Spanish explorer Francisco de Coronado, in 1541, is considered the first European to have traveled this region. Sieur de la Salle's extensive land claims for France (1682) included present-day Kansas. Ceded to Spain by France in 1763, the territory reverted to France in 1800 and was sold to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, and Stephen H. Long explored the region between 1803 and 1819. The first permanent white settlements in Kansas were outpostsâ€”Fort Leavenworth (1827), Fort Scott (1842), and Fort Riley (1853)â€”established to protect travelers along the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails.
Today, wheat fields, oil-well derricks, herds of cattle, and grain-storage elevators are chief features of the Kansas landscape. A leading wheat-growing state, Kansas also raises corn, sorghum, oats, barley, soybeans, and potatoes. Kansas stands high in petroleum production and mines zinc, coal, salt, and lead. It is also the nation's leading producer of helium.
Wichita is one of the nation's leading aircraft-manufacturing centers, ranking first in production of private aircraft. Kansas City is an important transportation, milling, and meat-packing center.
Points of interest include the Kansas History Center at Topeka, the Eisenhower boyhood home and the Eisenhower Memorial Museum and Presidential Library at Abilene, John Brown's cabin at Osawatomie, re-created Front Street in Dodge City, Fort Larned (an important military post on the Santa Fe Trail), Fort Leavenworth, and Fort Riley.
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Selected famous natives and residents:
- Roscoe â€œFattyâ€ Arbuckle actor;
- Clarence D. Batchelor political cartoonist;
- Gwendolyn Brooks poet;
- Walter P. Chrysler auto manufacturer;
- Clark M. Clifford secretary of defense;
- John Steuart Curry painter;
- Charles Curtis vice president;
- Robert Dole senator;
- Aaron Douglas painter;
- Amelia Earhart aviator;
- Dwight D. Eisenhower general and president;
- Milton S. Eisenhower educator;
- Gary Hart politician;
- William Inge playwright;
- Walter Johnson baseball pitcher;
- Osa L. Johnson documentary film producer;
- Buster Keaton comedian;
- Emmett Kelly clown;
- Stan Kenton jazz musician;
- James Lehrer broadcast journalist;
- Edgar Lee Masters poet;
- Hattie McDaniel actress;
- Karl Menninger psychiatrist;
- Gordon Parks film director;
- ZaSu Pitts actress;
- Samuel Ramey opera singer;
- Charles Robinson statesman and first governor;
- Charles (Buddy) Rogers actor;
- Damon Runyon journalist;
- Gale Sayers football player;
- Eugene W. Smith photojournalist;
- Milburn Stone actor;
- John Cameron Swayze news commentator;
- William Allen White journalist;
- Charles E. Whittaker jurist;
- Jess Willard boxer.
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