Skip Navigation, Go To Header
Click to skip to Meet Here navigation item
Click to skip to Plan Your Trip navigation item
Click to skip to Blog navigation item
Click to skip to About navigation item
Click to skip to Search navigation item

Wichita History

Past, Present & Future

Wichita is Kansas' largest city filled with significant aviation and western heritage, arts and culture, entrepreneurs, festivals, and places to dine, shop, and play. The city is also noted for its breathtaking sunsets, beautiful weather, friendly residents, remarkable affordability, and ease of getting around.

Once you discover Wichita's rich history, everything it has to offer now and in the near future, you'll find yourself in Wichita!

Wichita's History

Wichita served as a trading center and meeting place for 11,000 years for nomadic people, but it wasn't until 1863 that the first permanent settlement of Wichita Indians was recorded. Shortly after, J.R. Mead became the first white settler when he opened a trading post, and established the area as a base for the Chisholm Trail.

By 1870, Wichita was incorporated as a city, and a destination for cattle drives from Texas from whence it derived its nickname, "Cowtown." When the cattle trade moved west to take advantage of the construction of rail lines, Wichita fell on hard times. However, the city bounced back in the 1890s as grain began to more than equal the wealth formerly brought by cattle to become a trade and milling center.

The population of Wichita nearly doubled in 1918 after a great oil reserve was discovered nearby. In turn, the oil money allowed local entrepreneurs to invest in the up and coming airplane industry. Men like Lloyd Stearman, Walter Beech, and Clyde Cessna brought the industry to the area, and during World War II it was the major manufacturing center for airplanes needed in the war effort. Wichita remains the center for the aircraft industry, the "Air Capital of the World," producing 70% of U.S. general aviation aircraft.

The entrepreneurial spirit of those great pioneers continued to thrive in Wichita with other businesses like Coleman, White Castle, Pizza Hut, Big Dog Motorcycles, and Koch Industries.

Wichita Today

Today, Wichita has grown into an eclectic city with some of the greatest arts and entertainment in the Midwest. It is a destination with something for everyone!

Experience what Wichita is best known for, its western heritage. Enjoy great western family entertainment and all-you-can-eat Bar-B-Que at the Diamond W Chuckwagon Supper featuring the Diamond W Wranglers and step back in time and explore America's most authentic "Old West" town at Old Cowtown Museum, an outdoor, living history museum. 

The city also attracts the talents of famous artists including Pavarotti and Broadway productions. Discover the talents of local and national artists at the Music Theatre of WichitaWichita Grand Opera, and the Wichita Symphony Society. You can also take in the significant works of public art located throughout city along with an internationally-renowned collection of American art at the Wichita Art Museum.

Wichita is home to one of the country's top zoos, the Sedgwick County Zoo, with 2,500 animals of nearly 500 different species. The animals are not the only great attraction in Wichita, the museums are also world-class. Encounter hands-on exhibits at Exploration Place, the city's premier science center, or explore the history of the world at the Museum of World Treasures. Take a stroll through the fragrant gardens of Botanica, the Wichita Gardens. Delve into the "Air Capital's" rich aviation history at the Kansas Aviation Museum or uncover the wonderful heritage at the Kansas African American Museum and the Mid-American All-Indian Museum including the city's symbol, the Keeper of the Plains. The Keeper represents the city's Indian heritage and was part of a riverfront beautification project that now elevates the newly restored sculpture.

Wichita Highlights