What has Kansas become well-known for in 160 years?

Tim Hrenchir
Pratt Tribune
Sunflowers grow wild in every county of Kansas, surviving weather extremes and showcasing the glory of endurance.

"There's no place like home," Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale says in the classic film "The Wizard of Oz," and Kansans tend to feel the same way about their state.

As Kansas celebrates its 160th anniversary Friday, here are 10 things for which the state has become known:

1. 'The Wizard of Oz'

"I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," Dorothy tells her little dog, Toto, in this film after a tornado leaves them in the magical land of Oz. Some Kansans object to the film's portrayal of life in Kansas as being dull. Others stress that the film's focus is Dorothy's desire to return home, according to the Kansas State Historical Society.

2. Tornadoes

A memorable tornado sequence in "The Wizard of Oz" helped cement Kansas' reputation as a tornado-ridden state. Actually, Kansas ranks third in the nation in tornadoes per 100 square miles, with Oklahoma and Florida being first and second, respectively, according to the National Weather Service.

3. Agriculture

Farming has long been a part of Kansas life, with one of its nicknames being "the Wheat State." Kansas continues to enjoy a reputation as the nation's leading wheat producer and the "breadbasket of the world," according to the Kansas State Historical Society.

4. Native Americans

This state has long been associated with the Native Americans who lived here first. Kansas is named after the Kansa Indians, with its name roughly translating from their language as "People of the South Wind." "Ad Astra," a statue of a Kansa warrior pointing his bow and arrow toward the North Star, stands atop the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. 

5. Sunflowers

"The Sunflower State" is Kansas' most popular nickname, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. Lawmakers adopted the sunflower as Kansas' state flower in 1903, expressing appreciation for its heartiness and endurance as well as the fact that it tracks the motion of the sun by turning its face as the day progresses.

6. The Jayhawk

Early residents seeking to have Kansas admitted to the Union as a Free State were known as "Jayhawkers," a word that combined the names of the blue jay and the sparrow hawk, according to the University of Kansas website. The name "Jayhawk" was then given to the mythical bird that continues today to be the mascot of the University of Kansas.

7. The Buffalo

The American Bison, also known as the Buffalo, became the official state animal of Kansas in 1955, according to the state's historical society. Early settlers found millions of bison roaming the Great Plains, but widespread hunting decimated the population to the point where only an estimated 500 were left in the U.S. by the 1900s. Breeding and protection programs have since helped the species make a comeback.

8. Bleeding Kansas

This state was born amid violent circumstances. It became known as "Bleeding Kansas" as deadly conflict erupted between people who wanted it to be a slave state and people who wanted it to be a free state. About 56 people on both sides were killed over the slavery issue here between 1854 and 1861, according to the state's historical society.

9. Brown v. Board of Education

A lawsuit filed in Topeka became the focal point of the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision, which ended school segregation in the U.S. The Topeka suit was combined with lawsuits from the District of Columbia and four other states to form the case that ended segregation. Topeka serves today as the home of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.

10. Center of the continental U.S.

Kansas has long been part of this nation's heartland. The geographic center of the continental United States is located near Lebanon in Smith County in the north-central part of the state. A marker commemorating that was put up there in 1940, according to the state's historical society.