Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression

Labor and Industry

When the Pendergast machine was at the height of its power, Kansas City’s economy was dominated by major industries related to railroads, stockyards, garment manufacturing, agricultural production, automobiles, and more. Several local industries were among the largest of their type, which gave national significance to the many local disputes between labor and management.

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There are world records for nearly everything, including cattle processing. And in September 1918, Kansas City broke them all. As World War I entered its final fateful months, the Kansas City stockyards handled more than 55,000 cattle in a single day and 475,000 for the month.  That fall, during a remarkable three-month span, more than 1.3 million cattle passed through the city’s yards. The Kansas City cattle business was impressive, but add to these figures hundreds of thousands of sheep, hogs, and horses, and more than 3.3 million animals were yarded in the city. First seven, then 12, then 34 railroads brought these animals into the city and out again to distant markets.

Unidentified man working in the Stockyards.