Manufacturing.The manufacturing district of Kansas, if the scattered flour mills and a few other minor industries be left out, is practically confined to a strip of territory not more than 200 miles wide at its greatest extent, extending across the eastern part of the state. Geographical lines cannot be observed with entire accuracy, however, as Kansas City, Mo., is economically a part of Kansas, and to a certain extent must be considered in any discussion of Kansas manufactures. West of the middle of the state there is little manufacturing to be considered.
The development of manufactures cannot be considered separately from the development of the natural resources of the state, as one has followed the other in nearly logical order. In 1860, when the 8th census was taken, the country was sparsely settled and the main occupation was agriculture. Timber was abundant enough to offer a good raw material for furniture factories, which were located at Atchinson, Leavenworth, Fort Scott and some other towns. The large streams were of great economic value at that period, offering a convenient source of power for industries that did not demand heat. The census of 1870 gave the first record of water wheels in use, there being then 62 in operation in the state, furnishing power for saw and grist mills scattered over the eastern portion. In 1875 there were 79 wheels furnishing power for flour mills and 26 more for combined saw and grist mills. A year later there were 105 wheels, and in 1881 the number had grown to 150. From this time on, due to the opening of the coal fields and the enlargement of a few mills, the water wheels fell off rapidly and but a few are now in operation.
In the southeastern corner of the state covering an area of about 45 square miles, which contains the valuable lead and zinc deposits of the Galena district, and great coal bearing beds of shale cover nearly half the state of Kansas. (See Geology.) At intervals in the beds of shale, and exposed to the surface in eastern Kansas, are heavy beds of limestone that are becoming of greater commercial value in a manufacturing way for the production of Portland cement. These materials are made more valuable by their proximity to the cheap and abundant fuel supply of coal and natural gas. The production of natural cement was one of the earliest industries at Fort Scott and other towns in the vicinity. With the great development of the cement industry since 1900, the importance of the limestone beds has greatly increased. It has been estimated by the state geologist that there is enough limestone shale in Kansas to supply the world with Portland cement for thousands of years.
The oil and natural gas area of Kansas is confined within an irregular strip from 40 to 50 miles wide and some 250 miles long, extending in a southwesterly direction from Kansas City to about 100 miles south of the northern boundary of Oklahoma. The gas and oil of this region generally come from the layers of sand or from the sandstone shales immediately above the Cherokee shales. The last resources of great importance with which the Kansas-Oklahoma region has been endowed by nature are the gypsum beds of the central portion of both states and the vast and valuable salt beds of central Kansas.
The beginning of a history of manufactures in Kansas cannot date back of 1860, for previous to that time there were no factories of any importance in the prairie region. When the census of 1860 was taken, less than one-fourth of the state was settled or improved, and although a prairie state, 124 of the 209 establishments listed were devoted to manufacturing lumber and shingles. The sawmills were located on the larger streams in the eastern part of the state. Two other lines of manufacturing were of importance at this timemilling and the manufacture of wagons and carriages. There were 36 grist mills, operated mostly by water power. A few of them were of fair size and did a good business, but most of them were small custom mills, grinding for local consumption as the farmers brought the grain. There were 3 wagon and carriage factories, with a capital of $18,000, making in 1860 about $65,000 worth of vehicles and employing only 35 workmen. Among other industries listed for Kansas were 6 boot and shoe shops, 4 brick yards, 3 harness shops, and some dozen others of one or two establishments to a trade.
