Kansas 105

Today's trivia (June 27)

At first, no one knew what to do with it.

The newly discovered gas well near Dexter was a gusher, all right, but it didn't behave right.

Flames would go out when held over the roaring well. A hint of fire would cause most wells to explode into a pillar of flames.

Gas hunters turned to the University of Kansas.

The year was 1903 and KU had just built a state of the art chemistry building. Some of the leading professors were Hamilton P. Cady and David McFarland, who were doing research on natural gas.

Two years later, Cady and McFarland discovered that it was helium inside Dexter's natural gas well.

Prior to their research, most scholars and scientists thought that helium was one of the rarest gases on Earth — present only in the sun and in trace amounts of the mineral cleveite.

The Dexter well disproved that and soon became the best source of helium in North America.

But no practical uses for helium existed in the early 20th century.

So for the next decade, the entire supply of helium in the United States was contained in three glass tubes at KU and in the Dexter fields.

With the advent of World War I, U.S. officials began conducting research using helium to keep blimps and dirigibles aloft.

When the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg crashed in 1937 in Lakehurst, N.J., killing more than 30 people, helium's qualities — lighter than air and reluctant to burn — made it very important.

Question: How did the U.S. military make use of helium during World War II?

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Answer to Sunday’s question: In September 1878, on Sappa Creek in Decatur County and Beaver Creek in Rawlins County, a band of Northern Cheyenne Indians attacked cabins and killed approximately 30 settlers in two days.

Check back at Kansas.com Tuesday for the answer to today’s question.