Once a sleepy town known for cattle ranches, Abilene became the terminal location for the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1867. Between 1867 and 1871, it is estimated that more than a million cattle were shipped by rail from here with the help of about 500 cowboys. Lawman “Wild Bill” Hickok helped keep the cowboys in line. Today, Abilene is a wheat center best known as the home of Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, the 34th U. S. president.
Operated by the National Archives & Records Administration, the Eisenhower Center consists of five buildings on 22 manicured acres. The Eisenhower Museum showcases more than 36,000 artifacts including personal family items, Ike’s 1942 Cadillac staff car and lavish gifts he received from foreign heads of state when he was president. Eisenhower grew up in the small clapboard Eisenhower family home in which his mother, Ida, lived from 1898 until her death in 1946. Visitors today can view the family’s modest furnishings. The Eisenhower Library preserves documents and audiovisual materials related to Ike. The Visitor Center houses a gift shop and auditorium where visitors can view a short film about Ike’s life. The Place of Meditation is the final resting place of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower and their firstborn son, Doud.
The Georgian-style Seelye Mansion was built in 1905 at a cost of $55,000 for Dr. A.B. Seelye. He made his fortune through a sales force of 400 who peddled patent medicine. Abilene’s most famous native – Eisenhower – delivered ice to the Seelye mansion when he was a young boy. Today the mansion contains much of the original furniture and Edison light fixtures. Tours visit 25 rooms, including 11 bedrooms, a ballroom, a bowling alley and kitchen areas. Don’t miss the music room with gold French furniture and the Tiffany-designed fireplace in the grand hall. At Christmas time, the Seelyes lavishly decorated their home with 200 large poinsettias and more than 40 festively decorated Christmas trees. Using many of Mrs. Seelye’s ideas, the home is still beautifully decorated during the holiday season.
The Dickinson County Historical Museum has regional exhibits relating to Plains Indians, railroads, cattle drives and westward expansion. Also on site is the Museum of Independent Telephony which displays antique telephones and other artifacts of the telephone industry. The Vintage Fashion Museum highlights garments worn by men, women and children in this area from the 1960s through the 1970s. There is also an extensive display of jewelry and accessories.
Developed around 1865 by cowboys on the Chisholm Trail, Wichita has left its rowdy past and grown into Kansas’ largest city known worldwide as an aircraft production center. Learn about the cowboy era by visiting Old Cowtown Museum, a 17-acre living history museum that recreates the town from 1865-1880. The 40+ buildings, which include many original to the area, showcase period furnishings and tools. There are also frequent special events ranging from staged gunfights to campfire cooking.
The Decorative Arts Collection was created in 1982 for the purpose of collecting, preserving and displaying decorative painting. The permanent collection allows visitors to see outstanding examples of early American folk art, Chinese pith painting, chinoiserie, Dutch Hindeloopen, English narrow-boat painting, Norwegian Rosemaling and Russian lacquered miniatures.
Located in the Old Town District, the Museum of World Treasures opened in 2001. Exhibits related to the Ancient World include weapons, jewelry and pottery from Egypt, Greece and Rome. One of the world’s finest collections relating to European royalty includes jewelry, swords, coins and autographs dating back to the 12th century. The Hall of Presidents includes autographs and memorabilia from every United States leader. Military displays include one of the finest Civil War collections in America plus artifacts from the Revolutionary War through World War II. There’s also Wichita’s Sports Hall of Fame, a Hollywood celebrity collection and a Western frontier exhibit.
The world’s most comprehensive collection of air-moving devices is at the Antique Fan Collectors Museum, which is housed in the headquarters of Vornado Air Circulation Systems. Breeze on in to view more than 250 fans, including many rare and one-of-a-kind pieces.
Specialty museums of interest include Wichita Art Museum, Lowell D. Holmes Museum of Anthropology, Ulrich Museum of Art, Sedgwick County Historical Museum, Great Plains Transportation Museum, Hopalong Cassidy Museum, Kansas Firefighters Museum, Kansas Aviation Museum, Kansas African American Museum and Kansas Cosmosphere Space Center.
The mysterious disappearance of aviator Amelia Earhart in 1927 still intrigues flight enthusiasts. Earhart’s grandparents’ home in Atchison, where she was born in 1897, is open as the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum and features family heirlooms, photographs and displays. The Atchison County Historical Society Museum features a permanent Earhart exhibit, World War I collection and local exhibits.
Husband-and-wife team Martin and Osa Johnson traveled the world by aircraft from 1917 to 1936. The Johnsons introduced Americans to remote parts of the world through their numerous movies and books about the wildlife and people of Africa, Borneo and the South Seas. Their achievements are showcased at the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum in Osa’s hometown. Photographs, maps, native artifacts, a recreated safari camp, cameras and personal memorabilia are on display.
The Prairie Museum of Art & History has exhibits of antique furniture, decorative arts, silver, bisque and china dolls, Chinese and Japanese artifacts, and textiles associated with area homesteaders. Displays include china and glassware by Tiffany, Meissen, Wedgwood, Steuben and Galle. Other buildings on this 17-acre site include a sod house, a restored 1930s farm house, a one-room school, a church and one of the largest barns in Kansas.
The 172-acre National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame was chartered by the U. S. Congress to preserve the work of America’s farmers. The Museum of Farming houses a collection of 30,000 pieces of farm machinery and implements. Farm Town U.S.A. is a replica rural Kansas village as it would have been in the early 1900s. Buildings include a blacksmith shop, a general store, a farmhouse with outbuildings and a railroad depot.
Opened in 2004, the Piano Technicians Guild Foundation Museum exhibits pianos of historic interest and the tools used to worked on them. The Wyandotte County Historical Society and Museum preserves regional history from the Stone Age to the present. See one of America’s few remaining Native-American dugout canoes and a 1913 fire engine.