Topeka is the capitol of Kansas and the seat of Shawnee County. The city is located in the northeastern section of the state, on the Kansas River.
Its name allegedly came from an Indian word meaning "a good place to dig potatoes," but some scholars dispute that.
The earliest settlers arrived in the area in the early 1840's. The city was incorporated in 1857, following promotional efforts of nine founders of the Topeka Association. One of the nine, Dr. Charles Robinson, became the first Governor when Kansas was admitted to the Union as the 34th state in 1861. This action was preceded by years of bitter conflict between abolitionists and pro-slavery forces, but Kansas was finally dedicated a state.
Cyrus K. Holliday, one of the nine founders and first Mayor of Topeka, formed the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad shortly after the Civil War. Always a key city in this operation, Topeka is now the headquarters of Santa Fe's Eastern Lines and is the home of one of the country's largest railroad shop facilities.
The building of Forbes Air Force Base and a large Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant during World War II contributed to Topeka's rapid growth in the 1940's and 1950's. Although the air force base closed because of military needs, new industry and expanding state government helped Topeka maintain its diverse economy.
Topeka native Charles Curtis, who served under Herbert Hoover, is the only Vice-president of the United States of Indian descent. Curtis was the grandson of an early settler who married an Indian woman.
Another famous Topekan is the late Alfred M. Landon, who was the 1936 Republican nominee for President and was an unofficial advisor to a number of presidents in subsequent years.
The Menninger Foundation, located in Topeka, is internationally known as a center for treatment of mental illness. Many outstanding health professionals have trained there or are presently on staff.
The state government complex includes the Capitol Building with a number of murals depicting the state's history and the attractive Hall of Justice Building.
The world-famous Topeka zoo features a unique tropical rain forest and includes many species of mammals and birds in natural settings.
Washburn University, the nation's last remaining city-supported institution of higher learning, continues to serve an increasing number of students despite its proximity to two large state schools. Its list of law school graduates includes many prominent attorneys and government figures. Washburn's basketball team won the 1987 national small college championship (NAIA).
The recently opened Expocentre features a number of well-known rock and western musicians in concert and is home to the Topeka Sizzlers of the Continental Basketball Association. A large auto racing complex opened in August, 1989.