Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression

Recommended Reading

  1. Dorsett, Lyle W. The Pendergast Machine. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968. 

    Notes: The Pendergast Machine is an expansion on Lyle Dorsett's master's thesis from the University of Kansas City, and is the earliest scholarly work to offer a comprehensive examination of the machine from its earliest days to its emerging statewide influence and its eventual collapse in 1939. Also included is a short but helpful bibliographic essay and ward maps that clarify the locations where the machine built its power base.

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  2. Larsen, Lawrence H. and Nancy Hulston. Pendergast! Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997.

    Notes: Although published more than 20 years ago, Pendergast! offers the most complete and best-documented biography of Tom Pendergast. It utilizes prison records and family correspondence that had not been publicly available for reference in prior publications. Beyond merely recounting the activities of the machine, the authors characterize important aspects of "Boss Tom's" family background, personality, and business connections. The work also incorporates numerous photographs. 

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  3. Coulter, Charles. “Take up the Black Man’s Burden”: Kansas City’s African American Communities, 1865-1939. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006.

    Notes: “Take up the Black Man’s Burden” traces the history of African American communities in Kansas City from the end of the Civil War through 1939, and is organized into thematic chapters covering topics including employment, institutions for community support, activism, recreation, and housing. It is an important work for its topical breadth that extends well beyond civil rights issues to explore the African American experience in Kansas City. 

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  4. Reddig, William M. Tom’s Town: Kansas City and the Pendergast Legend. Philadephia: J.B. Lippincott and Co., 1947.

    Notes: First published in 1947, less than a decade after Tom Pendergast's incarceration, Tom's Town offers a classic account of the Pendergast political machine and Kansas City during the early parts of the 20th century. For much of the source material, the author consulted news articles and conducted interviews of staff from the Kansas City Star. The lack of citations or a list of references contributes to a sense that the story is sensationalized to an extent, but Tom's Town continues to offer scintillating contemporary accounts and is still standard reading for anyone interested in the subject matter and era. 

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KANSAS CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY | DIGITAL HISTORY
Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict,1855-1865.
The Pendergast Years, Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression.
KC History, Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library.