The land around Kansas City, USA, has long occupied a strategic spot as an international crossroads, as boundaries shifted among the colonies of France, Spain and England. From the departure point for trails through the Old West to the crossroads of the American continent, Kansas City always has been a port of welcome.
The prehistoric inland sea that once covered the Kansas City area gave rise to a wide expanse of native tallgrass pioneers often compared to a wavy ocean. Ten thousand years ago, the low, rounded hills at the edge of the Great Plains were home to the nomadic Native American Mississippi culture. Later, migrations of Eastern and Northeastern tribes joined Siouan tribes, including the Osage, Missouri and Kansas.
The French were the first Europeans to explore the region, then known as Upper Louisiana, in the 1600s. In 1804, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on an expedition from St. Louis up the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. The band pronounced the mouth of the Kansas River the perfect site for a trading post.
By the early 1800s, wagon trains were departing the area around Kansas City regularly for Oregon, Utah and California. The opening of the Santa Fe Trail in 1821 and the inauguration of steamboat traffic on the Missouri River opened the floodgates to regional settlement. The city of Kansas City, Missouri, was founded as a steamboat port in 1850.
Following the opening of the American frontier, Kansas City became a marketplace for the new states of Kansas, Nebraska and Texas. The rough-and-tumble atmosphere of the Civil War era was embodied by the local Jesse James gang that made the area their home base. Later, Kansas City, USA, became known for its uniquely American spirit, evidenced by politicians such as the unpretentious and plain-spoken U.S. President Harry S Truman.
The development of the U.S. interstate highway system brought significant change to the Kansas City region. Kansas City, Missouri, became a founding member of the North American International Trade Corridor linking Canada with southern Mexico. Modern highways, railroads and airlines have strengthened the connection between Kansas City, the nation and the world, and continue to break down the barriers of culture and trade.