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Name that town! - December 6, 2013

Q: Founded on Dec. 5, 1854, this Kansas community just celebrated its 159th birthday (Thursday). Name it!Topeka-Centennial-1854-KHSA marching band helps Topekans celebrate in its Centennial parade, 1954. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society /


A: Topeka


Topeka-1856-KHSAn 1856 illustration of Topeka in the Kansas Territory. Constitution Hall is visible on the left side. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society /

The capital city of Topeka was founded on Dec. 5, 1854. Laid out in 1854, it was one of the Free-State towns founded by Eastern antislavery men immediately after the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Bill.


The origins and meaning of the city’s name are disputed, but the scholars we trust say “Topeka” is a Native American (Shawnee Indian) word that means “good place to plant potatoes.” Go figure. In addition to serving as the state capital, Topeka is also the county seat of Shawnee County.


Charles-Curtis-Hoover KHSThe 31st President of the United States Herbert Clark Hoover (left) and his Vice President, Kansas native Charles Curtis, (1929-1933). The gentlemen were elected in 1928. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society / is sometimes called the “Golden City.” Okay, not that many people call it that, but it does say that on the city’s official seal. Here’s what we were told when we asked a city spokeswoman about this “Golden City” business: “Topeka is named the "Golden City" to describe the effect when the sun poured its rays down upon the city's beautiful hills and valleys, filtered through the many autumn leaves. It also describes the color of our soil.”


Not sure about that “golden soil,” but this city of 128,000 could be called a city for lovers. After all, it was chartered as a city on Valentine’s Day in 1857.


Annette BeningAnnette BeningMany famous people were either born in Topeka or spent considerable time in the city, including: Vice President of the United States Charles Curtis, astronaut Ron Evans, actress Annette Bening, jazz musician Coleman Hawkins, writer & poet Gwendolyn Brooks, TV journalist Elizabeth Farnsworth, broadcaster & investigative reporter Bill Kurtis (a KANU Radio alumnus), and environmentalist Wes Jackson.


Fun Factoid: Big time public radio stars Stephen Koranda and J. Schafer lived in Topeka for a spell!

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