Tuesday, July 22, 2014

History enthusiast talks Sunflower State trivia ahead of anniversary

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 1/24/2014

“If all the wheat in Kansas was only used for bread, it could bake more than 35 billion loaves of bread in one year,” Rita Nienstedt said. “That would be enough to serve millions of people.”

That was one of several fun facts Ottawa resident Nienstedt shared with Ottawa city commissioners after accepting a Kansas Day proclamation from Sara Caylor, mayor, Wednesday morning at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa. Kansas will mark its 153rd anniversary of statehood Jan. 29.

“If all the wheat in Kansas was only used for bread, it could bake more than 35 billion loaves of bread in one year,” Rita Nienstedt said. “That would be enough to serve millions of people.”

That was one of several fun facts Ottawa resident Nienstedt shared with Ottawa city commissioners after accepting a Kansas Day proclamation from Sara Caylor, mayor, Wednesday morning at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa. Kansas will mark its 153rd anniversary of statehood Jan. 29.

Kansas entered the Union as a free state in 1861 under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps fittingly, Nienstedt noted, Kansas was the first state to ratify the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving African-American men the right to vote.

Nienstedt, an employee of Ransom Memorial Hospital in Ottawa and a Kansas Day enthusiast, shared several other facts about the Sunflower State.

“The largest hailstone on record with the National Weather Service fell in Coffeyville, Kan., weighing 1.5 pounds,” she said. “I would not want to be hit on the head with that one.”

Nienstedt, donning Sunflower earrings and a bright yellow shirt, said there are 528 documented caves in Kansas in about 40 counties, with Comanche County having the most at 128 caves. The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is in Smith County, which also is where the song “Home on the Range” was written, she said.

George Washington Carver, an American scientist, botanist, educator and inventor, graduated from high school in 1885 in Minneapolis, Kan. He discovered more than 300 uses for peanuts, including glue, linoleum and paper, Nienstedt said.

Barton County is the only county named after a woman: Clara Barton, Nienstedt said. Barton was a volunteer battlefield nurse during the Civil War who later founded the Red Cross.

And Susanna Madora Salter was the first woman to be elected mayor in the United States when she was sworn into office in 1877 in Argonia, she said.

Amelia Earhart, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Russell Stover are some Kansans whose names are familiar to most Americans, but two lesser-known Kansans — William Purvis and Charles Wilson of Goodland — invented the helicopter in 1909, Nienstedt noted, some 20 years after Almon Strowger of El Dorado invented the dial telephone in 1889.

The Graham cracker was named for The Rev. Sylvester Graham, a Kansas minister who strongly believed in eating whole wheat products, Nienstedt said.

Kansas Day has been celebrated since 1877.

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