13 Kansas Nicknames and the History Behind Them

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A statue of a man on a pedestal made out of stone near a bridge and a body of water
Kansas played a big role in American history, gaining the state many nicknames

Positioned nearly at the geographical heart of the United States, Kansas is a somewhat rural state with an interesting history and culture. The region is known for its agricultural industry and scenic landscapes, as well as for historical events like the Bloody Kansas period preceding the Civil War.

Due to its diverse history and culture, the state has gained a variety of alternate names, from the charming Sunflower State to the Wheat State and Midway, USA. If you're eager to learn more about these alternate names, keep reading for 13 Kansas nicknames and the fascinating stories behind them.

13 Nicknames for Kansas

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A statue of a bird near a short wall with text saying "The University of Kansas"
Jayhawker, which used to be a derogatory name, is now proudly embraced by Kansas

Jayhawker State

The term Jayhawker refers to those who are native to Kansas. This makes the area a state full of Jayhawkers, hence the Jayhawker State nickname.

This name is thought to date to the Bleeding Kansas event and the start of the American Civil War. However, some historians believe the term goes as far back as the American Revolutionary War with a connection to John Jay, an American Founding Father.

While somewhat used as a derogatory term around the end of the Civil War, Kansas residents went on to embrace the name and presented it in a positive light. The University of Kansas football team is even called the Kansas Jayhawks.

Cyclone State

Cyclone State is a Kansas nickname that relates to the area's weather. This part of the US is prone to tornados and cyclones and is located in Tornado Valley, which sees tornados almost every year. While many associate this nickname with Iowa, it still makes sense as a moniker for Kansas.

A field of orange sorghum near a windmill on an overcast day
Kansas is called the Garden of the West due to its vast farmlands with fertile soils

Garden of the West

One of the historical names for the state is Garden of the West. This name dates to the 1870s and was used in promotional advertisements providing information on farmland for sale in Kansas.

At the time, the area was known for its agricultural production and fertile soil. So many crops were grown in the area that it became seen as a garden for feeding the rest of the country. Even today, around 90% of the state's land is devoted to agriculture.

Midway, USA

Midway, USA is an older KS nickname. While it was initially a moniker for Kinsley in central Kansas, it went on to become a name for the entire state. This nickname dates to 1939 and relates to the fact that Kinsley is 1,561 miles between San Francisco on the West Coast and New York on the East Coast. Therefore, this area is almost exactly midway through the United States.

Kansas is the state that's closest to being exactly halfway through the US as well, hence the transfer of the nickname to a statewide one. The phrase was even used on Kansas license plates between 1965 and 1970.

A short structure with the American flag on top in the middle of a lush park
Bleeding Kansas is one of the Kansas nicknames connected to its history

Bleeding Kansas

Bleeding Kansas is a moniker relating to a historical event of the same name. Between 1854 and 1859, right before the start of the Civil War, there were numerous conflicts in Kansas. These conflicts were mainly between those who were pro-slavery and those who were against it.

The battles that went on were also to determine if Kansas would be in the Union during the Civil War (fighting to end slavery) or join the Confederacy (which didn't want enslavement abolished). Ultimately, Kansas joined in the Union but only after bloody and violent battles to do so.

This time period and the state, in general, came to be known as Bleeding Kansas, and this term is still used in historical texts. You can learn more about this important historical era at various Kansas landmarks, like the Kansas Museum of History.

The Breadbasket of the World

Another of the Kansas State nicknames relating to agriculture is the Breadbasket of the World. A "breadbasket" is an area that produces many crops, particularly cereals and grains like wheat. Kansas is known for producing a vast amount of these crops, especially wheat. In fact, these crops have been farmed in the state since the 1800s.

While these days, cities in other countries like China outrank Kansas in terms of annual wheat production, the state still uses its Breadbasket of the World moniker quite frequently. It is still the largest producer in the United States, with North Dakota being a close second.

Central State is one of the Kansas nicknames referring to its geographic location
The geographic center of the US is said to be found in Kansas

The Central State

The Central State is a nickname that's quite simple to understand. Kansas is one of, if not the, most centrally located states in the country. As previously mentioned, a city near the center of Kansas is exactly halfway between the West Coast and the East Coast of the country. If you're looking for the USA's middle point (or center), you'll find it in Kansas!

America's Heartland

America's Heartland is a nickname that's associated with the states of the central United States, including Kansas. Along with being centrally located in the country, regions in America's Heartland have strong agricultural industries and many rural towns.

The Free State

This is another of the alternate names for Kansas associated with the Civil War. As discussed, Kansas went as far as fighting battles among residents to decide if they would be a "Free State" (Union) or a "Slave State" (Confederacy).

Ultimately, Kansas became part of the Union, fighting for the freedom of enslaved people, and it became known as the Free State. Those opposing slavery and its expansion in Kansas were also often called "free-staters."

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A house on a sloping terrain near trees and grass
Many of the battles for freedom during the Civil War happened in the state of Kansas

The Battleground of Freedom

The Battleground of Freedom is another historical name relating to the Bleeding Kansas period around the American Civil War. During this period, many states were staunchly Union or Confederate; however, Kansas' population was split on which side they wanted to be on.

Battles ensued to determine where they would sit in the war. The area was named the Battleground of Freedom due to the state being a battleground for those who wanted freedom for all Americans (Union troops) to fight on.

Some even saw which way Kansas went (Union or Confederate) as determining who would win the war, meaning the decisions on the region's battlefields really determined if justice and freedom for all would prevail or not. As with Bleeding Kansas, this name is mainly used in historical contexts instead of in the everyday lexicon of locals and visitors.

The Grasshopper State

One of the less-used monikers for Kansas is the Grasshopper State. This name dates to the late 1800s when the region suffered a plague of rocky mountain locusts, a type of now-extinct grasshopper.

These bugs caused a large amount of damage to crops and the agricultural industry in the state. During this period, Kansas and other states suffering the same issue (like Colorado and Nebraska) were known as the Grasshopper States.

A field of sunflowers under a blue sky
One of the most recognizable Kansas nicknames is the Sunflower State

The Sunflower State

The Sunflower State is arguably the most well-known nickname for Kansas. This name was chosen due to the vast amount of sunflowers that grow across the state. This bloom has also been the official state flower of Kansas since 1903 and is featured at the top of the state flag.

If you're in the state between August and the end of September, you're sure to see fields upon fields of these bright yellow flowers in bloom. This beautiful scenery will make you understand why Kansas residents love their sunflowers so much!

The Wheat State

An interesting Kansas fact is that the state is one of the largest wheat producers in the United States, gaining it the nickname the Wheat State. This moniker was developed around the start of the 20th century, which is when Kansas became the leader in wheat production.

Today, North Dakota and Kansas go back and forth between who is the number one wheat producer. However, the Wheat State name remains prevalent across the state and can even be seen on some merchandise and souvenirs.

In Conclusion

There's no shortage of fascinating alternate names for Kansas. From historical monikers like the Battleground of Freedom to those focusing on the area's agricultural heritage, such as the Wheat State, these nicknames encompass much of the region's history and culture.

After reading this article, you should have a good knowledge of the most well-known monikers for this central state and the reasons behind them. You may even be inspired to plan a trip to this part of America's Heartland!

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell FORMER WRITER Currently based in Canada, Alli has also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and traveled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. She loves finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever she goes.

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