Page 1












salt…it pervades nearly every aspect of our lives…page 4

I 12 where do you think this door leads?





E 13 check out our display at wichita’s airport




Linda Schmitt, executive director, rchs

Jamin Landavazo, chief curator, rchs

Gayle Ferrell, director of operations, kusm

Tonya Gehring, docent supervisor, kusm

Mike Allen, finance manager, rchs

Dave Unruh, maintenance supervisor, kusm

Lynn Ledeboer, curatorial assistant, rcm

Tina Moore, administrative assistant, rcm

Kourtney Krehbiel, visitor services, kusm

BOARD OF DIRECTORS John Doswell, president • Shannon Holmberg, secretary Charles Studt, treasurer • Michael Armour, president-elect Patty Foss • LeAnn Cox • E. Francis Habiger • Nan Hawver Todd Laffoon • Sherry Mundhenke • Tim Davies • Richard Shank Barbara Withrow • Jerry Wray • Mike Carey, ex-officio • Myron Marcotte, ex-officio • Lee Spence, ex-officio

4 salt: it turns up everywhere related in a 1995 legacy article

10 one, two,! ...for kusm’s fun new fancam

12 is it a wall...or a tunnel? kusm’s visitors’ center, who knows?

13 kusm showcased in wichita ...airport display raises visibility

14 explore the lovely old bisonte ...rcm exhibit revives its elegance

15 “road” trip leaves trail of exhibits ...displays focus on local communities

16 dig your hands into salt! ...only one of our many calendar events

Volume 23, No. 3 Legacy is published quarterly by The Reno County Historical Society, Inc. 100 S. Walnut St., P.O. Box 664, Hutchinson, Kansas 67504-0664 For advertising or membership information, call 620-662-1184. © 2011 The Reno County Historical Society, Inc. ISSN 1045-3423 All rights reserved. The RCHS disclaims responsibility for statements of fact or opinion made by contributors.

SALT’s everywhere, it’s everywhere!

By Charmine Elliott

this article, written by charmine elliott, first appeared in the summer 1995 issue of “legacy.”

it received honorable mention in the reno county historical society’s first history essay contest for students at hutchinson community college.


“We eat it, and eat with it, drink it and drink from it, wear it, take a bath with it, clean our teeth with it, shave with it, look through it, write on it, and drive on it.” –– From “Romances and Notes on Salt” The salt that is being pulled to the surface by the Hutchinson Salt, Morton, North American and Cargill* companies today has

not seen daylight in more than 200 million years. It was in the Permian period of the Upper Paleozoic era, 280 million to 225 million years ago, in which geologists think the salt of Kansas settled inch by inch through evaporation of sea water. In those years, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico and part of Colorado were covered by a shallow bay 650 miles long and about 200 miles wide. The bay that

covered Kansas was partially cut off from the sea, forming a shallow lagoon. Remnants of this ancient salt sea are still visible in pockets of water contained in some of the rocks taken out of the Carey (Hutchinson Salt) mine. As the water evaporated from the lagoon, salt was left behind. As the salt in the water became more concentrated, it began to settle on the bottom. Geologists believe that

*See “Updates” to this story on page 5.

the salty items featured in this article were donated by mildred schrock in 2006. the donation included a multitude of office items plus a collection of 16 calendars, page 4, from hutchinson salt and north american salt company.

new water would then pour into the lagoon, bringing more salt, and the deposit grew thicker. Salt can accumulate rapidly, which means it may have been laid down at a rate of several inches per year in this basin that had become a gigantic solar pan. The deposits were mostly sodium chloride, but it also contained about three percent calcium sulfate and traces of shale, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride. The geological picture is less clear after that. The sea level may have risen, deep-

salt beds of Kansas were ening the Kansas lagoon, discovered, the elk, deer or the ground may have and bison that roamed subsided and brought in a Kansas knew where to find fresh flood of sea water. it. These animals would However it hapcome to lick the salt pened, the build-up crystals that formed of salt stopped, SALT at the water’s edge and the layers of ...a very long of the springs in rock salt began to process the present Repubbe covered with lic County. silt and vegetable In 1866 James G. matter that would later Tuthill took a claim that inbecome the fertile soil of cluded a salt marsh. Tuthill Kansas. With 650 feet of gathered the briny water in shale, rock and sand over pans and evaporated the it, the white treasure of water with help from the central Kansas settled in to sun and wind. He would wait for Ben Blanchard to sell the salt that was left bring back the daylight. Long before the great (See 6)

