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Kansas Economic History


Picture of Kansas
Picture of Kansas

Kansas remained a homeland for Native Americans until the 1850s, although many thousands of European-American migrants passed through the region on overland routes to the West and Southwest. After the Kansas region was opened to non-Native American settlement in 1854, farming and commerce developed as the chief economic activities. Beginning in the following decade, railroads brought hordes of land-hungry settlers to the state and established depots that became the famous cow towns on the Chisholm Trail and other cattle trails from Texas. By the end of the 19th century, Kansas was a cattle producer in its own right and an important wheat-growing state. Agriculture, with an emphasis on wheat production, remained the principal economic activity until the 1940s. Mining developed as a major activity during the early decades of the 20th century, but manufacturing remained in large part concentrated on the processing of agricultural products. In the 1940s, spurred by the demands of World War II (1939-1945) and a government decision to place war industries away from coastal areas, the state’s industrial plants greatly increased in number and productivity.

Transportation equipment became the state’s most valuable manufactured product. By the mid-1950s, manufacturing had joined agriculture to become one of the two leading economic activities in Kansas. In the mid-1990s manufacturing contributed four times the value to the gross state product as did agriculture.

There were 1,431,000 workers in Kansas in 2008. The largest share of them, 35 percent, were in services such as hospitals and restaurants.

Another 19 percent were in wholesale or retail trade; 19 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 13 percent in manufacturing; 4 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; 16 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 19 percent in transportation or public utilities; 5 percent in construction; and 0.7 percent in mining. In 2007, 7 percent of the workers in Kansas were members of a labor union. "Kansas" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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