"Easy Aces" radio show

Jane and Goodman Ace were partners in creating laughter. The team started a local daily radio show in 1930 that was so successful that it was picked up CBS and NBC and broadcast across the country. Goodman moved on to become one of the highest paid comedy writers for many of the big name stars of radio and television.

Newt Allen

For most of his 23-year baseball career, Newt Allen was an integral component of the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the most storied teams in the history of Negro league baseball. A solid hitter and stellar defensive player, Allen was arguably the best second baseman in black baseball during the 1920s and early 1930s.

Barney Allis achieved greatness in 1931 when he assumed control of the Muehlebach Hotel at 12th and Baltimore in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Allis’s zealous attention to detail, high standards for physical accommodations, and insistence on excellent service brought the Muehlebach into the ranks of the world’s best hotels. 

Saturnino Alvarado

Relatively little is known about the life of Saturnino Alvarado, but through his legal fight to ensure that his two children and another, Marcos de Leon, would be admitted into Argentine High School in the fall of 1926, his impact on the lives of Hispanic Americans in the Kansas City area was profound and enduring. Alvarado was born November 29, 1883, in Michoacan, Mexico, to Justo and Juanita Chavez Alvarado. He was a shoe cobbler and established a shoe repair shop in the Argentine District of Kansas City, Kansas, after his family immigrated to the United States. When his first wife Concepcion Franco died, he remarried Guadalupe Araujo.

Rev. Samuel Bacote

For a half a century starting in 1895, Rev. Samuel W. Bacote was the pastor of Second Baptist Church, one of the oldest and largest black churches in Kansas City. The son of former slaves, Bacote was also a scholar, a writer, and a nationally prominent figure in the Baptist church.

Kansas City Monarchs

Tom Baird was associated for many years, and in many capacities, with the Kansas City Monarchs—as a booking agent, officer, co-owner and, finally, as sole owner of one of the most successful and innovative teams in the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues. His alliance with J. L. Wilkinson, the team’s founder, lasted almost the entire span of the Negro leagues, from the formation of the first viable league of all-black teams until the demise of black baseball following the integration of the major leagues.

H. Roe Bartle

H. Roe Bartle was an expansive man. Everything about him was unrestrained: his booming voice, his adherence to the Boy Scout code of conduct, and the enthusiasm with which he served as mayor. Bartle's service with the Boy Scouts took him and his family to Wyoming, St. Joseph, and finally here as the Executive of the Kansas City Area Council in 1929. His accomplishments included establishing the elite Tribe of Mic-O-Say in 1925 and acquiring the Ozark acreage for Camp Osceola (now named the Roe Bartle Reservation) in 1929. Under Bartle, nicknamed "Chief," Boy Scouting in the area flourished and earned nationwide recognition.

Count Basie

In the rich and celebrated musical history of Kansas City, few individuals are more closely associated with hard-swinging, riff-based Kansas City jazz style than Count Basie. The Count Basie Orchestra became both the best known and the longest-lived big band to emerge from this region, and Basie made Kansas City jazz nationally and internationally renowned.

Tom Bass

Tom Bass is credited as a founder of the American Royal Horse Show, where for years he was the only African American allowed to exhibit. During a career that spanned half a century, he won competitions at every horse show in the country, earned more than 2,000 blue ribbons, and won championships at two world's fairs.

Albert Beach

Albert I. Beach served as mayor of Kansas City from 1924 to 1930. Under his administration, a new city charter was voted in that established a city manager form of government for Kansas City.

Alfred Benjamin Memorial

Born in Quebec, Alfred Benjamin and his family moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he began working as a clerk at the Abernathy Furniture Company. In 1880, the company opened a branch store in Kansas City and the family moved here, where Benjamin soon became first vice-president of the company. It was rumored that he gave as much as 50 percent of his annual income to charities, a reputation that inspired a namesake medical organization named the Alfred Benjamin Dispensary.

Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton, one of the leaders of the Regionalist movement in American art, was a prolific painter, muralist, draughtsman, and sculptor from childhood until the end of his life in 1975. Today he is best known for his realist depictions of American life, which, in his own time, were perceived as directly opposed to modernist movements cultivated in Europe. His paintings, largely vignettes of daily life and ordinary rural characters, were simultaneously praised for their frankness and criticized for their gritty representations of American culture and history.

Charles Binaggio

Charles Binaggio was a gangster who fought his way to the top of the underworld heap more through politics than crime. A trim, well-dressed "man of lethal calm," as he was once described, Binaggio was a lieutenant in the political machine of Tom Pendergast and had close ties to crime boss Johnny Lazia. When Pendergast fell from power in 1939 and his organization started to unravel, Binaggio emerged as the new leader of the city’s underworld and ran much of Kansas City in the 1940s.