*Update to the 1995 story By Linda Schmitt, RCHS Executive Director Several other statements in the article don’t reflect exactly what we have been advised recently by mine personnel to tell visitors. For example, the article states that the humidity in the mine is between 50 and 60 percent. While it does vary somewhat by season, the humidity remains between 40 and 50 percent, thus creating a dry atmosphere for storage. We have also omitted some information due to modern security concerns of Underground Vaults & Storage. Of course, the biggest development is that now visitors from all over the world can experience first-hand the crucial and fascinating resource that lies below Reno County.

We are excited to now have the opportunity to bring back Legacy articles from the past. Charmine Elliott’s essay, originally entitled “Salt Mines and Their Influence on Kansas,” was written 12 years before the salt museum became a reality. It includes great information, much of which is included in the Dark Ride tour for visitors at KUSM. Please keep in mind as you read the article that not all of the information given pertains to the Hutchinson Salt Mine, formerly the Carey Salt Mine. For example, many of the commercial uses of salt given in the article and application list are for the salt industry in general, and don’t apply specifically to the Hutchinson Salt mine.


a discovery by james tuthill in 1866 was the start of a crop of salt companies that sprouted in the area.

talk about flashy! check out the eyepopping new wallpaper, above, at the kusm visitors’ center. do you really know what’s behind that door on page 12? is it wallpaper ...or does it really reach way back into the darkness??

Flashy entrepreneur (Continued from page 5) throughout the territory. The next year a factory of the same type, Continental Salt Co., opened a salt spring near Solomon. This factory produced 7,000 barrels of salt annually. In 1874 a second company opened in Solomon. It was called Winsatt Salt Works. The two factories consolidated in 1881 as National Solar Salt. In 1890 the name changed to Solomon

for oil to entice emigrants to Hutchinson. On September 27, 1887 a 300-foot vein of high quality rock salt was discovered. This was the remains of the old sea salt that underlies 12 Kansas counties with Hutchinson at the center. Kansas Geological Survey calculated that there was salt beneath at least 7,500 square miles of the state’s area. It was estimated that

Solar Salt. It went out of business in 1903. Then in the 1880s a flashy entrepreneur and land speculator from Terra Haute, Ind., came to Reno County.

BEN STRIKES SALT! Ben Blanchard organized and laid out South Hutchinson, but had difficulty selling his property there. Blanchard decided to drill

insight, innovation, integrity. . .every day

Harry Dunn

Richard Hunter

History repeats itself




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the total salt deposit was about five trillion tons. This bed of salt is large enough to supply the entire United States indefinitely. It produces more than three million barrels of salt a year. Hutchinson is one of the great salt producers of America. Ranking next to Hutchinson in Kansas are Lyons, Kanopolis, Anthony and Little River. Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is used for everything from blasting off mill scale in plate-rolling mills to curing meat and fish, from making transparent lenses for laboratory equipment to grinding shark livers. Dissolved salt produces major effects on water: • It lowers the freezing point, which is why salt sprinkled on ice melts the ice. • It increases the density

of water so brine can be made hot enough to strip the skin from sweet potatoes, potatoes, rutabagas and carrots.

WHERE ISN’T SALT? The American Salt Institute in Alexandria, Va., tracked the use of sodium chloride in five major categories: agriculture, highway cleaning, water conditioning, food and industry. Together these account for about 80 percent

of the 42.2 million tons of salt consumed each year in the United States. The biggest use of salt is the manufacturing of caustic soda. This is made by running electric current through brine. Mercerizing, a soaking in caustic soda, makes cotton fibers about one-third stronger. Caustic soda’s effect on wood pulp creates newsprint and every other type of paper made of wood instead of rag.

some of these old salt bags have been stuffed to make little pillows.

