Salina is a city in and the county seat of Saline County, Kansas, United States. , the city population was 47,707. Located in one of the world's largest wheat-producing areas, Salina is a regional trade center for north-central Kansas.
Prior to European colonization of the area, the site of Salina was located within the territory of the Kansa people. Claimed first by France as part of Louisiana and later acquired by the United States with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it laid within the area organized by the U.S. as Kansas Territory in 1854. In 1856, a colony led by Preston B. Plumb established the first American settlement near the site at a location on the Saline River.
Settlers led by journalist and lawyer William A. Phillips founded Salina in 1858. In the next two years, the territorial legislature chartered the town company, organized the surrounding area as Saline County, and named Salina the county seat. The westernmost town on the Smoky Hill Trail, Salina established itself as a trading post for westbound immigrants, prospectors bound for Pikes Peak, and area American Indian tribes. The town's growth halted with the outbreak of the American Civil War when much of the male population left to join the U.S. Army.
In 1862, local residents fended off American Indian raiders only to fall victim to a second assault by bushwhackers later that year. In May and June 1864, the Salina Stockade was built to protect the town against further Indian raids. Troops garrisoned Salina until March 1865, and some may have returned in June 1865. The stockade was probably used until at least spring or summer 1865.
In 1943, the U.S. Army established Smoky Hill Army Airfield southwest of the city. The installation served as a base for strategic bomber units throughout World War II. Renamed Smoky Hill Air Force Base in 1948, the base closed the following year only to be reopened in 1951 as Schilling Air Force Base, part of Strategic Air Command. The re-opening of the base triggered an economic boom in Salina, causing the city's population to increase by nearly two-thirds during the 1950s. The U.S. Department of Defense closed the base permanently in 1965, but the city of Salina subsequently acquired it and converted it into Salina Municipal Airport and an industrial park. This led to substantial industrial development, attracting firms such as Beechcraft, and made manufacturing a primary driver of the local economy.
Today, Salina continues to serve as a center for trade, transportation, and industry in north-central Kansas.