoma on the south border.
Fact 41: It’s generally accepted that Kansas has three types of climate. They are humid continental, humid subtropical, and semi arid.
Fact 42: Kansas has been known to receive up to 1200 mm of rain every year.
Fact 43: It’s often cited that the the American Civil War was caused by the Kansas Nebraska act of 1854. The reason why is because the act caused fighting to break out between different settlers over whether slavery should be legal or not.
Fact 44: John Carmack, the maker of classic games such as Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein 3D grew up in Shawnee Mission in Kansas.
Fact 45: The popular book and film The Wizard of Oz is set in Kansas.
Fact 46: Several Native American tribes call Kansas home. These tribes include the Wichita, Arapaho, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Kiowa-Apache, Kiowa, Arikara, and the famous Comanche.
Fact 47: During the American Civil War Kansas fought for the Unionists of the north.
Fact 48: According to ancestry studies in the state of Kansas the population is broken up into 83.8% white American, 5.9% black African-American, 1% American Indian or Alaskan, 2.4% Asian-American, 3.0% of all races ,and 0.1% native Hawaiian.
Fact 49: Annette Carol Bening, famous actress, was born in Topeka, Kansas.
Fact 50: In 2003, Kansas was famously, and jokingly, described as being “flatter than a pancake”. However, Kansas is not that flat. In fact, it’s only the 23rd flattest state when measured between its highest and lowest point from sea level.
Fact 51: State of Kansas has a gross domestic product of around 155 billion US dollars. For comparison, the entire United States has a gross domestic product of 19.4 trillion US dollars. That means that Kansas only accounts for 1/250th of the US economy.
Fact 52: The smallest county in Kansas by area is Wyandotte county. It only has an area of 391 km². It got its name from a Native American tribe called the Wyandotte.
Fact 53: Bob Dole, a former Republican presidential candidate, launched his political career as the senator for Kansas.
Fact 54: Kansas has the fourth-highest amount of tornadoes out of all of the states.
Fact 55: During the American Civil War more soldiers from Kansas were killed than from any other state.
Fact 56: The state of Kansas has a number of nicknames. These include the Wheat State, the Jayhawker State, the Sunflower State, which is its official nickname, and the Free State.
Fact 57: A number of animals and plants are used to represent the state of Kansas. These include a barred tiger salamander, a bird called the western meadowlark, a flower called the wild sunflower, a grass called little bluestem, a western honeybee, an American bison, a reptile called an ornate Box turtle, and a tree called planes Cottonwood.
Fact 58: Kansas’ largest county, by population, is Johnson County. It has a total population of 559,913 people.
Fact 59: Contrary to popular belief, Chicago is not the windiest city in America. Dodge City in Kansas statistically, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data is the windiest city in America.
Fact 60: Kansas has a soccer team called Sporting Kansas City who play in the US Major League Soccer league. They play in a light blue kit, and the only silver where they have ever one was the major league soccer cup in 2013.
Fact 61: Curving and swirling for nearly 800 km through the western and southern parts of Kansas, the Kansas River is the longest watercourse in the state.
Fact 62: The famous western song ‘Home On The Range’ is Kansas’ unofficial anthem.
Fact 63: With a total area of 63.5 km, Milford lake, or otherwise known as Milford reservoir, is the largest lake in Kansas. The lake, which is 350 m above sea level, is damed by the Milford dam which gives the lake a maximum depth of 30 m.
Fact 64: Across the world, Kansas has been given the nickname ‘The world’s breadbasket” because of its massive production of wheat.
Fact 65: In Kansas, the town of Milan is less than 25 miles northwest of the town of Rome, in Sumner County. Whereas, the real city of Milan, in Italy, is 300 miles northwest of the capital of Italy, Rome.
Fact 66: Kansas is the most centrally located state in the United States and is home to the geographic center of the United States. The center can be found 19 km south of the Kansas Nebraska border, near the town of Lebanon. If you started two people walking at the same time, at the same pace, from this point in Kansas, one walking west and walking one east, one would reach the Pacific Ocean and one would reach the Atlantic Ocean at exactly the same time as each other.
Fact 67: Kansas produces the most wheat out of all of the states within the US. That’s about 1/5 of all of the wheat growing in the United States and equals about 8,500,000 acres of land dedicated to growing the cereal.
Fact 68: Size-wise, Kansas, comparable to other countries, is about the same size as Guyana in South America.
Fact 69: The state’s Northwestern boundary with the state of Missouri is defined by the Missouri River for nearly 121 km.
Fact 70: Classic works of literature that were set in Kansas include Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novel ‘Little House On The Prairie’ and Truman Capote’s true-crime tale ‘In Cold Blood’.
Fact 71: Kansas is prone to extremely severe weather in early summer. This includes extremely large thunderstorms that can drop hailstones the size of golf balls and set many tornadoes twisting through towns. In fact, Kansas produces on average 50 tornadoes a year and many of them have a strength factor of EF3 or higher. On the EF scale, EF1 is a really weak tornado and EF5 are huge tornadoes that can be almost 2 km across.
Fact 72: The smallest county in Kansas by population is Greeley County. It only has a population of 1298 people even though its area is a huge 2015 km². That way more than 1 km² per person in the county. Additionally, Greeley County is famous for a person called Horace Greeley, the person the county is named after. Horace was a publisher for the New York Tribune newspaper and a strong antislavery advocate.
Fact 73: The official motto for Kansas, in Latin, is ‘ad Astra per Aspara’. In English, this means ‘To the stars through difficulties’.
Fact 74: Kansas is a state of temperature extremes. In 1936 a record high temperature of 49.4°C was recorded near Alton in Osborne County. The lowest recorded temperature was made in 1905 near Lebanon in Smith County. It was -40°C. That’s a swing of nearly 90°C.
Fact 75: There are over 600 towns within the state of Kansas.