(See UVS, page 8)

Some Indirect Applications for Salt (Sodium Chloride)


Chart courtesy of Morton International, Inc.

the thick roof of solid rock salt also prevents any seepage of water into the mine. No plant, animal or insect life can be sustained in the salt mine.

UVS is launched

one wonders how many ball caps exist with salt company logos...

(Continued from page 7) Chlorine, made with salt, is used as a treatment for drinking water, swimming pools and sewer systems. Soda ash, or sodium carbonate, is an indispensable ingredient in glassmaking and ceramics. It is also used in cosmetics, toothpaste and purifying natural gas.

KEEPING HOGS HEALTHY Other assorted sodium compounds are used to smelt nickel, keep hogs and cattle healthy, pickle meat and clean porcelain. To use this white treasure of Kansas, it has to be mined out of the earth. This leaves large empty caverns.

325-foot solid rock salt ceilIn 1959 a group of ings, topped by a variety eight Wichita businessof geological strata, and a men chose to use the 50-foot solid rock salt floor Hutchinson Salt Mine as on top of anhydride. Colan underground storumns of salt, 20 to 50 feet age center. The corpothick, are left between ration negotiated a excavated areas for 99-year lease with support, forming the Careys for investors prove to long rooms. the area. The be keen Another signifidoors opened visionaries cant reason for use for business on of the mine is that April 1, 1960 as salt is a great natural Underground Vaults catalyst, resistant to any & Storage, Inc. at 906 N. change in humidity, reHalstead, Hutchinson. maining at 50 to 60 percent The Hutchinson Salt year round.* (See “Update” Mine was chosen for on page 5.) several reasons. Rock salt This constant humidity (halite) is an extremely plus the constant temperadense mineral nearly equal ture of 68 degrees Fahrin weight to granite. enheit create ideal storage The rock salt is mined conditions. The thick roof on one level that leaves




sweaters, hats, gloves …what’s next?

of solid rock salt also prevents any seepage of water into the mine. No plant, animal or insect life can be sustained in the salt mine.

Members A big thank you to the following who renewed their memberships between April 13 and July 12, 2011.

Also, Underground Vaults & Storage’s unique vertical shaft entrance, which is 650 feet deep, affords maximum natural security unequaled by any other storage facility. The revenue generated from the salt mines has not only come from the salt itself but also from the various items from around the United States that are

Friends: Mary Alice Ditgen Judith Mielke Trish Rose Gene and Carlene Wells Clark and Charlene Wesley Supporters: Elwin and Margaret Cabbage William and JoAnn Drews Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Hedrick Ed and Vi Hoffman Dallas and Shirley Macklin Dr. and Mrs. Robert Morrison Sam and Judy Ontjes Tom and Kyle Philbeck Dr. Martha Sanders Barry and Gale Wall Michael and Kelly Wesley Backers: John and Kris Doswell Martha Fee Gary and Sue Poltera Jerry and Joan Wray Corporate Donor/ Donors’ Circle: Downtown Hutchinson Revitalization Partnership Director’s Circle: Catalyst Creative Services


stored at Underground Vaults & Storage. For this reason it is fair to say that the old salt seas have great impact on the state of Kansas today.


…one, two, three…smile!

By Gayle Ferrell, Director of Operations, KUSM

K RECORD BREAKER both the weather and kusm have been breaking records this summer. on

USM has recently installed a FanCam in the lobby! Ten Thousand Fans, a new technology firm originating in Wichita, wanted to test some markets in this area before going national.

