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Museum - Settling the Frontier Exhibit

Settling the Frontier section in the main gallery of the Kansas Museum of History

Discover how Kansas became the nation's breadbasket at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka.

 You'll see:

Settlers poured onto the Kansas plains after the Civil War, lured by the promise of cheap land.

Most of these settlers were farmers, and they quickly established the region's agricultural identity. Many planted corn, a crop from the humid eastern regions they called home. They also experimented with other crops, even cotton, but with limited success.

Plow designed and manufactured by a Kansan.Over the years, a combination of forces eventually caused Kansas farmers to switch to wheat. Railroads played an important role. Anxious to sell land to farmers who would ship grain on their lines, they mounted huge advertising campaigns and even sent agents to recruit emigrants who quickly settled in what would become the state's major wheat-producing regions. Their great success with wheat convinced other farmers to try it. 

Farmers found that wheat grew very well in the state, and Kansas soon became the leading wheat producer it is today. Kansas plants more acres and harvests more bushels than any other U. S. state. Although the majority of the state's population lives in urban areas, most of its land is used for farming and ranching.

"I was fascinated by the harvest and wild to be part of it. I drove my family to distraction with my insistence that I be taken out to the field and allowed to ride on the combine or in the truck, which is a terribly distracting-and dangerous-factor for men who have serious business on their minds. I would have spent the entire day, every day, out in the fields if the grown-ups had let me and whenever I first arrived in the field I'd throw dirt up in the air over my head in an attempt to get as dusty as the harvest crew."-- James Dickenson, Home on the Range: A Century on the High Plains, 1995

Learn more in the online exhibit Wheat People: Celebrating Kansas Harvest.