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Why isn’t Kansas City named Missouri City? A history teacher explains

For those unfamiliar with the KC area, the fact that Kansas City, Missouri and the state of Kansas share a name can be confusing.

Since KCMO is in Missouri, shouldn’t it be called Missouri City?

A high school history teacher from Lawrence set out to answer that question, explaining in a video how Kansas City was named. Matt Beat delves into the origin of the word Kansas, why a border runs between the two Kansas Cities and how Kansans once tried to steal KCMO.

“KCK (Kansas City, Kan.) is often overshadowed by Kansas City, Missouri,” Beat said in his video, listing the number of attractions on the Missouri side that garner headlines and public attention. (Think the Chiefs, Royals, Westport, the Plaza, Sprint Center and the World War I Museum.)

Early residents of the area found inspiration for the word Kansas from the Kanza Native American tribe. KCMO was incorporated in 1853, even before Kansas became a state, in 1861. In October 1872 small towns around present-day KCK joined up to form Kansas City, Kan.

They used the same name as the neighboring KCMO in an attempt to attract visitors who thought they were traveling to the more booming KCMO, Beat said.

And KCMO was thriving around that time. The city grew from less than 5,000 people before the Civil War to about 35,000 people 10 years later. In an interview with The Star, Beat said he used a book, “Kansas City and How It Grew, 1822-2011,” as his main source for information.

“KCK wanted to piggyback on the success of KCMO and essentially confuse visitors into thinking they were the real Kansas City,” Beat said.

Later, Kansas politicians made attempts to annex Missouri side of Kansas City into their state.

The editorial board of the Kansas City Times supported such an action, writing, in 1878, “Kansas City, Mo., is the legitimate outgrowth of the state of Kansas. In everything but a line on the map she is essentially a city of Kansas.”

It wasn’t meant to be. KCMO remained a Missouri city. And though the two cities have had a somewhat contentious history as neighbors, each have established themselves as unique despite sharing a name.

“Since then the two cities and their suburbs have thrived in their own ways,” Beat said. “But KCMO often dominates the headlines.”

Check out another video that Beat created:

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

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