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.

Today, Wichita is Kansas' largest city filled with significant aviation and western heritage, arts and culture, entrepreneurs and places to dine, shop, and play. As we celebrate Wichita’s sesquicentennial, take a look back at some important dates in the city’s history.

1863 - First permanent settlement of Wichita Indians recorded. James R. Mead first came to the area with the first noted African American to the area, known only in history as Buckner.

Texas Cattle Fording Arkansas River at Wichita
Credit: Wichita State University Libraries

1868 - J.R. Mead opened a trading post and established the area as a base for the Chisholm Trail.

1870 - Wichita was incorporated as a city and became known as ‘Cowtown’ for its cattle drives. The only woman to sign the incorporation document was Catherine McCarty, whose son would go on to infamy under the moniker “Billy the Kid.” One African American man, Richard Robinson, also signed the document.

1872 - The Wichita Eagle and The Wichita Daily Beacon newspapers begin publication.

1874-1876 - Wyatt Earp, the legendary lawman of Dodge City and Tombstone, served as Wichita city policeman off and on between these years. When it came to settling disputes, Earp preferred words to gunplay during his years in Wichita.

Gone With The Wind featuring McDaniel & de Havilland & Leigh

1893 - Hattie McDaniel, the first African American actress to win an Oscar, was born in Wichita.

Carrie Nation Statue
Credit: Wichita State University Libraries

1900 - Temperance activist Carry Nation smashes the Hotel Carey saloon in downtown Wichita.

Mentholatum Building 1928
Credit: Edgar B. Smith, Wichita Public Library

1910s - Founded in the 1890s, A.A. Hyde's Salve Mentholatum Company constructed its headquarters in the 1910s in Wichita. Today it houses The Spice Merchant & Co.

Cessna Airplane at Wilson Field Skyway Inn 1946
Credit: Wichita State University Libraries

1916 - Clyde Cessna signed a contract to start manufacturing planes in Kansas. Since this time, the Wichita area has pioneered aviation and manufacturing.

1918 - Oil reserves were discovered and the population nearly doubled. Entrepreneurs began investing in the aviation industry.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Allen House in Wichita

1918 - The Frank Lloyd Wright Allen House was completed in 1918 for newspaper publisher Henry Allen, who went on to become governor of Kansas and a U.S. senator. Now, the house operates as a museum to showcase an important Wright prairie house.

1921 - The country’s first White Castle begins operations in Wichita.

1935 - The city's first airport, Wichita Municipal - ICT, was dedicated on March 31 and an upper control tower was added in 1941. Mary VanScyoc was the nation’s first female air traffic control operator, who began working in the tower in 1944.

1937 - Gage Brewer and his brother Charles opened a club that became a Wichita institution, “Shadowland.” One of Brewer’s major contributions to the regional music scene in the early 1930s was introducing and promoting the electric guitar.

A birds-eye view of Doc, the B-29 Superfortress in its hangar in Wichita KS
Credit: MeLinda Schnyder

1940s - Already known as the Air Capital of the World, producing 67 percent of the U.S. general aviation aircraft, Wichita became a major manufacturing center for thousands of B-29s, including Doc, which has a permanent home at the B-29 Doc Hangar & Education Center. Wichita was a destination for nearly every aviation luminary of the times. Charles Lindbergh, Kansas’ own Amelia Earhart and many other celebrities flew into Wichita Municipal. It has been told that Fred Astaire once entertained fellow passengers by dancing in the  airport's beautiful atrium while awaiting a flight.

Kansas Aviation Museum

1944 - In its heyday, Wichita's first airport - now the Kansas Aviation Museum - was one of the busiest airports in the nation with a take-off or landing occurred every 90 seconds.

Pizza Hut Museum in Wichita

1958 - Wichita’s entrepreneurial spirit continued with created of businesses such as Pizza Hut. The original building, now The Original Pizza Hut Museum, is open to visitors and sits on Wichita State University’s campus.

Dockum Store Sit-in Sculpture

1958 - Two dozen students from Wichita staged what would become the first successful student-led lunch counter sit-in of the Civil Rights movement at the Dockum Drug Store. A bronze statue found near the original site commemorates the momentous occasion.

1965Wichita State University’s men’s basketball team reached the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament for the first time. A year earlier, in 1964, the university was established. The Shockers have made 14 appearances in the tournament, reaching the Final Four twice, the Elite 8 four times and the Sweet Sixteen six times.

1972 - The first festival organized by Wichita Festivals was held in Wichita along the Arkansas River and was two days long. In 1974 the name of the festival was changed to Wichita River Festival (Riverfest for short) and it was extended to 10 days in length.

Keeper of the Plains Statue 1985
Credit: Wichita State University Library

1974Keeper of the Plains was erected. A $20 million restoration and beautification was completed in 2007.

Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum

1981 - The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum begins operations out of the city’s original city hall building in downtown Wichita.

Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport

2015 - Wichita’s new airport terminal opened and the airport officially changed its name to Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport.

Horizontes Grain Elevator Mural
Credit: Robert Glorio

2019 - The largest mural in the world by a single artist (Gleo) was completed on a grain elevator as part of the Horizontes Project. The project is responsible for 20 other new murals in Wichita’s North End.

Want to take a tour to learn more about Wichita’s great history? Use this map of historical landmarks to guide your journey.