The wild native sunflower has been the state flower of Kansas for 115 years. That symbol — and several others representing our great state — are common motifs on the merchandise sold in the McPherson Museum gift shop.
McPherson Museum Director Anna Ruxlow said Kansas' official symbols are significant because they were chosen by Kansans, who petitioned the state government themselves for their adoption. Lincoln Elementary School students were involved in the state-wide effort to have the barred tiger salamander named the official amphibian of Kansas in 1994.
A much larger animal that can be seen on Kansas' state seal is popular in the museum's gift shop.
"We carry the stuffed bison because we sell those like crazy," Ruxlow said.
While bison can still be seen in preserves and on ranches, the herds that used to number in the thousands do not run wild in Kansas any longer.
For Native Americans and early European settlers of Kansas, bison provided the materials from which they could make tools, toys, clothing and even homes.
"We call it their Wal-Mart," Ruxlow said. "They got everything from the bison."
Visitors to the McPherson Museum can purchase buffalo snack sticks and jerky made by Krehbiel's.
One-inch tall rubber bison that sell for 25 cents are the most popular items in the McPherson Museum gift shop, Ruxlow noted.
"We also have our 'no fear in McPherson' shirts, which is probably the number two seller," Ruxlow said.
Nearly all of the items in the museum's gift shop are either Kansas-themed or made by Kansas artists. In some cases, those categories overlap — as evidenced by the rectangular chunks of limestone painted with Kansas scenes by Concordia artist Phyllis Shanks.
One of Shank's paintings depicts a western meadowlark, which became Kansas' state bird in 1937.
"The meadowlark is native to this area and has a beautiful warble," Ruxlow said.
Jewelry, books, notecards, candles and magnets are decorated with images of sunflowers, windmills and trains. Other popular selections feature designs unofficially associated with Kansas — ruby slippers and tornadoes.
Visitors browse the gift shop's selections all year long, but the holiday season seems to bring an extra layer of nostalgia.
“At Christmastime, we do get a lot of people in here looking for something they can send back to someone who used to live here," Ruxlow noted.
The McPherson Museum is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For more information, visit http://www.mcphersonmuseum.com or call 620-241-8464.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.