In The Superman Movie Universe, Smallville is shown to be exactly what the name implies - a small Midwestern town.
Smallville has always been portrayed as a small, isolated, idyllic Norman Rockwell-esque farming community and has been placed variously as being close to Metropolis, in Delaware, in Maryland, and in Pennsylvania. The Superman Movies state that Smallville was in Kansas. The writers at DC Comics have adopted this, giving Smallville a history consistent with Kansas. Smallville the series has placed the town near Wichita with Metropolis over by Dodge City and in east Kansas, depending on the whim of the writer. Scott Beatty puts Smallville near Lawrence, Kansas, just off of I70. In The Kents by Ostrander, Truman, Mandrake, and Bair; Smallville is stated as being on the Arkansas River. In the Wrath of Gog, by Austen, Reis and Campos; Smallville is also stated to have a population of over a hundred thousand. This version of Smallville most likely overlays the city of Hutchinson, Kansas.
Map of Kansas (in pdf)
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From Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel (Hardcover) by Scott Beatty (Author)
A Brief History of the Town
According to DC Comics: the name Smallville comes not from its size, but that the town was founded on the banks of the Elbow River sometime in the 1840's by a trader named Ezra Small. The Kent family has been a presence in the area since just after the Civil War. Not just farmers, but law enforcement, newspaper publishing, even a bank robber.
Smallville in the Movieverse
Smallville is a very small town, well off the beaten track.
A real Eastern Kansas Town: Erie, Kansas in Neosho County.
Given the age of the town, there is likely to be a Carnegie Library with 'Let There Be Light' inscribed above the doors within a block or two of the town hall.
Assuming a population of of about 3,000 for the town proper, 4,000-25,000 for the county (average for a East Kansas county) - Smallville can be expected to have 13-15 churches of varying denominations. It will have a small hospital and medical center (35-40 beds), at least one adult assisted living facility, and a rehabilitation center (nursing home). There will also be about 14 well frequented taverns.
Clubs and organizations in the area will include the major service clubs such as Eagles, Elks, Lions, Odd Fellows, Masons, Rotary, and Grange. Being a small rural community, the Smallville Grange will have a strong membership. The Grange has a long history in rural areas and functions as an agricultural/rural political action group dealing with rural concerns (although the Grange does not endorse political candidates.) The Grange meeting building will also likely also be used by other groups. Smallville will have VFW, Scouts (Boy and Girl), 4-H, Boosters (possibly PTSA) and senior citizen clubs as well as other fraternities and sororities.
The school district will have approximately 1,000 students in three or four buildings. There will be 100-125 classified employees (teachers and staff). Based on a typical school district evolution: once the school population grew past the one-room schoolhouse phase, a building of good materials was built near the town center. As the school population grew and education expectations rose, a second building was built to house the older students (the high school). As population and sports interest increased, a separate high school with sports and community facilities was built on the outskirts of town. The old high school became the middle school and the original building remained the elementary. By the mid-sixties, one or two new elementary schools were built using the newest theories in school architecture. The original school building then became the offices of the school district, with other city departments sharing some of the space.
By the mid to late 1990s, the existing buildings would be in need major renovation - the old buildings would not have met ADA standards. In many school districts across the U.S. major school renovations and replacements took place in the mid to late 1990s into the present. Frequently, the original or oldest school building would end up on the National or State Register of Historic Buildings. Instead of being torn down it would go to the local historic society for a museum, be turned into a community center, or sold to a group which would convert the building into 'charming' retail space while maintaining its historic character.
Although Smallville may have a junior college, chances are good that the nearest four-year college or university is some distance away.
Law & Order
The post of county sheriff is an elected one and the term is normally four years. In the general DC universe, Smallville's chief of police is Douglas Parker, who has served in the post for many years. In the real world, the sheriff's department and city police have different jurisdictions but will also be found working closely together. The sheriff's office would likely be in Smallville proper and economics would dictate that either the county or the city will have lock-up facilities that would be used by both. In Til Death Do Us Part, the Lowell County sheriff in 2000 is named Neusbaum and he had been in office 'for some time'.
Small towns have relatively little crime. (An area with a population in the thousands is not likely to have crimes that occur 1:100,000.) Statistically, Smallville can expect one murder a decade, a few robberies, and a few rapes. More prevalent will be traffic violations (with and without DUI), drunk & disorderly, domestic violence, animal and child neglect. The few car thefts will more than likely be joy-riding kids.
Smallville is likely the county seat whichever county it's in (Lowell County in DC comics and Lois & Clark, the New Adventures of Superman). From Kansas District Courts: [District courts are created by the (Kansas) Constitution. They are the trial courts of Kansas, with general original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, including divorce and domestic relations, damage suits, probate and administration of estates, guardianships, conservatorships, care of the mentally ill, juvenile matters, and small claims. It is here that the criminal and civil jury trials are held. Kansas is divided into judicial districts, with a varying number of judges in each district. There is a district court in each county and an office of the clerk of the court where cases may be filed.] Therefore, Smallville has a courthouse and a district judge. By Kansas law, a district court judge is also a lawyer.
Nitpicker's Note: The southwest corner of Kansas grows more corn than any other section of the state. The eastern portion of the state grows the least, with the smallest amount grown in the southeast corner of the state. Superman Returns clearly shows the Kent farm as growing corn. While this could be nearly anywhere in the state, the Kent farm and Smallville are likely to be in the southwest portion of Kansas and is generally accepted to be on the Elbow River.
Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel (Hardcover) by Scott Beatty (Author)
Wikipedia Entry - Smallville
Wikipedia Entry - Kansas