Emery, Bird, Thayer and Co. building

For 30 years, Annie Ridenbaugh Bird enjoyed the conventionally genteel life of a prominent merchant’s wife. The last 17 years before she died in 1937 were far less traditional. She served as president of the city’s largest commercial establishment, the Emery, Bird, Thayer & Co. and is believed to be the first Kansas City woman to hold such a position.

John B. Bisceglia

From 1918, John B. Bisceglia was a pastor, social worker, teacher, scholar, and civic leader in charge of the Italian Mission of the Central Presbyterian Church. The energetic, young pastor immediately swung into action, starting programs and ministering to his flock. A kindergarten came first, then a free nursery school for working mothers. Sports teams and organizations like Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls followed. A free clinic was established, as well as adult education programs and mothers clubs. He instituted a Sunday evening service in Italian.

Lucile Bluford

Lucile Bluford has been called the “Matriarch” and the “Conscience” of Kansas City.  Miss Bluford, as she was always known, was a pioneer, a crusader for equal rights for African Americans and women, but above all she was a journalist, dedicated to getting the news out.

Patrons at the Helping Hand Institute, 1930s.

In October 1894 in the midst of a nationwide depression, Edwin Brigham, a 20-year old printer from Kirksville, Missouri, stepped off a train in Kansas City hoping to find work. Little did he know that this would mark the beginning of a 52-year career in social service helping thousands of homeless men and women in Kansas City. From 1898 to 1950, “Terry” as his close friends knew him, was superintendent of the Helping Hand Institute. Housed in a former saloon at 4th and Main, the institute provided food, lodging, and work for homeless and destitute men on the city’s North End.

Lincoln high school

Girard Bryant was a highly respected teacher and school administrator in Kansas City for 45 years. As a community leader, he took an active part in major social issues of the day, particularly education, race relations, health care and law enforcement. Bryant came to Kansas City in 1926 to teach at Western Baptist Seminary and later at the Kansas Vocational School in Topeka. He became a teacher in the Kansas City School District in 1930 and remained with the district until 1964. During his long tenure he filled many positions, including teacher and vice-principal at Lincoln High School, and dean of Lincoln Junior College.

Annie Chambers

On March 24, 1935, Annie Chambers, a former prostitute and Kansas City brothel owner, passed away at the age of 92. By the time of her death, Chambers's own life had roughly paralleled Kansas City's untamed years of the late 19th century, which were followed by extensive modernization and reform efforts in the early 20th century.

Book cover of 'The Human Body'

A physician and author who sometimes blurred the line between rake and raconteur, Logan M. Clendening became a folk hero in February 1939, when after repeated diplomatic attempts to silence a jackhammer in use on a construction project near his home at 56th and State Line, he donned a suit, Homburg hat, kid gloves, and button-hole carnation, strolled calmly out to the machine, and attempted to destroy it with an axe.  He was arrested and served several hours behind bars. Jackhammers like the one he attacked had been in frequent use on unpopular sewer projects sanctioned by political machine boss Tom Pendergast, and many Kansas Citians cheered the doctor’s symbolic blows against a corrupt City Hall.

R.T. Coles graduating class of 1938

Richard T. Coles was a Kansas City teacher and principal who not only taught his pupils, but introduced new methods to educate students. Coles initiated the idea in Kansas City of teaching African American grade school children lifetime job skills. His concept conceived a program of industrial training that began providing instructions in skilled fields for children in the fifth grade that continued through high school.

Loula Long Combs

According to her father, R. A. Long, Loula Long Combs’ first sentence was, "Please buy me a pony." Breeding and training horses became Loula's life-long passion. She entered her first horse show in 1896 at a fair in Kansas City’s Fairmount Park. For almost 65 years, her horses won blue ribbons in shows throughout this country, Canada, and England. She won the most ribbons at Kansas City’s American Royal, where she made a yearly appearance well into her 80s. To audiences’ delight, Loula always wore a spectacular hat as she drove her carriage around the show ring.

H.O. Cook

Over the duration of 40 years at historically black Lincoln High School, Hugh Oliver (H.O.) Cook shaped the school’s culture and curriculum, both as a mathematics and psychology instructor and later as principal of the institution from 1921-1944. A Washington, D.C., native and a graduate of Cornell (with a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Secondary School Administration), Cook’s vision for Lincoln High to serve and connect to the Kansas City region’s black community continued a legacy set by the school’s earlier principals.

