Topeka is of uncertain Indian origin; one interpretation is “smoky hill,” and another is “a good place to dig potatoes.” The present site was chosen in 1854 by a group of antislavery colonists from Lawrence, led by Charles Robinson, a resident agent of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Cyrus K. Holliday helped to found the city, which later became headquarters for building the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway system, of which he was the first president.
Topeka’s economy is based on agriculture, manufacturing, and governmental services. From 1925 to 2003 Topeka was the home of the Menninger Foundation, an outstanding psychiatric-training institution. The city is Washburn University's seat (1865); Mulvane Art Museum is located on Washburn’s campus.