If they like the photo, they select “Upload” and the picture posts to the KUSM Facebook page. A copy of the photo is then sent to the visitor’s email address. A slide show of the last 50 photos displays between photo sessions. Now, say cheese!


saturday, july 16,

Offering free installalinda and gayle try out the fancam. tion and a trial period of up to 30 days, RCHS Execuits previous attentive Director Linda Schmitt dance records with and I thought KUSM should a record day of 655 definitely try it for the wonvisitors! and, the derful opportunity for social entire month of july • Number of visitors May 1, underground: 1,610 media exposure. itself was a record2007 through July 17, 2011: • Guests who have attended We’ve only had it one day breaker, too, with 243,783 (not including speMurder in the Mine interacand IT IS WONDERFUL!!! cial events) tive dinner theatres: 760 an all-time monthly Visitors enter their name • Students who visited this • Record attendance on a high of 9,900 visitors. and email address into the past school year: 5,763 full day: 655 on July 16, 2011 way to go, kusm! FanCam monitor, then stand • Students who have visited • Previous record 647 on in front of one of KUSM’s since we opened: 25,077 July 11, 2009 banner backgrounds to have • Scouts and troop leaders • Record attendance on a their picture taken. who have spent the night Sunday (5 hours): 327 on July 3, 2011 • Previous Sunday record: 326 on September 5, 2010 How fortunate we are to live in a • Most popular holiday to community with such diverse and visit: Day after Thanksgiving high quality amenities -- including • Father’s Day beats Moththe Reno County Museum and er’s Day for attendance by a Kansas Underground Salt Museum! margin of more than 2:1 • Most Surprising Comment: 4 Hutchinson locations to serve you “You mean we have to go underground??!!” •Train riders March 16 through July 17, 2011: 18,710 kusm broke all of

Just the facts, ma’am!

We’re proud to share our hometown with you.


Even the walls speak

that’s wallpaper?


VISITORS’ CENTER By Linda Schmitt, Executive Director, Reno County Historical Society

Everyone knows that the Salt Mine Express underground train opened this year, and many have heard about the new hands-on Permian Playground at the Underground Salt Museum. What you may not know is that it’s not only the subterranean space that keeps changing at KUSM! When the above-ground Visitors’ Center opened July 1, 2008, it was a huge improvement over the tiny space that had served as the lobby since KUSM’s opening in May, 2007. In comparison it seemed like

a vast area, where visitors could come in out of the wind, heat and cold, and comfortably wait to go underground. At first all the walls were stark white with a few photos, pictures and notices scattered around. Later additional photographs, a display of salt rocks, a penny-smashing machine and a flat-screen TV playing the “Dirty Jobs – Salt” episode were added, and eventually one of the white walls was painted red. All of these additions improved the ambiance of the lobby, but many white walls still remained. In the summer of 2010, a wide expanse of blue and gray salt strata wallpaper was added to the ticket counter area. This summer brought three more wallpapered walls, including an additional strata wall,

a wall of salt sayings, and the door to the ready room that now appears to lead to a three-dimensional mine entrance. The old, temporary neon-colored signs (which had served their purpose) disappeared and were replaced by new professional signage. Like the underground museum area, the topside Visitors’ Center continues to evolve so that we can provide a unique and wonderful experience for our guests. We hope that you will visit soon and often to keep up with everything new at KUSM!

“salt sayings” wallpaper entertains visitors.


We’re on



s the Kansas Underground Salt Museum grows and expands, so does our desire to share the experience of descending 650 feet. It was no surprise that when an opportunity arose to lease display space at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport, we thought it would be a wonderful chance to remind those passing through Wichita that a first-class experience awaits them just down the road in Hutchinson. With the help of our innovative team at Catalyst Creative Services, we

hatched a plan to fit all the fun of KUSM into a small exhibit case. A great backdrop shows the experience of standing next to pillars of ancient salt one moment and authentic Hollywood costumes the next. It also highlights the anticipation of the underground train ride. Beautiful pieces of salt are also showcased as well as selections from our cheeky t-shirt collection. Our display case is located between the main door and security line and next to the case highlighting the

J9525-1 Hutch Legacy Mag -Spring11-7.5 x 5 2c ad .indd 1


Cosmosphere, ensuring maximum visibility. The next time you are in the Wichita airport drop by and see our display. And make sure your friends and relatives know about the amazing sights awaiting them under the Kansas prairies!

kusm’s new showcase at the wichita airport heightens awareness of the salt museum among travelers.