L.P. Cookingham

In the early, post-Pendergast period in Kansas City government, selection of the city's first professional city manager was critical. The special person chosen, L.P. "Perry" Cookingham, became the "czar of Kansas City." Born in Chicago, Cookingham had worked his way up from being a railroad surveyor in Illinois to being president of the International City Managers Association. A Reader's Digest article about him led to his being chosen from 50 candidates for the job in Kansas City.

Our Lady of Sorrows Church

From the mid-1930s until the 1960s, hundreds of Kansas City Catholics saw Dante Cosentino’s paintings of angels and saints each Sunday. Cosentino was an ecclesiastic artist who adorned the interior walls of these churches with his frescos.

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford, often called Hollywood’s most durable star, was born Lucille LaSueur to divorced parents in 1908 in San Antonio, Texas. When her mother married Henry Cassin, she was renamed Billie Cassin. Around 1917 her family moved to Kansas City, where Billie attended Scarritt Elementary School before she enrolled in St. Agnes Academy as a work student.

Nelson Crews

Vocal in print and at the podium, publisher Nelson Crews purchased the Kansas City Sun newspaper and trumpeted a message of advancement. Its reporters covered every aspect of the Kansas City African American community and integrated an organization previously closed to African American workers. Meanwhile his brother James established one of Kansas City’s most important African American institutions, the YMCA at 1824 Paseo.

Crttenton Home

Elizabeth Bruce Crogman, who in 1925 became founder of Kansas City’s Florence Home for Colored Girls to house unwed African American women who were pregnant, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 1, 1894. The home functioned as the counterpart to similar organizations that served the area's white residents but denied care to young black women.

Wheatley-Provident Hospital Auxiliary

Minnie Lee Crosthwaite filled many roles during her 90 years: teacher, wife, mother, business woman, and community leader. She is remembered best as a pioneering social worker at Wheatley-Provident Hospital, a private hospital with African American staff and patients.

Suydam Building on the Plaza

If you have ever admired the towers, tiles, and colors of the Country Club Plaza, you have appreciated the early work of Edward Buehler Delk, an architect who came to Kansas City in 1920 to help design the Plaza.

More than 5,000 homes in dozens of neighborhoods bear the mark of Napoleon Dible, one of Kansas City’s earliest and most expansive developers. For more than 50 years, Dible methodically platted and developed tracts of land into the city’s early suburbs.

Walter S. Dickey

Walter S. Dickey joined his family in Kansas City in 1885, at the age of 23, and got involved in the Republican Party. In the 1920s, Dickey purchased the Kansas City Journal and the Kansas City Post eventually consolidated them. He took an active hand in managing the Journal-Post, but turned the operation over to his son and son-in-law in 1929.

Walt Disney

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1901, Walter Elias Disney moved with his family to Marceline, Missouri, at the age of five. In 1910 or 1911 (sources differ), the Disney family moved to Kansas City, where Walt helped his father and brother deliver Kansas City Star newspapers at 3:30 a.m. Disney and his friends created "Laugh-O-grams," which were very short silent animation clips that complemented feature films at the Newman Theater in Kansas City, and by 1922 he opened his first animation studio on the second floor of the small McConahy Building on 31st Street.

It is safe to say that during the nearly 50 years she worked there, starting in 1918, Carolyn Doughty was the Women’s City Club. Her role far exceeded her modest title of "executive secretary."

Regent Theater

Kansas City’s Dubinsky Brothers were talented performers and innovative entrepreneurs. Their story illustrates the changing trends of popular entertainment in 20th century America. Maurice, Edward, and Barney Dubinsky would move from a life of traveling tent shows to the silver screen, building one of the largest theater chains in the Midwest, later AMC Entertainment.

Frank Duncan

One of the top catchers in the Negro baseball leagues, Frank Duncan spent most of his playing career with the Kansas City Monarchs. He was the first-string catcher during the Monarchs' glory years of the 1920s, when the team won three consecutive league championships and beat the Hilldale Club of Philadelphia in the first Negro World Series. He was their playing manager for most of the 1940s, when the Monarchs were, once again, one of the premier teams in black baseball.

Phoebe Ess

Fondly remembered as the “dean of Missouri club women,” Phoebe Jane Ess was an active and energizing force in Kansas City public life during the many years she lived there (1872-1934). Passionate and outspoken, she brought to bear the courage of her convictions on a variety of contentious issues of the day. Ess was a staunch advocate of women’s suffrage, a strong supporter of Prohibition, and she demanded educational reforms for the children in her community. She also worked alongside other like-minded activists to root out corruption in local politics at a time when machine rule dominated Kansas City. Over the course of her long life, Phoebe Jane Ess worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Kansas Citians. Notably, she was a model reformer at a time when women’s sphere of influence generally did not reach beyond the walls of the home. 

