Kansas, state in the western part of the central United States. Kansas is usually designated as a Midwestern state. However, it is commonly referred to as a plains state, and sections are often considered part of the Southwest or West. Such variations in terminology reflect the fact that Kansas does not belong wholly to one region and is an area of diversified relief, climate, economy, and patterns of settlement. The landscape of the east, with its hills, woodlands, grain-and-livestock farms, and comparatively large cities, contrasts sharply with the dry treeless plains and vast wheat farms of the sparsely populated west. In addition, the High Plains of the west include areas of canyon country and sand dunes reminiscent of New Mexico and other parts of the Southwest, while the rolling grasslands of the Flint and Smoky hills, in central Kansas, resemble the rangelands of the West. Kansas entered the Union on January 29, 1861, as the 34th state. Topeka is the capital of Kansas. Wichita is the largest city.
Kansas, which has been called the Wheat State and the Breadbasket of the Nation, leads all other states in production of wheat. However, wheat dominates neither the landscape nor the economy of Kansas. The sale of livestock, especially beef cattle, provides a larger percentage of annual farm income than the sale of wheat. Moreover, manufacturing and service industries are far more valuable to the state’s economy than agriculture. The state is named for the Kansas River, which, in turn, was named for the Kansa people, who once inhabited northeastern Kansas. The word Kansas means “people of the south wind.” The nickname preferred by most Kansans is the Sunflower State.
The helianthus, or native wild sunflower, grows profusely throughout Kansas and is the official state flower. Kansas is also referred to as the Jayhawk or Jayhawker state. The origin and meaning of the term “Jayhawker” are disputed. In Kansas it was used at the beginning of the American Civil War (1861-1865) to refer to the bands of guerrillas and irregular troops that were active along the Kansas-Missouri border. The name was taken up by some regular troops in Kansas. Eventually it became a nickname for all Kansans. Until Alaska and Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959, the geographical center of the United States was located near Lebanon in Kansas. Although the center subsequently shifted to North Dakota, Kansas is still recognized as the site of the geographical center of the coterminous United States, that is, of all the states except Alaska and Hawaii. The geodetic center (which takes into account the curvature of the earth’s surface) of the United States is located at Meades Ranch Triangulation Station in Osborne County in north central Kansas. The station serves as the basic reference point for all government mapping undertaken in the United States (except in Hawaii), Canada, and Mexico. Selected in 1901, it has also served as the geodetic center of North America since 1913. Encarta © "United States" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
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