The Wichita, Kansas reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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Wichita, Kansas

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Wichita, the Air Capital, is the largest city in Kansas, as well as a major manufacturing hub and cultural center. It is located in South Central Kansas, and is the county seat of Sedgwick County6. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 344,284.

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 Demographics
3 History
4 Notable Natives


Wichita is located at 37°41'20" North, 97°20'10" West (37.688848, -97.336226)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 359.8 km² (138.9 mi²). 351.6 km² (135.8 mi²) of it is land and 8.2 km² (3.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 2.29% water.

The Arkansas and the Little Arkansas rivers run through and meet in Wichita. It was founded at this location precisely because it lay on this confluence. The Arkansas river runs on to Tulsa, Oklahoma where it becomes navigable by large boats.


As of the census of 2000, there are 344,284 people, 139,087 households, and 87,763 families residing in the city. The population density is 979.2/km² (2,536.1/mi²). There are 152,119 housing units at an average density of 432.7/km² (1,120.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 75.20% White, 11.42% African American, 1.16% Native American, 3.96% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 5.10% from other races, and 3.10% from two or more races. 9.62% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 139,087 households out of which 32.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.3% are married couples living together, 11.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 36.9% are non-families. 31.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.44 and the average family size is 3.10.

In the city the population is spread out with 27.1% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 33 years. For every 100 females there are 97.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 94.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $39,939, and the median income for a family is $49,247. Males have a median income of $36,457 versus $25,844 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,647. 11.2% of the population and 8.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 14.4% are under the age of 18 and 7.6% are 65 or older.


A thorough writeup can be found at

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 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 this people had moved south to Oklahoma, where they were encountered by 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 Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) member Carrie Nation decided to carry her crusade against alcohol to Wichita. On December 27th of that year she entered the Carey House bar in downtown Wichita and smashed the place up 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 oil money, in turn, allowed local entrepreneurs to invest in a nascent airplane industry in the 1920's. 43 Swallow airplanes were built in Wichita between 1920 and 1923. This was the first airplane made specifically for production. Lloyd Stearman, Clyde Cessna, and Walter Beech were all employees of the Swallow company. 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, a predecessor of the Boeing Company was founded in Wichita, as were Beech Aircraft (now part of Raytheon), Cessna Aircraft, and LearJet (now Bombardier). It remains a major manufacturing center for the aircraft industry today, with all of these and Airbus Industrie having major centers there still. Hence its nickname: "The Air Capital". It has also been a significant entrepreneurial business center during the postwar period, with Coleman, Mentholatum, Pizza Hut, White Castle, and Koch Industries having all been founded in Wichita.

The first complete recording made by the famous jazz musician Charlie "Bird" Parker occurred in 1940 at the Trocadero Ballroom in Wichita. During the 1950's and early 1960's Wichita had a significant "Beat" movement. Information on this can be found at The Wichita Jazz Festival remains a significant annual event on the jazz calendar to this day.

An informative collection of historical photographs of Wichita can be found at

Notable Natives

Actresses Kirstie Alley and Hattie McDaniel, actors Don Johnson and Sidney Toler, announcer John Cameron Swayze, television hosts Jeff Probst and Jim Lehrer, journalist Susan Page, football star Barry Sanders, basketball stars Lynette Woodard and Antoine Carr, Olympic medalist Jim Ryun, golfer Judy Bell, America's Cup winner Bill Koch, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, Ambassador to the Organization of American States Roger Noriega, marine geologist Robert Ballard, Nobel Prize winner Vernon L. Smith, X-Ray astronomer Leon van Speybroeck, author Deb Stover, industrialists Walter Beech, William Leer, and Bob Helms, jazz musician Stan Kenton, and rock musician Joe Walsh are all natives of Wichita.