Mary Tiera Farrow

On November 8, 1917, Mary Tiera Farrow and 20 other female lawyers formed the Women's Bar Association of Kansas City. Farrow was one of the few women in the United States who successfully practiced law in the early 1900s, overcoming the discrimination women faced in the legal field and society generally. Having been denied the professional benefits of any existing bar association, she led a group of 20 women in establishing their own bar in Kansas City. It was just one of many pioneering acts that Farrow undertook for herself and for women's rights at large.

Charles Fillmore
Unity—the name came to Charles suddenly during a meditative state in 1891—was neither a church nor sect, but carried a message that physical health and material wealth were the natural states intended for humanity by God. The Fillmores encouraged unity of all denominations, of science and religion, of God and man, and of people with one another. During the 1920s, the Fillmores extended the reach of their message via the new medium of radio, eventually purchasing station WOQ. Unity also began acquiring land southeast of Kansas City, near Lee’s Summit, Missouri; the tract came to encompass some 1400 acres, later incorporated as a village.

If not for a five-year period battle with tuberculosis, Richard Fowler, one of the Kansas City Star’s most prolific writers, might have spent his life as a chicken farmer. A five-year period of enforced bed rest began Fowler’s writing career in 1930.

Ada Crogman Franklin

Ada Crogman's father, one of the distinguished scholars of the African American race, was professor of Latin and Greek at Clark University for 37 years and then became the first African American president of Clark, serving for seven years. Mrs. Franklin, along with her two sisters and five brothers, grew up on the Clark University campus. She became nationally known for her production, "Milestones of a Race," which was presented in cities throughout the country. She married Chester Arthur Franklin, owner of The Call newspaper, in 1925 and began to devote her talent and her interest to the paper and the Kansas City community.

Chester Arthur Franklin was a leading African American editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call, who used his newspaper platform to advocate for systemic change and equity, both for Kansas City’s black community and for African Americans nationwide. By the time of his death in 1955, Franklin had served as a prominent publisher over 30 years and was heavily impressed in Kansas City’s memory as an editor, activist, and leader.

Friz Freleng cartoon
Friz (Isadore) Freleng was born in Kansas City and attended Westport High School, where he drew cartoons for the school's publications from 1919 to 1923. To earn extra money, he worked as a caddy at the Kansas City Country Club. He had a natural talent for cartooning and was completely self taught. While still in high school, he worked for the United Film Service at 24th and Charlotte Streets, along with Walt Disney, U.B. Iwerks, and other local cartoonists.
Carolyn Farwell Fuller

When Carolyn Farwell Fuller first entered the education field, it was as a schoolteacher—the highest position a female educator could attain in the early 1900s. She surely couldn’t have predicted her groundbreaking role as the first female to serve on the Kansas City Board of Education.

John B. Gage

Urged to run for mayor during the final years of the Pendergast era, John B. Gage reportedly called his candidacy “the silliest thing in the world.” But the qualities that made him such an unlikely choice—his distaste for politics and devotion to ethical, transparent city government—made him an ideal leader for a generation of Kansas Citians who had come to expect the worst from their elected officials.

Dorothy Gallagher and children at the Guadalupe Center

Dorothy Gallagher was born on January 8, 1894, to a wealthy Kansas City family. Not content to live quietly in affluence, Gallagher gained interest in a Catholic women’s group called the Agnes Ward Amberg Club, which carried out social work in Mexican communities in the west side of the city.

Ruby D. Garrett

A war hero, a lawyer, and a politician, Ruby Dwight Garrett led one of the last attempts to breathe life back into the mortally wounded Pendergast machine after Boss Tom Pendergast was imprisoned in the United States Penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Of the thousands of women volunteers who devoted time, energy, and resources to the reform campaigns of 1940, one woman was acknowledged by all as their singular leader: Claude Gorton. As the designated chairman of the Women's Division of the United Campaign Committee, she exhibited exemplary leadership throughout the reform efforts of the late 1930s. Indeed, Gorton is perhaps best known for her leadership role in the 1940 municipal elections, which resulted in a “clean sweep” and replaced the remnants of the Pendergast machine with a reformed city charter and new candidates.

