Wichita (wĭchˈĭtô) [key], city (1990 pop. 304,011), seat of Sedgwick co., S central Kans., at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers; inc. 1870. It is the chief commercial and industrial center of S Kansas and the largest city in the state. It has railroad shops, flour mills, meatpacking plants, grain elevators, oil refineries, and a major aircraft industry. Other manufactures include machinery, electrical products, and computer equipment.
Wichita is located on the site of a Native American village (1863–65) inhabited by Wichitas who had been driven out of Oklahoma and Texas for their Union sympathies during the Civil War. A trading post was established there in 1864, and the city was founded in 1868 by settlers serving the Chisholm Trail. In 1872 the railroad was extended to Wichita and the city boomed as a cow town. After 1880 it became the trade center of an agricultural and livestock region. Oil was discovered just E of Wichita in 1915.
The city has many civic and cultural facilities, including art museums, a symphony orchestra, a modernistic convention and cultural complex (Century II), and a large speech-and-hearing rehabilitation center. It has fine parks, a zoo, a "cow-town" restoration, and two large stadiums. It is the seat of Wichita State Univ., Friends Univ., and Newman Univ. Nearby is McConnell Air Force Base.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. Political Geography