Fascinating Morsels

Fascinating Morsels of Topeka Trivia! 

Topeka High School was the first million dollar high school in the United States. Opening in 1931, it still stands proud and tall today. Cost of construction were estimated at 1.75 million dollars.

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad was founded by Cyrus K. Holliday in Topeka. Topeka is still its home, and it is now the BNSF Railway company (having merged in 1995 with the Burlington Northern Railway.

McCarter Elementary School is named for Margaret Hill McCarter. Topeka was her home, and she was the first woman to speak at a National Political Convention, in 1920 (Harding – Republican). Mrs. McCarter was an English teacher and an author of books about life on the plains.

Charles Sheldon, who promoted free kindergarten for all, was from Topeka. His book, In His Steps, was theoretically the best selling book in Topeka.

Alfred E. Newman (Mad Magazine) was from Topeka! A Topeka dentist came up with the character, professing the his services didn’t hurt a bit!

Topeka is home to the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site, which commemorates the landmark Supreme Court decision on May 17, 1954, ending segregation in public schools. The school cited in the case, Monroe School, has been converted to a national park, detailing the court case and the integral role of the Brown decision in the Civil Rights Movement.

The Menninger Foundation was founded in Topeka in 1925 by Dr.’s Wil and C.F. Menninger. World renowned for treatment, prevention, education and research in the mental health field, the clinic partnered with Baylor College of Medicine and moved to Houston, Texas in 2003. The campus still exists, and the centerpiece Tower Building is fashioned after Independence Hall. Dr. Karl Menninger wrote the book, Crime of Punishment.

Gage Park is home to the Reinisch Rose Garden, containing more than 7000 rose bushes of more than 350 varities. Reinisch is one of 23 All-American Rose Selection (AARS) test gardens in the United States.

The Great Smith automobile was built in Topeka from 1906-1912.

The second black woman admitted to the practice of law (1897), Lutie Lytle, was from Topeka. She was admitted to the bar in Tennessee and in Kansas.

The only Native American to serve as Vice President of the United states, Charles Curtis, was born in Topeka, and served under President Herbert Hoover from 1929-1933.

The mansion of Alfred M. Landon still stands proudly in the Prospect Hills neighborhood. Mr. Landon was the 1936 republican nominee for president defeated by Franklin Roosevelt. Mr. Landon’s daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, was a United States Senator. Landon Middle School is named after Mr. Landon, and is still open.

The “common drinking cup” in schools and on trains was done away with & credit is given to Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine, from Topeka. An early day promoter of good health, he invented the paper cup and the fly swatter.

Shawnee Lake is the home of the first and only fully-staked 400 meter dash rowing course in the world. Still host to the annual Great Plains Rowing Championships, Shawnee Lake was host to the 1993 and 1994 American Rowing National Championships.

The sparrow is from Topeka. Frye Giles (one of Topeka’s founders), send away for birds to eat insects that he considered a nuisance. He nursed the birds to health after they arrived in Topeka, created an environment for them to live in, and called Topeka “the home of the sparrow.”

Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe novels, grew up in Topeka. His Archie Goodwin investigator is named after a real-life Topeka policeman from the 1920’s.

The first performance of Gypsy Rose Lee was in Topeka. She was an instant hit and her career began on the road in Kansas the next day.

Washburn University is the only municipally owned university in the country. Over 6500 students are enrolled in over 200 programs for associate, bachelor’s mater’s and juris doctorate degrees. Students come from all over the country.

Payless Shoes (Collective Brands, Payless ShoeSource) started in downtown Topeka by Louis and Shaol Pozez as Pozie’s Shoestore. Still with a large plan in Topeka, they operate over 4700 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, selling over 200 million pairs of shoes annually.

Hallmark Cards has a plan in Topeka, producing all the writing papers and notes for Hallmark and Ambassador. Hallmark, from Kansas City, is still a family-held firm controlled by the Hall Family. One of the many famous brands they own is Crayola.

The windows in the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Topeka, installed in 1911, are made of Favrile glass, and were designed and created at the Tiffany Studios in New York City under the supervision of art director, Mr. Louis Tiffany.

John and Mary Ritchie’s home near downtown Topeka was the site of the first meeting of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Kansas.

Topeka was home to Carrie Nation and her hatchet. Mrs. Nation, a temperance crusader, supported herself with income from her Topeka-published newspaper, The Smasher’s Mail.

Cedar Crest is the smallest occupied governor’s residence in the United States, even though it sits on the largest piece of property (244 acres). The mansion and land were bequeathed to the State of Kansas by Topeka State Journal (newspaper) publisher Frank MacLennan and his wife.

Hills Pet Nutrition has it’s corporate headquarters in Topeka. Their Science Diet and Prescription Diet pet foods are sold internationally through veterinary offices and pet stores, and are also used in many zoos. Hill’s is a part of the Cologate-Palmolive company.

The world’s largest producer of earthmover tires is Topeka’s Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company plant. The Topeka plant produces tires for mining and construction operations, as well as radial truck tires used worldwide.

Do you have some more fascinating morsels of Topeka Trivia? Let us know!

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