1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Manufactures in Kansas Part 1


Kansas is an agricultural state, but from the time of the first settlements there has been of necessity more or less manufacturing carried on. The first manufactories were sawmills and gristmills. For it was necessary to provide lumber for houses and some means to grind grain for bread. The census of 1860 reported sixty-two water-wheels in Kansas. These were turning as many mills-some for grinding and some for sawing. Some of these mills combined grinding and sawing. There were also some mills for both purposes that were run by steam long before the opening of the coal deposits; these were run by the use of wood for fuel. In fact, the first railway locomotives burned wood. Large tracts of land in Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties were divested of timber for fuel for the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads. The growth of watermills increased with the population, and in 1881 there were 150, and 110 of these were flouringmills.

The opening of the Kansas coal fields increased the use of steam engines in the state for manufacturing purposes. Plants for manufacturing various articles required by the people were set up. As railroads were built and coal made accessible to all sections there were found steam plants in the principal towns. These furnished power for grinding grain, sawing lumber, printing, foundries, machine-shops, elevators, and many other institutions of a manufacturing nature.

The census of 1870 shows that there were then fifty-two furniture factories in Kansas. There were also sixtyeight wagon and carriage factories. These had a capital of about $100,000, and they did an aggregate business amounting to more than $200,000. Most of them were small in force and capacity, and some of them may have been mere shops too small to be rated as factories. But they were the beginnings - the promise of bigger things. The wagon factory at Leavenworth was selling 6,000 wagons a year by 1880.

Kansas being so largely devoted to agriculture, the demand for harness was great. In 1870 there were more than seventy shops in Kansas making harness, and the annual output was valued at more than $400,000. This business increased with the growth of the state and still forms the basis of a prosperous trade.

The grinding of wheat has been one of the principal manufacturing enterprises of Kansas. The state is one of the leading wheat sections of the world, and the development of the milling industry was but a natural consequence of wheat production. Large amounts of capital are invested in flouringmills, and the products of these mills are standard brands of flour all over the world. These mills followed railroad construction and are now found in every part of the state. The value of the output of the flour and gristmills of Kansas is now about $75,000,000 annually.

Some of the largest operations in the manufacturing way to be found in Kansas are connected with her minerals. In 1876 lead and zinc were discovered in Cherokee County, Kansas. Additional discoveries were made in 1877. These metals were found over a considerable area, but the industry of mining and smelting them has been confined mostly to the Galena-Pittsburg District. At this time there are immense deposits being uncovered about Baxter Springs. The mineral field extends into Missouri and Oklahoma, and is one of the largest in the United States. The discovery of natural gas in merchantable quantities gave an impetus to the smelting industry, and plants for this purpose were established at many points in the gas fields. In the beginning little attention was given to zinc, lead being the metal principally sought. The zinc industry has long been predominant, though lead is produced on a large scale in every mining camp. The figures of the census of 1910 are the latest available from the Federal Government. They show that zinc products of that year reached a total of $10,857,000. The figures are given under the heading "Smelting and Refining - Zinc." Lead seems to be omitted as a separate product. The report of the Kansas Department of Labor furnishes later data. There it is stated that the total value of lead and zinc smelted in 1913 was $12,473,818.81, and that there was a decrease for the following year. The immense activity in these industries in the last three years makes it certain that there is now an enormous increase above the high figures of 1913, and that they will probably be doubled in 1917. This, however, is but an estimate.

For the last twenty years Kansas has been producing oil. In 1904 the production amounted to more than 3,000,000 barrels. There was a decrease for some years due to the low price. The price is now high, and the oil fields have been revived. Larger ones have been discovered. Kansas is steadily increasing her production. Many refineries have been established. In the first stages of the industry two products were mainly relied on - kerosene and gasoline. Now many of the by-products are utilized, and the percentage of gasoline taken from Kansas crude oil has been much increased. The Kansas Department of Labor gives the following statistics for 1913 and 1914:

Total value of products, 1913 ............... $7,610,946.36
Total value of products, 1914 ...............  8,342,565.52

There is an ever increasing demand for oil and gasoline, and the prices for these products are constantly advancing. It must be that the state output of these articles is of much greater value now than that shown in the last official reports available.

The presence of natural gas in the southeastern part of the state caused the introduction of glass factories into that region. These flourished until the supply of gas began to fail. Most of them followed the heavier gas-flow into Oklahoma. For some years their output in Kansas was of great value, but is now decreased.

The manufacture of brick was early begun in Kansas. At first the process was by hand, and the burning was with wood. A good brick was produced, and many of the first business blocks of Kansas towns were put up of these primitive bricks. As the fuel supply was developed and diversified better bricks were made. They were in greater and greater demand, and they were required in ever increasing quantities, as well as for different purposes - building, streetpaving, road-making, and the construction of drains and sewers. Pittsburg, Kansas, first became known for the excellence of its brick products. Now there are numerous towns having a heavy output of the various kinds of brick of the finest quality. The brick tile and clay products of 1914 amounted in value to $1,707,666.54.

In the early stages of her existence, Kansas imported her salt. The traders over the Old Santa Fe Trail had noted the presence of surface salt on the Cimarron Plains, but the presence of enormous beds of salt underlying considerable areas of the state was long unsuspected. The discovery of these sources of supply have been noted in another place. Kansas now supplies her own demand, and, in addition, exports much salt. Her salt plants are the equal of any in the country, and for quality their output cannot be excelled. The value of the Kansas product runs annually well above the million dollar mark.