3/30/2011 10:24:39 AM

a waitress dressed in a period harvey girl uniform, above, serves appetizers to diners who are greeted by elegantly dressed tables reminiscent of fred harvey restaurants. below, this heavy wrought-iron chandelier once hung in the bisonte’s lobby.

Reliving the Bisonte! It may be a tired old phrase, but it’s true: “It’s a shame they tore down that lovely, old building.” On June 16, 2011 that lovely, old building, the Bisonte Hotel, rose once again from its ashes as the Reno County Museum opened its latest exhibit,

“Bisonte Hotel: The Best in the West.” “A Taste of Bisonte” dinner to kick off the exhibit was a week before on June 9 at the Town Club. The atmosphere and cuisine of the European elegance that the Bisonte upheld were apparent in the delicious menu created by the Town Club staff.

AUTHENTIC MENU Diners enjoyed a full menu, including shrimp cocktail, Fred Harvey cream of onion soup, KC strip with maitre d’hotel sauce, and the final “pièce de résistance” – burnt sugar cake whose burnt sugar icing followed an authentic

recipe from the Bisonte. More than 100 members and guests of the museum attended the exhibit opening on June 16. They were treated to cake and Bisonte Punch, a nonalcoholic punch made from grape juice and sparkling water that was created by the Bisonte Hotel manager specifically for William Jennings Bryan in 1916. Visitors marveled at original dishware, lunchroom stools and many other unique objects from the Harvey House. The demolition of that lovely, old building started in 1964 and was completed the following year.

original lunchroom stools, left, stand ready to seat diners in this replica of the bisonte’s lunchroom. above, a third floor bisonte bedroom and furnishings are included in the exhibit.


RCM on the road again …and don’t forget the contest!

RCM was truly “... on the road” Thursday, June 23, when Executive Director Linda Schmitt, Chief Curator Jamin Landavazo and Curatorial Assistant Lynn Ledeboer traveled to Sylvia and Plevna to open the latest of RCM’s continuing series of remote exhibits. The Sunflower Center hosted the Sylvia opening while the Floyd Redd Community Center is home to the Plevna exhibit. Both exhibit openings were well received and everyone enjoyed conversation along with cookies freshly baked by RCM

Administrative Assistant Tina Moore. Please plan to stop by

the display in plevna awaits visitors.


and see both of these new exhibits. Be sure to pick up a flyer from each display so that you can enter the RCM “On The Road” Contest. For more details about the contest, please call or visit our website. Locations and addresses for these exhibits are listed in the calendar on page 17. 620-662-1184

sylvia residents, above and at left, examine exhibits focusing on their community.

SEE YOU AT THE FAIR! be sure to stop and see us at our kansas state fair booth, september 9 – 18. and don’t forget to watch for sesquicentennial events this year celebrating kansas’ 150th birthday.

 KANSAS UNDERGROUND SALT MUSEUM 9 am–6 pm Tues–Sat 1–6 pm Sunday closed Mondays last tour departs two hours before closing reservations strongly recommended call us or check our website for holiday hours. NEW SALT BLAST PASS our best deal includes gallery tour, dark ride (both handicapped-accessible) and new train ride. adults: $18 seniors (60+), aaa & active military: $16.50 children (4-12) & reno county residents: $12 children under 4 not admitted due to mine safety regulations. pricing available to add only dark ride or train ride to gallery admission. all prices include sales tax. special pricing for groups over 28 and school groups with arrangements made one week in advance. 3504 e. avenue g

(at airport road) hutchinson, ks 67501 620-662-1425 toll-free 866-755-3450





Sunday, August 28 Doors open at 3:30 p.m. For details and reservations: 620-662-1425 • 866-755-3450

Try an Overnight Scouting event for an exciting underground adventure. Scouts must be 10-18 years of age. Minimum one adult chaperone for each five scouts.

$30 per person

This encore performance of “Clue-less” has been scheduled for Sunday due to popular demand for the interactive Saturday night event that has sold out. But the encore is filling up fast, so don’t delay. Then put your detective skills to the test!

