Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression

Prohibition and Vice

“If you want to see some sin, forget Paris and head to Kansas City”
– Edward Morrow, Omaha World Herald

Nationwide, the Prohibition era fueled infamous trade in bootleg liquor, speakeasies, illicit gambling, prostitution, and other criminal activities. In Kansas City, the effects were especially pervasive due to bribery, electoral fraud, and permissive law enforcement on the part of the Pendergast-controlled government. Formerly a rugged frontier cowtown, Kansas City was now known as a "wide-open" town, or the "Paris of the Plains."

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During the 1890-1930 heyday of vaudeville, a number of female impersonators enjoyed impressive, successful careers and became household names across the country. Even during 1920s Prohibition, the tradition expanded into nightclubs and cabarets and drew enormous crowds in large cities like New York and Chicago. American entertainment tastes started to become more conservative, repressive oversight of liquor consumption followed Prohibition’s 1933 repeal, and female impersonation almost immediately disappeared from “legitimate” and cabaret stages throughout the United States. But in wide-open Pendergast-era Kansas City, female impersonators remained popular until the late 1930s.

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