With an estimated population of 354,865 residents, Wichita is the 51st largest city in the United States. In 2006 it was named by CNN/Money and Money Magazine as 9th on its list of the ten best cities to live in which to live in the country. This is due in part to its thriving economy and its many community events, historical sites and attractions like the Wichita River Festival, The Wichita Gardens - Botanica, Sedgwick County Zoo, The Old Cowtown Museum, McConnell Air Force Base's Exploration Place, the Old Town historical and entertainment district, the Mid-America All-Indian Center and Museum, the Wichita Art Museum, Joyland Amusement Park, Sedgwick County Fair, and the Ulrich Museum of Art at the Wichita State University. The city is also known for Charlie "Bird" Parker who recorded his first jazz album at the Trocadero Ballroom. The Wichita Jazz Festival remains a significant annual event on the national jazz calendar.
For at least 11,000 years, Wichita was a trading center and meeting place for nomadic tribes who followed and hunted game. Its location at the junction of the Arkansas Rivers in south central Kansas made it an ideal site for encampments and ceremony for bands traveling in the area. The first recorded exploration of the area was when Spaniard Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came through the area in 1541 as he searched for the mythical "golden" cities of Quivira. He was followed by many French and American explorers. The first recorded permanent settlement was a collection of grass houses built in 1863 by the Wichita Indians. Several traders moved to the area as well to establish lucrative trading of furs with the tribes, but during the Civil War the tribeâ€™s pro-Union sentiment necessitated their relocation to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) under the protection of the Union Army. When the regionâ€™s native peoples were forced to leave the Indian Territory in 1867 to open the area for white settlement, the the well-established trading business followed them, using the Wichita site as a base and establishing the Chisholm Trail as a route of transport.
From its incorporation in 1870 the city thrived and grew as a destination for Texas cattle ranchers as they drove their herds to market on the Chisholm Trail. With the cattle industry came grain and milling enterprises that are still in operation. During World War II the city experienced a population boom with aircraft manufacturing companies setting up operations in the area. Companies like Stearman Aircraft, Beech Aircraft, Cessna Aircraft and LearJet all originated in Wichita. Today, Wichita is know as the Air Capital of the World due to the six major aircraft manufacturing companies and McConnell Air Force Base.