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Fun City Facts
A marker on the 13th step of the Colorado capital building in Denver, Colorado is precisely 1 mile above sea level.

The oldest carousel in the United States is located in the resort town of Watch Hill, Rhode Island.
Features and Fun City Facts


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City History
Historic People


City History

The site on the two rivers has served as a trading center for nomadic peoples for the last 11,000 years. The area was visited by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1541, while he was in search of the fabulous "cities of gold." While there, he encountered a group of Indians whom he called Quiviras and who have been identified by archeological and historical studies as Wichita Indians. By 1719 these people had moved south to Oklahoma, where they met French traders. The first permanent settlement in Wichita was a collection of grass houses inhabited by the Wichita Indians in 1863. They had moved back to Wichita from Oklahoma during the Civil War due to their pro-Union sentiments. The city was officially incorporated in 1870. Shortly thereafter it became a railhead destination for cattle drives from Texas and other southwestern points, from whence it has derived its nickname of "Cowtown."

Wichita reached national fame in 1900 when Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) member Carrie Nation decided to carry her crusade against alcohol to Wichita. On December 27 of that year she entered the Carey House bar in downtown Wichita and smashed the place with a rock and a pool ball. She had visited all the bars in Wichita the night before and demanded that they close their doors. However, the painting by John Noble of Cleopatra at the Roman Bath in the Carey House had drawn her particular wrath.

In 1914-1915, oil was discovered nearby and Wichita became a major oil center. The money derived from oil allowed local entrepreneurs to invest in a nascent airplane industry. In 1917, the first plane, the Cessna Comet, was manufactured in Wichita. Forty-three Swallows, the first airplanes made specifically for production, were built in Wichita between 1920 and 1923. This industry, coinciding with Wichita as a test center for new aviation, established Wichita as the "Air Capital." Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech were employees of the Swallow company, but in January 1925 they left Swallow Aircraft and teamed up with Clyde Cessna to form Travel Air. Lloyd Stearman left the company in 1926 to start Stearman Aircraft in Venice, California. Cessna quit in January 1927 to start Cessna. Stearman would only be gone from Wichita for a year before returning.

Travel Air with Walter Beech at the helm grew to the point of employing over 600 workers and working in a huge factory complex constructed from 1927 to 1929. Employing so many workers at such a large complex and being a few miles outside the city limits it was tagged "Travel Air City" by Wichita residents. The company merged with the huge Curtis Wright Corporation in the Roaring Twenties' heyday of company buyouts and takeovers just two months before the Stock Market crash in 1929. Workers were laid off by the hundreds during 1930 and more so in 1931. By the fall of 1932 all workers were let go in Wichita, equipment was sold and the entire Travel Air plant sat empty.

In March 1932 Walter quit Curtis Wright to form Beech Aircraft with his wife Olive Ann and hired Ted Wells as his chief engineer. The first four or five "Beechcraft" were built in the vacant Cessna Aircraft plant which was also closed during the depression. Beech later leased and then bought the Travel Air plant from Curtis Wright and men, machinery, and an airplane or two were moved from the Cessna plant. The first aircraft was the Model 17, later dubbed the "Staggerwing" which was first flown on November 5, 1932. The aircraft that would propel the small company into a huge corporation was the Model 18 "Twin Beech," of which thousands were built from 1937 to 1969. The Staggerwing production ended in 1946 with approximately 750 built and a few more assembled from parts in 1947. The Staggerwing production was replaced by the Beechcraft Bonanza, although there are still nearly 100 Staggerwings in existence, most in usable condition.

The city experienced a population explosion during World War II when it became a major manufacturing center for airplanes needed in the war effort. By 1945, 4.2 bombers were being produced daily in Wichita. Stearman Aircraft, later purchased by the Boeing Company, was founded in Wichita, as were Beech Aircraft (now called Hawker Beechcraft), Cessna Aircraft, and LearJet (now Bombardier). The city remains a major manufacturing center for the aircraft industry today, with all of these and Airbus still having major centers there, hence its nickname: "The Air Capital."

Wichita was also a significant entrepreneurial business center during the pre and post-war period, with Coleman, Mentholatum, Pizza Hut, White Castle, and Koch Industries having all been founded in Wichita. Ironically, White Castle closed all of their restaurants in Wichita in 1938 and has not operated in the state of Kansas after a failed revival attempt in the Kansas City area in the early 1990s. The entrepreneurial spirit of Wichita led to the creation one of the first academic centers to study and support entrepreneurship at The Wichita State University, Center for Entrepreneurship.

Recent history has seen development downtown and the East and West sides. Sedgwick County Voters recently approved a sales tax raise to build a new arena downtown to replace the aging Kansas Coliseum. This is considered by many a stepping stone to launch new development downtown.

Historic Figures

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (1848–1929)



Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (1848–1929)
Wyatt Earp was an American farmer, teamster, sometime buffalo hunter, officer of the law in various Western frontier towns, gambler, saloon-keeper, and miner. He is best known for his participation in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, along with Doc Holliday, and two of his brothers, Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp. Wyatt Earp has become an iconic figure in American folk history. He is the major subject of various movies, TV shows, biographies and works of fiction.

April 17, 2014

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