Wichita is a city in south-central Kansas, located on the banks of the Arkansas River. It is the largest city in the state, with a population of about 397,000 people as of 2020. Wichita has a rich history and a diverse culture, and is known as the “Air Capital of the World” for its prominent role in the aviation industry.
History of Wichita
Wichita was founded in 1864 as a trading post on the site of a village of the Wichita Indians. The name Wichita comes from the Native American word “Wichita”, meaning “scattered lodges” or “painted faces”. Wichita was a stopover on the Chisholm Trail, a route used by cattle drivers from Texas to Kansas in the late 19th century. Wichita became a major cattle-shipping center after the railroad reached the city in 1872.
Wichita also witnessed some of the events of the Wild West, such as the gunfight at the Long Branch Saloon in 1871, where Wyatt Earp killed a man named George Hoyt. In 1875, farmers’ fences blocked the movement of cattle herds, but Wichita found a new source of prosperity in the grain trade.
In the early 20th century, Wichita became a center of meatpacking and oil production. However, the most significant development for the city was the emergence of the aviation industry. In 1917, the first airplane factory in Wichita was established by Clyde Cessna, a pioneer of aircraft design and manufacturing. Soon, other aviation companies followed, such as Beechcraft, Boeing, Learjet, and Stearman. Wichita earned the nickname of the “Air Capital of the World” for producing more than half of the world’s general aviation aircraft by the 1930s.
Wichita also played a role in the civil rights movement, as it was the site of the first sit-in by African Americans at an all-white lunch counter in July 1958, four years before the famous Greensboro sit-ins. The NAACP recognized this event as a milestone in the struggle for racial equality.
Culture of Wichita
Wichita is a city that celebrates its heritage and diversity. It has more than 30 museums, 21 live theaters, 30 art galleries, and 11 shopping districts. Some of the notable attractions include:
- The Wichita Art Museum, which houses the largest collection of American art in Kansas, featuring works by Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, and others.
- The Old Cowtown Museum, which recreates the life and atmosphere of a 19th-century frontier town, with original and replica buildings, exhibits, and live demonstrations.
- The Sedgwick County Zoo, which is the seventh-largest zoo in the United States, with more than 3,000 animals and 400 species, including the third-largest elephant exhibit in the country.
- The Exploration Place, which is a science and discovery center that offers interactive exhibits, a planetarium, a simulation theater, and a miniature golf course.
- The Museum of World Treasures, which displays a variety of artifacts from ancient civilizations, world history, and popular culture, such as Egyptian mummies, dinosaur fossils, and movie memorabilia.
Wichita is also a city that loves festivals and events. Some of the annual events that draw thousands of visitors and locals include:
- The Wichita River Festival, which is a nine-day celebration of the city’s river heritage, featuring concerts, fireworks, parades, races, and other activities.
- The Tallgrass Film Festival, which is the largest independent film festival in Kansas, showcasing more than 200 films from around the world, as well as workshops, panels, and parties.
- The Wichita Jazz Festival, which is one of the longest-running jazz festivals in the country, presenting local and national jazz artists, as well as educational programs and competitions.
- The Midwest Beerfest, which is a two-day event that offers beer tastings, food pairings, seminars, and a grand tasting with more than 300 beers from over 60 breweries.
Wichita is also a city that boasts some famous personalities and inventions. Some of the notable people who were born or lived in Wichita include:
- Kirstie Alley, actress and comedian, best known for her role as Rebecca Howe in the sitcom Cheers.
- Barry Sanders, former NFL running back and Hall of Famer, who played for the Detroit Lions and won the Heisman Trophy in 1988.
- Dan and Frank Carney, brothers and founders of Pizza Hut, the world’s largest pizza chain, which started as a small restaurant in Wichita in 1958.
- Billy Walters, inventor of Mentholatum, a popular ointment for colds and headaches, which he discovered in 1894 in the current The Spice Merchant & Company building.
- Gage Brewer, musician and innovator, who played the first electric guitar in 1932 at the Shadowland Ballroom in Wichita.
Wichita is a city that has a lot to offer to its residents and visitors. It is a city that has a rich history, a diverse culture, and a prominent role in the aviation industry. It is a city that is proud of its past, present, and future. It is a city that is worth exploring and discovering. It is Wichita: the Air Capital of the World.