We were greeted at the first exhibit, “From the Farm to the Dinner Table,” by the figure of President Dwight Eisenhower dressed in a chef’s outfit. This temporary exhibit explores the government’s effect on what Americans eat with some emphasis on posters from World War II encouraging Americans to conserve food and cut back on meat so there would be more available to keep our troops fit.
We rounded a corner and were startled by the figure of a large Indian standing in front of us. This was a chief of the Kiowa, known as the “Orator of the Plains.” We also saw a Cheyenne teepee and a grass lodge — like those built by the Wichita — surrounded by pumpkins, corn, gourds and other plants grown in this locale by American Indians. The Osage and Kansa also were among the many tribes who lived in the area at various times.
The objects that show the history of farming were well chosen: a furnished log house rescued from the banks of the Saline River, a stagecoach used by the Southwestern Stage Co., a sodbuster plow and small but evidently effective “Queen” windmill.
The farmers found the land was better for wheat than corn and other crops, and the state has become our country’s major wheat-growing state.
We were surprised to find that Wichita — with its prominent airplane manufacturing companies — in 1929 had been dubbed the “Air Capital of the World” by the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce. Kansans turned out 24,000 airplanes in World War II.
Other exhibits focus on topics such as the Civil War, blacks in Kansas and modern developments.
Printed guides are available at the entrance to help young visitors get involved in scavenger hunts — a fun way to learn about what they are seeing.