Finney County Museum celebrates Kansas' 160th birthday with new exhibit

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
The Finney County Historical Museum is celebrating Kansas' birthday with its current Front Door Gallery exhibit.

The Finney County Historical Society and Museum has a new Front Door Gallery Exhibit.

The exhibit marks Kansas' 160th birthday.

Steve Quakenbush, executive director of the Finney County Museum, said this is the first Front Door Gallery exhibit of the year. Typically, they try to have four to six a year.

Titled “Ad Astra Per Aspera," Kansas' Latin motto, the exhibit tells how the admission of Kansas to the Union on Jan. 29, 1861, was a spark that helped ignite the American Civil War, Quakenbush said. It's often overlooked.

"One of the major national issues in the late 1850s and into 1860, was whether Kansas would come into the Union as a slave state or a free, non-slave state," he said. "It was actually President Lincoln's advocacy of Kansas entering the Union as a free state that enraged a lot of House members and senators from Southern, slave-holding states and prompted several of them to resign from Congress, go home and begin forming the confederacy."

The exhibit explains how the creation of Kansas as a state is tied to the Civil War via items, photographs and text, Quakenbush said.

One photo Quakenbush is excited about is of President Abraham Lincoln, back when he was still president elect, raising the first United States flag with 34 stars, Kansas being the 34th state to join the Union.

"He was elected in November of 1860, and in those days the president was inaugurated not in January but in March," he said. "Lincoln was traveling on his way to Washington, D.C., in February of 1860 and he stopped in Philadelphia, and on Washington's birthday the president raised the first 34-star American flag for Kansas over Independence Hall in Philadelphia."

Also, the exhibit has a photograph of John Brown, a Kansas-based abolitionist who conducted a raid on a federal arsenal in 1859 on Harper's Ferry, Va., with the hope to secure muskets to arm slaves and start a slave insurrection, Quakenbush said.

In addition to the historical side of Kansas' 160th year, the exhibit also includes a section with 17 artistic creations by local children titled “Images of Kansas,” done in partnership with Garden City Arts.

It was designed to honor the anniversary and share young artists' impression of his or her home state. The work was produced through Garden City Arts, led by executive director Katy Guthrie.

Quakenbush hopes people take away pride in the state from the exhibit. 

"I hope that people see that Kansas is a state whose heritage ought to be something that native and transplanted Kansans are proud of and definitely that after they see it they realize that ... we weren't just on the periphery of the Civil War, we were one of the causes of the Civil War, at least we were at the center of one of the major controversies that lead to the Civil War," he said.