During the decade from 1860 to 1870 was a period of stress in Kansas and immigration was slow. After the close of the Civil war settlement again began to pour into the state, and by 1870 the population had about trebled, manufacturing in all lines had increased, and the state was becoming self-supplying in the lines of manufacturing that its natural resources favored. The number of establishments increased seven times, capital the same amount, the number of men employed nine times, and the value of products five times. The lumbering establishments increased 70 per cent. and in numbers was still in the lead, but the milling industry, second in number, was first in value of products with an output of $2,938,215. From this time until 1885, flour and feed milling was the leading industry of the state, and the most widely distributed. The mills were usually small, one-third were run by water power and the remainder by steam, with the exception of a few wind driven mills. Nearly 20 per cent. of these mills were "saw-and-grist" mills, using the power for running the saws when not grinding grain, and thus could run at a profit, when either alone could not. The growth of the furniture and wagon shops was also great, the census of 1870 showing that there were 52 furniture factories and 68 wagon and carriage shops or an average of more than one for every organized county in the state. The wagon shops soon diminished in number as they were of necessity small, and could not compete with the products of the larger factories of the east. The furniture factories continued for a number of years and furnished the local demand for the cheaper grades of furniture. Harness shops prospered, and in 1870 they did a business of about $400,000. The number of brick yards had increased to 27, a few lime kilns had begun operations in the eastern part of the state, where the surface veins of coal had been opened. There were but 5 iron works and only 3 establishments making agricultural implements.
OLD WINDMILL AT LAWRENCE.
(One of Kansas' first factories.)
From this time the growth of the milling industry was rapid, and it soon became the most important in the state. It was based upon the needs of the people and products of the country, and could not help but grow with the increasing population. From 1870 to 1880, the increase of capital in the milling business was 200 per cent., and the output increased 300 per cent. The greatest increase was during the first six years. At this period there was little to indicate that Kansas would ever develop as a manufacturing state, the mineral resources being unknown and wholly undeveloped. The scanty timber supply precluded the idea of any extensive manufactures of wood, and it was taken for granted that the state would remain an agricultural state, with flour mills as the principal manufacturing industries.
The coming of the railroads made greater concentration possible, well defined centers of distribution were established, and the towns with transportation facilities began to secure factories of various kinds. All over the state manufactures have followed the railways, rather than having the railways push forward to accommodate manufacturing enterprises.
In the report of the state board of agriculture for 1876 the growth of a few towns of importance is indicated. Those in the eastern and northeastern part of the state had the greatest number of manufacturing establishments, and all of them had the advantage of the early lines of railroad. The most prominent were Atchison, Topeka and Emporia, on the Santa Fe; Leavenworth and Lawrence on the Union Pacific, still further west on that road was Junction City, and Fort Scott on the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis road. In 1875 Fort Scott had over 20 enterprises, with capital varying from $2,000 to $80,000 and aggregating over $300,000, considerably more than one-half of which was invested in flour mills, the city at this time leading in the milling industry, while the other towns showed a greater activity in other manufacturing lines.
A coal supply is of vast importance in connection with the growth of manufactures. It is probable that there are numerous industries in the state, particularly zinc-smelting and salt-making, which would never have been developed had not the mines yielded large supplies of good, cheap fuel. Almost contemporaneous with the opening of the coal beds in Kansas came the discovery of lead and zinc, and within a short time the smelting industry grew up in the vicinity of the mines. The output of the mineral district has been steady and constantly increasing, the combined districts of Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas today supplying half of the zinc and a large portion of the lead of the country.
Between 1880 and 1890 several of the larger towns in the state began to compete for the position of leading trade centers, and to this end new industries were encouraged. A half dozen towns rose to positions of importance in manufacturing during this period. Atchison, Leavenworth and Lawrence were so situated that they experienced a considerable growth in manufacturing establishments. Topeka, Emporia and Fort Scott also experienced a growth, but in a less degree. Leavenworth and Lawrence once had more industries than they have today, but as the establishments were built on the basis of conditions that were but temporary, they became competitors with industries located where natural fitness gave them advantages, so that business fell off in the older towns and the industries were removed or discontinued. At the time manufactures were declining in the towns of northeastern Kansas, Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., were developing as centers of trade and manufacturing. The beginning of the growth of manufacturing in these cities was simultaneous with the great period of activity in the smaller and older towns, but when the latter began to decline this centralized junction of trade and commerce continued to grow. One of the most important reasons for the rapid growth and concentration of manufacturing in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., is their location, which makes them the natural gateway for the produce to pass through, on its way to the west.
