Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in GREAT PLAINS QUARTERLY 26:4 (Fall 2006). Copyright © 2006 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


Located at the crossroads of America, Kansas had long experience of interstate migrants. For many decades armies of workers had entered the state to pursue the harvest of a number of crops, or to pick up whatever work was available on their way west in pursuit of a more rewarding life. The U.S. population was highly mobile and migration played an essential role in a vigorously expanding economy. Ailing transients, especially tubercular cases, had as their destination the pure, dry air of the Southwest. To these we can add indeterminate numbers of seasonal workers, ex-veterans, homeless boys, peddlers, beggars, and rootless individuals, some of who had recently been discharged from prisons or from other institutions.
People on the move usually traveled by horse-drawn prairie schooner, by rail, or made their way by hitchhiking. In the 1920s low-priced used autos enabled many families to travel with relative ease over considerable distances'! Migrants, however, were often unprepared for the rigors of their journey, and they inevitably presented a local welfare problem when their resources were totally exhausted and they were forced to seek public relief.