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

Jay Price / KMUW

I recently had the privilege to lead two walking tours along Douglas Avenue. Many were amazed at how much the center of Wichita has changed.

A photograph of Douglas and Main from 1870 shows a few wood structures and tents in the middle of a grassy plain. Two years later, according to one recollection, the intersection “clanged with the noisy spurs of Texas cowboys and Mexican ranchmen” and “a brass band played from morning to far into the night on a two-story platform raised over the sidewalk.”

Historians will always need to visit archives and libraries, although it is truly amazing how much information is available in digital form.

A few months ago, I was looking at a Sedgwick County mapping database and was surprised when a search for material on Delano turned up a document for the community of Elgin, platted in early 1871. A quick search turned up an almost identical plat for the community of Delano a few months later. Clearly, one replaced the other.

Wikimedia Commons

One nice thing about teaching Kansas history is that it is easy to draw a state map: just create a rectangle with one corner nibbled off.

This map could have been very different, however.

Our story begins in 1854, with the creation of the massive Territory of Kansas that extended from Missouri to the Continental Divide. With Utah on its western border, territorial Kansas included both Pike’s Peak and Bent’s Fort.

maureen lunn / Flickr / Creative Commons

Traditionally, Christians marked December as the season of Advent, paralleling the role of Lent before Easter. Christmas celebrations were to begin at Christmas. That practice has been under siege for generations, with Christmas, it seems, now threatening to engulf Thanksgiving.

Fletcher Powell / KMUW

The oldest surviving structure on Wichita State’s campus, Fiske Hall’s story began in 1904 with a donation from Charlotte Fiske of Massachusetts to construct a new men’s dormitory at what was then Fairmount College.

U.S. Embassy, Jakarta / Flickr / Creative Commons

Recently, two students and I had a chance to work on a project that looked at the Kansas ancestors of President Barack Obama.

Six Miles of Local History / Flickr

In the 1910s, a person in Kansas City who wanted to attend the University of Kansas-University of Missouri game in Lawrence only needed to take the trolley to the station of the Kaw Valley Interurban, where trains left every hour on the half hour.

Jay Price / KMUW

Over the years, I have traveled down various segments of Route 66 that, taken together, have covered or paralleled nearly the entire length of “the Mother Road.”

Fletcher Powell / KMUW

My research includes the study of buildings constructed from about World War II to the 1970s.

It began with a study of Route 66 and the features along the “Mother Road.” Since then, my interest in the postwar built-landscape has extended to suburban ranch homes, one of which I just purchased, and to the religious landscape of 1950s and 1960s America.

xmacex / Flickr

Many in the general public think of history as dry textbooks and the memorization of lists of dates, wars, kings and presidents. But memorizing facts is no more history than practicing free throws is basketball.

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