With the introduction of hard wheat into Kansas in the early '80s (see Mennonites) the wheat crop became more assured and the growth of the milling business in Kansas City and the towns of the wheat belt was marked. Meat packing was another of the now important manufactures of Kansas City to make its appearance soon after the close of the war. The pioneer packing house was built at Junction City in 1867. The following year the first packing house was erected in Kansas City and some 4,000 head of cattle were packed. In 1868 the first packing house for hogs was opened in Kansas City, to supply the Irish and English markets. One of the most important factors in the rise of this industry at Kansas City was the great number of cattle on the Texas plains at the close of the war. When that region was opened by the railroads, Kansas City became a great market for which there were plenty of cattle. (See Kansas City.) By 1900 the number of packing houses increased to eight; the capital invested to $15,000,000, and the value of packing house products to more than $73,000,000, or more than the value of all the manufactured products of both Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., in 1890. The growth during the past decade has been continuous. Capital has increased over 50 per cent.; the output has increased even more, and at the present time amounts to over $250,000,000. From the by-products of the packing houses a large soap and tallow business has grown up; one plant turning out 25,000 tons and another 40,000 tons of laundry soap annually, nearly all of which is marketed in the Missouri valley.
Natural gas and oil have revolutionized some lines of manufacturing, and have caused a new manufacturing district to grow up in southeastern Kansas. The importance of the development of the natural gas field is in its relation to several branches of manufacturing. It is of particular advantage as a fuel to certain kinds of industries, and to some industries it is absolutely essential, as in glass factories, which have to make gas when they cannot secure the natural product. Portland cement mills find it advantageous, it has greatly stimulated the brick industry, and has made the smelting of zinc more economic. Most of these industries have grown up since 1890.
An important result of this growth of manufacturing due to the discovery of natural gas was the great demand for machinery, which led to the establishment of iron foundries. This led to the consolidation of several large iron working establishments into one company capitalized at $650,000, with eight plants, reaching from Springfield, Mo., to Iola, which has given cheaper machinery, more prompt repairs upon the special kinds of machinery used, and the iron trade has become a prosperous industry.
There is a noticeable tendency in recent years for the encouragement of important manufacturing centers through the central part of Kansas, to produce articles that have heretofore been imported from Kansas City and the east. Topeka and Wichita are the towns where this growth is most noticeable. Not counting the manufactures of Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita have over one-ninth of the capitalization of the rest of the state; more than one-sixth of the wage earners; pay more than one-seventh of the wages; and produce more than one-fourth of the products.
Of the 36 flour and grist mills in Kansas in 1860 the average capital was a little over $3,000, the value of the product, nearly $300,000, the trade being confined to 41 counties. In 1875 there were 158 grist mills with an average capital investment of $11,000 each, but only about a half of the mills were valued, the total number in the state being 300. During the following decade the milling business made great headway. This was due to several causes, the first of which was the introduction and cultivation of hard wheat, and the second was the introduction of the gradual reduction process into the Kansas mills. In 1878 exportation outside the limits of the state began and by 1890 the product of the Kansas mills was exported to the states south and southwest. About 1900 Kansas City rose as a milling center, and one of the largest hard wheat mills in the world was erected there. In 1910 there were in Kansas a dozen towns having a milling capacity of from 1,500 to over 3,000 barrels of flour a day. Topeka heads the list with 6 mills, producing 3,750 barrels. Hutchinson and a number of other towns in the heart of the wheat belt are also milling towns.
The youngest of the manufacturing industries is glass, the first establishment in Kansas being opened at Independence in 1902, and within four years 16 factories were built in the gas belt. The capital invested was then $1,467,571 and the value of the products $1,792,034. The industry is increasing materially in output, glass being 13th in manufactured products and 15th in the amount of capital invested. (See also the articles on Lead and Zinc Mining, Cement, Salt and Gypsum.)Pages 215-221 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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