State Flower.By an act of the Kansas legislature, approved by Gov. Bailey on March 12, 1903, the sunflower was made the official state flower. The full text of the act, as introduced by Senator George P. Morehonse, is as follows:
"Whereas, Kansas has a native wild flower common throughout her borders, hardy and conspicuous, of definite, unvarying and striking shape, easily sketched, molded and carved, having armorial capacities, ideally adapted for artistic reproduction, with its strong, distinct disk and its golden circle of clear glowing raysa flower that a child can draw on a slate, a woman can work in silk, or a man can carve on stone or fashion in clay; and
"Whereas, This flower has to all Kansans a historic symbolism which speaks of frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairies, and is full of the life and glory of the past, the pride of the present, and richly emblematic of the majesty of a golden future, and is a flower which has given Kansas a world-wide name, 'the Sunflower State'; therefore, "Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas
"Section 1, That the helianthus or wild native sunflower is hereby made, designated and declared to be the state flower and floral emblem of the State of Kansas.
"Section 2, This act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its publication in the statute book."
The act was published on June 1, 1903, and on July 8 Gov. Bailey, in his capacity of commander-in-chief of the state militia, gave the sunflower its first official recognition in his general orders No. 9, which directed that "The collar device of the full-dress, dress and service coats of the officers and enlisted men of the Kansas National Guard shall be the sunflower, according to pattern in the office of the adjutant-general. Aside from this departure, the uniform prescribed for the Kansas National Guard will conform to that of the United States Army, as published in General Orders, No. 132, Headquarters of the Army, Washington, D. C., series 1902."
Although Senator Morehouse was the author of the law making the sunflower the floral emblem of the state, Kansas had been called the "Sunflower State" for many years before the passage of the act. In early days the sunflower sprang up on both sides of the Santa Fe trail for a distance of 800 miles. Pioneer settlers used the stalks for fuel and the seeds as food for their poultry. It was also found in great profusion in other western states, and Nebraska was considering its adoption as the official flower of that state when the Kansas law was passed.
It is thought that Noble L. Prentis was the first to propose the sunflower as the state flower of Kansas. As early as Sept. 2, 1880, he wrote in the Atchison Champion: "The capitol square is surrounded by a dense growth, rods in width, of rampant sunflowers. They grow as big, rank and yellow as if they were forty miles from a house. The sunflower ought to be made the emblem of our state. Nothing checks it or kills it. It is always 'happy as a big sunflower.' Grasshoppers have never held the edge on it; and in drouthy times when everything else wilts and throws up its hands, the sunflower continues business at the old stand. It probably has some private arrangement with nature for securing 'aid'."Pages 757-758 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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