12 interesting facts about Wichita

Story by Laura Roddy

W.C. Coleman started building gas lamps in Wichita in 1901.

W.C. Coleman started building gas lamps in Wichita in 1901.

As we ring in 2012, here are 12 interesting tidbits about Wichita.
Ken Vandruff of Go Wichita and Eric Cale of the Wichita­Sedgwick County Historical Museum shared some of their favorite facts, some well­known and some more obscure, about ICT.

1.

A.A. Hyde developed Mentholatum, the ointment that helps relieves congestion, in Wichita in 1894. The original factory is the building where The Spice Merchant and Company is today.

2.

The Jones Automobile Company, which later sublet part of its facility to airplane builder Clyde Cessna, manufactured thousands of cars and trucks in Wichita in the early 1900’s. The only Jones vehicle on public display, of the fewer than 10 known to exist today, is on the fourth floor of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum.

3.

The rise of the electric guitar can be tied to Wichita. Wichitan Gage Brewer acquired the first pre-production electric guitars from their inventor in California in summer 1932; he played them in a series of local performances that Halloween. It took several years for the electric guitar to catch on, but Brewer had a five-decade career featuring the instrument.

4.

Wichita’s moniker as the Air Capital of the World is familiar, as is the storied history of the Cessna, Beech and Stearman names. But it was Jake Mollendick, who made a fortune in the 1920’s in El Dorado’s big oil strike, who lured airplane designer Matty Laird to Wichita. Laird developed the Swallow, the first commercially built airplane in the United States.

5.

Wichita was the site of the first sit-in by African-American students at a whites-only lunch counter. The sit-in began in July 1958 at the Dockum Drug Store at the corner of Douglas and Broadway.

6.

Back in the days when planes could not complete a cross-country trip without stopping to refuel, Wichita had one of the busiest airports. As a result, Howard Hughes, Fred Astaire Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart made frequent stops here.

7.

W.C. Coleman started building gas lamps in Wichita in 1901. Coleman lanterns were used to light up the first night college football game west of the Mississippi in 1905. The Fairmount College Wheatshockers shut out Cooper College 24-0.

8.

The White Castle hamburger chain started here in 1921 but hasn’t had a Wichita location since 1938. The company did celebrate its 90th anniversary with a one-day return to Wichita last year, selling sliders in the parking lot of the Central and Rock Dillons.

9.

Nu Way Café started selling its loose-meat sandwiches and root beer in Wichita in 1930 and has been at it ever since.

10.

Wichita is renowned for its entrepreneurial spirit, expanding well beyond the aforementioned companies. Energy behemoth Koch Industries originated here in 1940, as did several restaurant chains including Pizza Hut, Taco Tico, Spangles and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers.

11.

The Wichita State University Library is home to the notes of Dr. Edward Tihen, who read and took copious notes on almost every issue of The Wichita Eagle and The Wichita Beacon from 1872 to 1982. The Tihen Notes are searchable online at: http://specialcollections.wichita. edu/collections/local_history/tihen/index.asp. It is a must for armchair Wichita historians.

12.

The Sedgwick County Zoo, which is the No. 1 outdoor family attraction in Kansas, is the seventh-largest zoo in the country by acreage. The zoo boasts about 400 species and more than 2,500 animals.

 
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