Kansas has been a large producer of live stock from her first settlement. Her rich prairies furnished pasturage for cattle, and they increased rapidly. When the sod was subdued corn was long the principal crop. It was the main factor in the production of pork. It was early realized that the great quantity of cattle and hogs raised in Kansas and the adjoining territory would have to be slaughtered and prepared for market at some point within the state. The cities about the mouth of the Kansas River offered the ideal location for meat-packing establishments. In 1868 J. W. L. Slavens built the first packing house there. He was associated with Edward W. Pattison, who had put up the pioneer establishment at Junction City the previous year and had slaughtered there about 1,000 cattle. The Kansas City house packed about 4,000 cattle in 1868. Dr. F. B. Nofsinger purchased the interest of Slavens in the plant in 1869. In 1880 it was conducted by Nofsinger & Co. In that year Jacob Dold & Sons, packers, from Buffalo, New York, bought out the business, and they were among the big packers of Kansas City for many years. In the same year that Slavens entered the business, Thomas J. Bigger, from Belfast, Ireland, built a plant in which to slaughter and pack hogs for the English and Irish markets. The firm of Slavens & Oburn grew out of the operations of J. W. L. Slavens, and it later became the Morrison Packing Company. Plankinton & Armour entered the field in 1870, renting the plant of Pattison & Nofsinger. In 1871 this firm erected its own house, the pioneer establishment of that great firm at Kansas City. It had a packing house at Chicago and one at Milwaukee. John Plankinton withdrew from the firm in 1884, and the great establishment he helped to found is now the property of the Armours. George Fowler, of the Fowler Brothers, packers, of Liverpool, built a packing house at Kansas City in 1881. Swift & Company established a house in 1888, Schwarzschild & Sulzberger Company in 1892, the Cudahy Packing Company in 1900, the Morris Packing Company in 1903, the John Morrell Packing Company in 1903, and the American Dressed Beef Company in 1904. These houses were all established in Kansas City, Kansas, as that was the nearest large distributing point to the cattle ranges and the farms producing hogs. This has become the largest manufacturing industry in Kansas, the total output of its products running into values of hundreds of millions annually. Kansas City, Kansas, is one of the largest packing centers in the world. Wichita has a number of packing houses and is second only to Kansas City, Kansas, as a packing center. The value of packing house products in Kansas must now total close to $200,000,000 annually.

With the development of the railroad systems of Kansas came the establishment of railroad shops for the repair and manufacture of railroad equipment. These shops were small affairs in the beginning. They have increased in size and diversity of work with the demands of the roads until there are now in Kansas some of the largest railroad shops in the country. Those of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company, at Topeka, are the largest in the state. Sometimes as many as 4,500 men are employed there. This company maintains smaller shops at other places. The Union Pacific Railway Company has large shops at Kansas City, Kansas, as has the Missouri Pacific, the Rock Island lines, the Frisco, and other railroads. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company has extensive shops at Parsons, as well as its general offices. The general offices of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Company are at Topeka, and are the largest in the state - among the largest in the country.

The value of the output of the shops of railroad companies in Kansas is third in volume in the state, running well above $25,000,000 annually.

The printer's art is widely developed in Kansas. The publishing business is extensive. The State Printing Plant, at Topeka, is one of the largest printing establishments in the country. More than 1,000,000 volumes of school text books are published there annually. Crane & Company have, at Topeka, the oldest publishing house in Kansas. It has published more books pertaining to Kansas history than any other house. It has a large plant and is splendidly equipped. The Hall Lithographing Company, of Topeka, is another large publishing and printing establishment. It has a trade extending to the Pacific Ocean. The Capper Publications have a large plant at Topeka. They consist of the Topeka Daily Capital, The Mail and Breeze, and various other papers circulating all over America. The company was founded by Arthur Capper, now governor of Kansas, and who owns and operates the entire plant.

There are many manufacturing institutions of various kinds in Kansas which will appear in the latest summary prepared by the Kansas Department of Labor, here set out:

                                                         Total value
Industries                                      Year     of products
Bakeries and confectioneries ...................1914   $ 2,438,830.20
Boxes and barrels ..............................1914     1,084,402.69
Brick, tile and clay works .....................1914     1,707,666.54
Bridge and structural-iron work ................1914     2,035,634.26
Car and shop construction by steam railways ....1914    18,205,685.97
Cement plants ..................................1914     2,790,321.36
Coal mining ....................................1914    10,530,661.92
Creameries .....................................1914     9,202,724.58
Flour and grist mills ..........................1914    59,765,313.31
Foundries and machine shop .....................1914     5,599,122.94
Gas, electric light and water plants ...........1914     6,150,347.78
Ice plants .....................................1914     1,441,016.36
Oil refineries (petroleum) .....................1914     8,342,565.52
Planing Mills ..................................1914     2,056,467.28
Poultry and egg packing plants .................1914     5,522,374.22
Printing, publishing and book-binding ..........1914    10,776,538.55
Salt plants ....................................1914     1,203,348.63
Slaughtering and meat-packing plants ...........1914   147,663,460.08
Smelting and refining (lead and zinc) ..........1914     6,926,398.73
Soap factories .................................1914     8,603,974.29
Total for the state ................................. $312,046,855.21

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 2000.

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