Available dates: 2011: October 8, November 12, December 3 (girls only) 2012: January 14 and 21, February 4, 11 (girls only) and 25 Call Tonya Gehring or Gayle Ferrell. C 620-662-1425 • 866-755-3450


NOW OPEN! PERMIAN PLAYGROUND Admit it. You’ve always wanted to sink your hands into salt! This new interactive display allows you to explore the incredible varieties of salt. First hand!

SALT MINE EXPRESS – NOW DEPARTING! Hurry aboard to ride the thrilling new underground train. Experience the rustic side of the mine while traveling on original rails and ties used underground. Don’t miss it!

SALT SECRETS (ongoing) Salt secrets finally exposed!

MYRONMOBILE (ongoing) Come see the “Myronmobile,” from TV’s “Dirty Jobs” filmed in the Hutchinson Salt mine.

sink your hands into salt in KUSM’s new permian playground.



View costumes and props from your favorite movies.

Discover how live bacteria were extracted from ancient Permian salt.



Explore the efforts of Kiwanis International and UNICEF in using salt to combat IDD.

Explore the general history of salt mining in Hutchinson, including mining equipment.



elegant flooring, photos and artifacts recall the elegance of the bisonte hotel in this exhibit that is sure to bring back memories for many visitors.

RENO COUNTY MUSEUM EXHIBITS BISONTE HOTEL: THE BEST IN THE WEST Visitors will have the opportunity to take a longawaited look at one of Hutchinson’s most beloved memories – the Bisonte Hotel. Experience the elegance and sparkle of the Bisonte in the early 1900s and its change to more modern times in the 1940s and ‘50s.

RCM ON THE ROAD… The Reno County Museum is hitting the road in 2011! We are visiting our smaller communities in Reno County and establishing small, temporary exhibits highlighting items unique to those towns. We currently have exhibits in Haven, Yoder, South Hutchinson, Pretty Prairie, Plevna and Sylvia. See schedule below.

“On the Road” exhibit schedule Haven: Public Library 121 N. Kansas, Haven Tuesday & Thursday: 12–7 Wednesday: 12–5 Friday/Saturday: 9–2 Yoder: Peoples Bank and Trust 9810 S. Main, Yoder Monday–Thursday: 9–3 Friday: 9–4:30 Saturday: 8–12 South Hutchinson: Bank of Kansas 524 N. Main, S. Hutchinson Monday–Friday: 9–4 Pretty Prairie: Civic Theater 105 W. Main, Pretty Prairie Call for an appointment: 620-459-4600

Sylvia: Sunflower Center 301 S. Main, Sylvia Call for an appointment. 620-286-5320 Plevna: Floyd Redd Building 7 W. 3rd, Plevna Call for an appointment. 620-486-3845

Watch for these coming exhibits August: Turon and Langdon October: Arlington and Abbyville December: Buhler and Medora February 2012: Nickerson and Partridge


“86.121” (Ongoing) Meet past Reno County resident Mildred Hobbs (donor #86.121) through the vast collection of artifacts she and her family generously donated to RCM. Follow the process as an artifact is donated to RCM and is finally featured in an exhibit.

A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS (Ongoing) The Reno County Historical Society staff chose their favorite artifacts for this display. Most of these items have never before been on exhibit.

TRANSPORTATION GALLERY (Ongoing) Come enjoy the Schuttler wagon, an Amish buggy, the Indian motorcycle, sidecar and much more in this fascinating look at the past.


Come enjoy crafts for kids with us during our signature winter event. Cost is only $3 for all materials.


Our newest winter event is cookie decorating for Christmas. It’s your chance to be creative. And, you get to eat your art work!

RENO COUNTY MUSEUM HOURS 9 am–5 pm tues-sat closed sunday and monday free admission unless otherwise noted 100 S. Walnut 620-662-1184



reno county historical society p.o. box 664 hutchinson, kansas 67504-0664

return service requested

If your address changes, please call us at 620-662-1184. if you’re not a member and wish to join, please call us at 620-662-1184. and don’t forget to check out our web site at

Legacy Summer 2011  

Read about the salt industry, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum and the happenings of the Reno County Historical Society.

Legacy Summer 2011  

Read about the salt industry, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum and the happenings of the Reno County Historical Society.