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Kansas History - Winter 2005/2006

(Vol. 28, No. 4)

Kansas History, Winter 2005/2006

Peter Fearon, "Taxation, Spending and Budgets: Public Finance in Kansas During the Great Depression."

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Much has been written over the years about the Great Depression and the New Deal, and how this all led to the acceptance of an ever expanding role for the federal government in the social and economic life of the nation. Federal finances are, of course, an integral part of this. Thus, budget deficits, tax policy, and related issues have received the attention of many scholars. "State and local finances," however, writes Professor Peter Fearon of the University of Leicester, "have been largely ignored." His article is "an attempt to help redress this imbalance" by describing and analyzing "the evolution in public finance in Kansas during the depression decade." Fearon examines "the reasons that lay behind a radical readjustment in local taxation and consider[s] whether Kansas legislators were innovative or merely reactive in the implementation of tax changes." Fearon provides significant analysis of Landon administration's depression efforts and the effectiveness of the new "Cash Basis Law," a cornerstone of the governor's efforts to combat the depression at the state level.

Richard Macias, "'We All Had a Cause': Kansas City's Bomber Plant, 1940-1945."

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Most readers of Kansas History certainly know that American aircraft manufacture in the 1940s was vital to the war effort and contributed greatly to the Allied victory. Wichita's critical role in this wartime story is a familiar one and has been well documented. But another Kansas city also played an important part, especially in the production of B-25 bombers, which were a crucial part of America's World War II arsenal. This "versatile aircraft was a conventional bomber, but it also was used for airborne artillery and as a low altitude strafer," explains Mission, Kansas, resident Richard Macais. "It was used in several theaters of the war, from North African deserts to Pacific Ocean expanses," and "many of these airplanes were produced in North American Aviation's Kansas City, Kansas, facility." Macias's article describes the origin and development of this defense plant and discusses "the principal achievements of its employees, who, of course, made a vital contribution to the war effort."

Jim Hoy and Cathy Hoy, "Portraits of the Plains: The Photographs of F. M. Steele."

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Although students of the American West may not know the name, most are probably familiar with the work of the photographer, F. M. Steele, who provided us with "a comprehensive view of life in the Southwestern Plains from the 1890s through the first quarter of the twentieth century." Steele, who covered the cattle range and round-ups in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado," was "credited with having one of the finest collections of pictures of trail outfits and cattle activities in existence," reported the Dodge City Globe on August 25, 1933. "In addition to his name," write Jim and Cathy Hoy of Emporia, "what has not been generally known about Steele is the broad scope of his work. Besides cowboys and ranching, Steele recorded such aspects of rural and small town life as farming (from kafir corn to sugar beets to wheat), irrigation projects, railroad construction, community celebrations, civic booster trips, buildings (including farmsteads, town houses, and factories), portraits, floods, wild animals, and other scenes from nature."

William S. Worley, "Urban History of Kansas. Review Essay."

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From its traditional narrative histories to its most recent slogan and new quarter design, Kansas seemingly always has been and is characterized as a rural, agricultural state. Thus, it is not surprising that Kansas historiography has focused on these themes. Nevertheless, writes Kansas City historian William S. Worley, in reality "Kansas is, and for some time has been, a decidedly urban state. . . . In 2005 . . . well over two-thirds of state residents lived in an 'urban place' of 2,500 or more in population. Thus, for most Kansans in the twenty-first century, Kansas IS an urban state." Although the growth and development of the state's urban places has been celebrated in book form for many years, most are "heavily promotional or commemorative" in nature and purpose, and "almost none of them provide any statewide context for the development of Kansas cities and towns." Worley calls attention to these "useful, but limited, older works" while seeking "to put forth the need for city and town histories that interpret their total community history including the newcomers and immigrants that have more recently shaped much of Kansas urban life."

In Memoriam

Two Kansas historians, James E. Sherow of Kansas State University and William O. Wagnon of Washburn University, remember the lives and careers of their colleagues and friends, Homer E. Socolofsky and C. Robert Haywood, who died in 2005.

Volume 28 Index 2005