Jay Price

History commentator

Jay M. Price is chair of the department of history at Wichita State University, where he also directs the public history program.

His works include Temples for a Modern God: Religious Architecture in Postwar America, Gateways to the Southwest: The Story of Arizona State Parks, Wichita, 1860-1930, and El Dorado!: Legacy of an Oil Boom. He has co-authored Wichita's Legacy of Flight, the Cherokee Strip Land Rush, Wichita’s Lebanese Heritage, and Kansas: In the Heart of Tornado Alley.

He has served on the boards of the Kansas Humanities Council and the Kansas State Historic Sites Board of Review. He is currently on the board of the Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum and the University Press of Kansas.

Ways to Connect

Hugo Phan / KMUW

This commentary originally aired on June 30, 2015.

Those shopping and eating at Bradley Fair in northeast Wichita probably don’t realize that they are visiting what could have been the community of Manchester.

2017 marks the 80th anniversary of the Wichita flag, designed in 1937 by Cecil McAlester. Just a few years ago, few people knew that our city even had a flag. Today, it is everywhere, its bold shapes an emblem of local pride. 

During the 150th celebration of the Chisholm Trail, knowing the exact route of the trail is a lesson in history. The CT150 committee has created a map that outlines the route in Kansas...or at least one version of the route. This map uses the markers of Tom Frazee and the Kansas Cattletown Coalition that followed the trail from Caldwell up to Abilene. It works well for the purposes of commemorating the route.

There is a lot of conversation these days about keeping young people in Wichita. While well meaning, these sentiments miss a critical feature. Many local kids grow up to do well in their own community but many others move away. That is true for all cities, not just Wichita.

history.com

A new exhibit at the Kansas African American Museum tells the story of Barack Obama and the Kansas roots of his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. Although he grew up in Hawai’i, the young Barack was close to his grandparents, who told him of their upbringings in the oil fields of Peru, El Dorado, and Augusta. This exhibit celebrates these connections to the Sunflower State.

A recent road trip included a visit to Roswell, New Mexico.  I welcomed a chance to see the place that turned an event from 1947 into a cottage industry involving UFOs and aliens.

Last month, I attended the Western History Association conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I took part in a meeting of the newly-formed Midwestern History Association.  One of the association’s founders, historian Jon Lauck, suggested that, in contrast to the South and West, which have large, rich scholarships, the American Midwest was equally worthy of study, given its significant role in the country’s history.

Kansas Historical Society

1950s cuisine often brings up images of drive-in hamburgers, casseroles with cream of mushroom soup, and ghastly Jello salads. I found my stereotypes shattered one afternoon when I happened to come across some menus from the Santa Fe Railroad.  

Wichita Music History Project Facebook page

A few years ago, I became involved with a group of musicians who wanted to document the history of rock music in Wichita. These guys had played in bands in the 1960s and 1970s and opened my eyes to a vibrant music scene in Wichita. Back then, young people flocked to clubs like the Penthouse, The Fireside Club, and Sound Sircus to listen to bands play, sometimes every night of the week. There were “battles of the bands” at the Cotillion and outdoor concerts at parks, the most famous (or infamous) being at Herman Hill.

Courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

Recently, I was at the Kansas Historical Society looking through historic maps. One was from the Santa Fe Railroad from 1865. Back then, the company had just started the line to the south of Emporia and this map showed the proposed route. 

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