The Real Reason Why Kansas City Is In Missouri

When the Kansas City Chiefs were proclaimed the victors of the 2020 Super Bowl, President Trump made a rather embarrassing blunder on Twitter: he congratulated the wrong state, crediting the victory to the "Great state of Kansas." Oops. Now, as any Midwesterner will tell you, the Kansas City that the Chiefs hail from isn't in Kansas. It's in Missouri. This is relatively common knowledge, but how did it become the case? And, perhaps most importantly, which Kansas came first?

It's all about the Kansas River

Okay, so first off, the name "Kansas" has indigenous roots. By the mid-18th century, as documented by the Kansas Historical Society, much of the territory that is now considered the state of Kansas was formerly the home of the "People of the Southwind." Translations being what they are, there were a number of European translations for their name, ranging from the Kaw people, to Kanza, to Kansa. As you can imagine, this being American history and all, relations with the United States government went badly, resulting in widespread starvation and death, but that's another, rather depressing topic.

Regardless, the first geographic location to be titled after them wasn't a state nor a city, but the Kansas River. On the Missouri side, according to the Kansas City Star, when the proprietors first designated the location for a new town at the mouth of the Kansas River, they considered the name "Kawsmouth," but ended up settling on Kansas. That name has lasted to this day, with Kansas City now boasting a population of 490,000, according to Printers Row Publishing Group, but there's a catch: on the opposing side of the river, in the state of Kansas, there is a second (and much smaller) Kansas City. To make matters even more complex, both of these Kansas Cities are designated as part of the so-called "Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area," with the Missouri one being the unofficial capital of the whole shebang.

So, while the Kansas people clearly came first, followed by the Kansas River, which location came third?

Which Kansas ripped off which?

The answer, frankly, is a lot easier than one might think. Missouri's Kansas City was founded in 1850. Kansas' Kansas City, often shortened to KCK, didn't get the ball rolling until 1872. So, yes, Missouri had a Kansas before Kansas did.

Keep in mind, by the way, that the state of Kansas didn't even exist at the time that Kansas City came about, nor was the geographic location even called the Kansas territory yet. Now, explaining the state's origins means getting into the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and opening up a whole conversation about the U.S. Civil War. That said, it's worth noting that before Kansas became a state, the Missouri metropolis actually just called itself "Kansas," and only changed its name to "Kansas City" after the Kansas territory was established. So it goes.