Wichita in Kansas began life as a trading post in the 1860’s and was incorporated as far back as 1870. It became a key stopping-off point for cowboys driving cattle from Texas to railroads further north which is why its’ nickname is Cowtown.
Across the Arkansas river in Delano there were many saloons and brothels to keep the cowboys entertained and the town earned a name for fights and lawlessness until local lawmen – including Wyatt Earp – put a stop to them.
The name Wichita is that of native Indians first discovered by a Spanish explorer in 1541: they were also known as the Quivira people.
In 1914 and 1915 oil and gas deposits were found in Butler County close by, and by the 1920’s there were twelve refineries operating in the area
Wichita also became known for its aircraft manufacturing, with Clyde Cessna building the first Cessna Comet in 1917. The Swallow Airplane Company was formed in 1917 and two of its’ early employees, Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech both went on to found their own aircraft manufacturing businesses. In 1929 Wichita was named “aircraft capital of the world” by the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce. Boeing
(www.boeing.com) also established a major plant there where it manufactured the Boeing B-29 bomber during the Second World War.
As a result of all the aircraft manufacturing, the local airport, now named Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, became the largest in Kansas.
In 1889 A. A. Hyde founded Mentholatum and sports goods manufacturer Coleman began in the early 1900’s. Wichita is also home to Pizza Hut which began in 1958.
The Wichita Art Museum is the largest in Kansas and contains no less than 7,000 works of art of varying descriptions. Many other smaller art galleries are to be found in Old Town, Delano, and South Commerce Street, and it was these that started the Final Friday Gallery Crawl which enables visitors to tour them for free on the last Friday of the month.
Wichita has suffered from many floods, including during 1944 when it was flooded three times in 11 days. This was when the Wichita-Valley Center Floodway was conceived and it is known locally as “The Big Ditch”.
Among famous people who were born or lived in Wichita are Rick Mears who won the Indianapolis 500 on four occasions, Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, Bill Lear of Lear Jet, Walter Beech and Olive Beech (Beech Aircraft Company), and Dan and Frank Carney (Pizza Hut).