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Kansas Day

Kansas SunflowerKansas Day as an annual celebration of Kansas' statehood is fairly unique among all the other states. The day is fondly remembered by adults who grew up in Kansas to those who have moved to other states or countries. This pride in being a Kansan was part of Kansas Day celebrations from its beginning as shown in the piece below. The following is taken from an article originally published in the January 1932 issue of The Kansas Teacher and Western School Journal. The article "The Origin of Kansas Day" was written by Esther Clark Hill, Kansas Historical Society.

Kansas Day was born in Paola in 1877. In the Paola public school 15 or 20 youngsters were studying United States history in Alexander LeGrande Copley's classroom, and on January 8, 1877, the lesson happened to be the battle of New Orleans. Intense interest was created in the class by the fact that 62 years before that, to the very hour, General Jackson's riflemen were peppering the British red-coats from behind the cotton bales. The whole school awoke to patriotism on that anniversary and decided to celebrate their pride in Kansas and its victories of peace.

So it was announced that an afternoon would be set apart for the study of Kansas - —its geography, its history and its resources; and the afternoon selected was January 29, 1877. For two weeks the students were busy outside of school getting together every available piece of information concerning Kansas. They searched encyclopedias, plied parents with questions, and stirred the whole community to furnish local history, statistics and valuable and interesting facts bearing upon that one subject.

J. G. Whittier's The Kansas Emigrant SongThe eventful day came. The blackboard extended three-quarters of the way around the room and was fairly covered by the pupils with careful drawings of the state seal and maps of the state, the county and township. The motto of the state was conspicuous in red and blue chalk. The banner counties in wheat, corn, oats, hay, cattle, hogs, horses, sheep and even mules were on the board. On the board were also the Kansas songs. One was Whittier's "Song of the Kansas Emigrant". Another was Lucy Larcom's "The Call to Kansas."

Then there were short speeches by two or three boys — extracts from Horace Greeley and Charles Sumner. Questions in Kansas history, asked by one side of the room and answered by the other; first things in Kansas, such as the first printing press, the first school, the first railroad, the first capital, the first newspaper. There was one mistake-—the exercises should not have been held in the schoolroom, but in the largest hall in town, to accommodate the parents and friends who wanted to get in but couldn't.

In 1879 Copley became superintendent of the schools in Wichita, and, of course, the day was appropriately observed there. Meanwhile it was his hobby to attend the county teachers' institutes and at the state teachers' association meetings, held then every year in Topeka at the Christmas holidays and encourage the teachers to celebrate Kansas Day. A description of Copley's celebration appeared in the Kansas Educationist. Newspapers of the state described the celebration as a Kansas institution.

Kansas Day for Kansas SchoolsThe day after Thanksgiving, in 1882, the first Northwestern Teachers Association was held in Beloit. It was then and there decided that a small pamphlet should be published giving the concise information about the state, songs and sample speeches suitable for the proper observance of the day. Del Valentine, of the Clay Center Dispatch, printed the book. It was called Kansas Day and contained 32 pages. two thousand copies were printed.   At the next State Teachers Association in Topeka the booklet was a prominent feature. Every teacher took home one or more copies. Purchased copies went to 65 counties in the state. For a short time the booklet was used as a textbook in the state normal school at Emporia.

Kansas Day continued to grow for more than 130 years. Today it is celebrated by teachers and students across the state.

Entry: Kansas Day

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2011

Date Modified: January 2022

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.