Wednesday, August 21, 2013

History of Wichita - 1888

In 1887, a bill was passed by the Kansas Legislature giving Kansas women the right to vote at school, bond, and municipal elections. Empowered, Wichita women would help to elect George W. Clement mayor of Wichita to replace then serving Joseph Allen. John A. Martin still served as governor of the state, advocating state-wide Prohibition.

In the US presidential election,  the incumbent Democrat Grover Cleveland wins the popular vote in November, but loses the Electoral College vote to Republican Benjamin Harrison, thereby losing the election.

Wichita is booming.

Some of the descriptions of the city included "Winning Wonder of the West," "Peerless Princess of the Plains,” “Windy Wonder," and the “Magic Mascotte (sic) of the Meridian."  This and other facts were noted by Dr. Edward Tihen (Tihen notes) in his review of the Wichita Eagle and other papers. Wichita Eagle 1888.

Wichita Street Railway, 1884, North Main Street
Image Wichita Public Library,

Wichita began in 1870 with a population of 270, now has an estimated population of 40,000. Eight years earlier, the population of Wichita was only 5,482.

A detailed map of Wichita dated 1887, compiled by the publishers L.H. Everets & Co. of Philadelphia reveals the extent of Wichita. David Rumsey Map Collection. On the map, College Hill begins at Hillside and Douglas Avenues. Today's College Hill was then described as Merriman Park, named after original landowner George Merriman. Read Jeff Roth's article on College Hill.

Citizens get around by horse and buggy. Public transportation is mule drawn railway cars. The several railway companies in the city were considering using something other than mules, one idea being electric railways which were being used in other cities. One such railway was the Strang Car Line, then in use between Kansas City and Olathe. The largest of the railway companies - the Wichita Street Railway company,  has 40 miles of lines and 46 cars, providing five minute service on major streets. The railway line on Douglas Avenue ends at Hillside.

January 12th, 1888 - a blizzard suddenly and without warning strikes Kansas, and all of the Midwest from Texas to Minnesota. The violent storm leaves 235 dead, mostly children on their way home from school. In March another blizzard would hit the east coast causing power outages and killing more than 400.

The winter blizzard was fresh in the minds of the several  railway companies, a push was under way to get cars heated by stoves, making them comfortable no matter how fierce the weather.

Wichita Interurban Railway

 Image Wichita Public Library, 

As Tihen notes in an article from the Eagle dated January 13, 1888, travel was not without mishap:
A few days ago a street car driver on the Emporia line lighted one of the lamps of the car and then dropped the still burning match into the straw bottom of the car. It ignited and caught the dress of a lady passenger, but fortunately was extinguished with a nearly bucket of water.

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