Are you smarter than a Kansas 7th-grader of 100 years ago?

Can you answer these test questions from old Kansas schoolbooks?

How many rods were in a furlong? Here's a sample of questions from textbooks used by Kansas schoolkids 50 to 100 years ago.
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How many rods were in a furlong? Here's a sample of questions from textbooks used by Kansas schoolkids 50 to 100 years ago.

If we asked any ordinary person walking down the street how many rods were in a furlong, chances are they’d say something along the lines of “How many whozits in a whatnow?”

Looking back at some 100-year-old elementary school textbooks, though, it’s clear that even kiddos were expected to know that (and more).

Today is Kansas Day, the anniversary of Kansas’ admission to the Union in 1861. And the Kansas Historical Society’s Archives and Reading Room in Topeka has all you’d ever want to know about the Sunflower State — and then some.

The archives include a whole mess of textbooks that have been used by Kansas school kids since the first school doors opened. So many that there are two yard-long card catalog drawers full of card entries of old textbooks.

And, boy, did all those old textbooks make us feel dumb.

While we can all lament the advent of technology and bemoan the screens kids stare into all day, it’s clear that learnin’ and cipherin’ ain’t what they used to be — insert winky emoji here.

Here’s a sampling of 10 questions from textbooks used by Kansas schoolkids around 100 years ago. Yes, there will be math. Good luck. And no Google!

(Scroll down for answers.)

1. Who wrote the novel “Ivanhoe”?

2. In 1825, the U.S. government made treaties with two Native American tribes in the territory that would become Kansas. Name one.

3. If, from a cask containing 64 gallons, 2 quarts, 1 pint, and 2 gill of molasses, there should leak out 11 gallons, 3 quarts, 1 pint and 1 gill, how much would remain in the cask?

4. What was the name of the Venetian navigator who sailed west from England to “discover” the coast of North America for King Henry VII?

5. A man traveled 15,000 rods one day; another day 31 1/2 miles; and the third day, 25 miles, 80 rods. How many miles in all did he travel?

6. A milkman left 2 gallons, 3 quarts, and 1 pint at a boarding house every morning for six days. What quantity did he leave in that time?

7. Who is believed to be the first European to set foot in what would become Kansas?

8. Into how many house lots of 76 square rods each can a field of 29 acres, 40 square rods be divided?

9. If a ship sails 192 miles a day, how far will it sail in 56 days?

10. Diagram this sentence: The gentleman who was dressed in brown-once-black, had a sort of medico-theological exterior, which we afterwards found to be representative of the inward man.

And, just for fun for Kansas Day, here’s a list of 10 things about the Sunflower State, nine of which are true. Can you pick out the false one?

1. Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok and Bat Masterson all served as lawmen in Kansas.

2. Kansas’ first public high school was located in Lawrence, Kansas.

3. The first U.S. vice president of American Indian descent, Charles Curtis, is from Kansas.

4. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, was born in Abilene, Kansas.

5. Zebulon Pike, after whom Colorado’s Pike’s Peak is named, called Kansas “the Great American Desert.”

6. Iconic Kansas abolitionist John Brown was born in Connecticut.

7. Boston Corbett, the man who shot President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin (John Wilkes Booth), served as assistant doorkeeper of the Kansas House of Representatives.

8. The 1911 Kansas vs. Missouri football game, which ended in a 3-3 tie, is considered the first American homecoming football game.

9. “Gone With the Wind” actress and Wichita native Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American woman to win an Oscar.

10. William Inge’s Tony-nominated play “Bus Stop,” which was adapted into a film starring Marilyn Monroe, was based on people Inge met in Tonganoxie, Kansas.

David Frese: 816-234-4463, @DavidFrese


Old textbook answers:

1. Sir Walter Scott.

2. The Kanza (or Kaws) and the Osage.

3. 52 gallons, 3 quarts, 0 pints and 1 gill.

4. John Cabot (or Giovanni Caboto).

5. 103 5/8 miles.

6. 17 gallons, 1 quart.

7. Spanish explorer Francisco Vasqueth de Coronado.

8. 61 and 44 square rods remaining.

9. 10,752 miles.

10. See diagram below.

diagram sentence (2)

True or false: In the Kansas quiz, No. 4 is false. President Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas. Though No. 8 is contested by some.

Sources: ‘Classics for the Kansas Schools: Seventh Grade,” pub. 1921; “A History of Kansas,” pub. 1919; “New Elementary Arithmetic,” Benjamin Greenleaf, pub. 1876; “History of the United States,” John Frost, pub. 1850; “Harvey’s English Grammar,” Thomas W. Harvey, pub. 1868; “Promoting Good Citizenship,” James Bryce, pub. 1913.