George F. Green had two careers—one to build up Kansas City and one to help remember Kansas City’s past. His first vocation as an architect and builder led to his later avocation as the city’s first historian and archivist.

Green grew up in Kansas City and received an architecture degree from the University of Michigan. He went to work in 1912 as a draftsman for city architect Henry Hoit. Just one year later, he was assigned the position of assistant superintendent of buildings. He married his wife, Nina, in 1914 and the couple had four children—three daughters and one son.

Hale House for the Blind, 1930

Catherine Hale was determined that her brother would not miss out on everyday pleasures simply because he was blind. She taught him to play cards and dance well. When he joined The Workers for the Blind of Greater Kansas City in 1911, she accompanied him to his meetings. Her lifelong devotion to helping Kansas City’s blind citizens had begun.

Joyce C. Hall

J.C. Hall’s story is a Kansas City legend. The young man arrived here from Nebraska with a box of postcards to sell. With good ideas, good luck, and hard work, his business grew to become Hallmark Cards, the world’s largest greeting card company.

Linda Hall Library

The wife of Herbert F. Hall, one of the country’s leading grain exporters, lived in a 1913 mansion on 15 acres south of the Plaza. Their home, named Linda Hall, was designed by the architect who designed the Nelson Gallery of Art and Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Art. When she died in 1938, Hall willed $50,000 to Children’s Mercy Hospital and established an endowment for a free, specialized library.

Sid Hare, 1934

Whether strolling the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art or campus of the University of Kansas, appreciating the layout of Mission Hills and the Country Club District, or paying respects at Forest Hill Cemetery, most Kansas Citians have experienced designs of Sid J. and S. Herbert Hare. As the work of this father and son evolved from engineering to urban planning, their careers reflected the development of the modern American approach to building great cities.

Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow captured movie audiences’ hearts from her first major film. Her acting, a combination of sensuousness, vulnerability, and even naiveté made her a star. Although she died in 1937, she remains a legend and a film icon.

Henry C. Haskell was a playwright, author, editor and columnist for the Kansas City Star starting in 1929, musician, civic leader and philanthropist. In 1938, Haskell was appointed art editor and assembled the newspaper’s first special section to cover music, dance, visual arts, book reviews, criticism, and features.

Barnett Helzberg, Sr. was one of Kansas City's boldest and most successful businessmen. From an inauspicious beginning in 1915, he built a small, family-owned jewelry store into one of the largest and most profitable jewelry store chains in the country.

Ernest Hemingway's Passport Photo

Ernest Hemingway said he learned how to write while working as a reporter for The Kansas City Star when he was only 17 years old. Ernest got a job on the paper and was assigned to cover General Hospital, Union Station, and the 15th Street police station, often riding in police cars to the scene of a crime.

Opal Hill did not take up golf until she was in her early 30s, but she went on to become a golfing legend nationally and one of the greatest names associated with the sport in Kansas City. Her tough, competitive nature during tournament play and her gracious, even-tempered manner off the course combined to make Hill one of the most popular figures in women’s golf in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Pembroke Hill Country Day School

As one school historian has written, the Kansas City Country Day School opened its doors in a September 28, 1910, ceremony resembling "a cross between the launching of a crusade and an old-time Fourth of July celebration." It was the culmination of much hard work on the part of Vassie James Ward Hill, a trailblazing female political leader whose progressive vision led to the founding of Country Day and its sister institution, the Sunset Hill School, today known collectively as Pembroke Hill.

Lou Holland

In the 1920s, air travel was new and uncertain. City booster Lou Holland, one of the first to see its possibilities, became the "Father of Kansas City Aviation" when he helped establish Kansas City's first municipal airport.

Rendering of Paseo Baptist Church

Daniel Arthur Holmes was born the son of slaves in Randolph County, Missouri, in 1876. His family moved to Macon, Missouri, after being freed at the end of the Civil War. Holmes, a third generation preacher, answered the call to preach at age 17 and was ordained in 1901. Holmes began his career in the greater Kansas City area in 1914 as pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas. He later took over leadership at Vine Street Baptist Church at 1835 Vine and soon led the church in an expansion program. By 1927 the church was built at its current location at 25th Street and the Paseo and renamed Paseo Baptist Church. Holmes served as pastor for 46 years—from 1921 to 1967.

Mary Rockwell Hook home at 4940 Summit Street

Mary Rockwell Hook once described a troubling scene from an early period in her architectural career. In Paris, where she was a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, she was forced to run to a waiting taxi and dive in to avoid being drenched by a mob of disgruntled male students pursuing her with water buckets. While confronting gender bias was not a new experience for her—she had also been the sole female architecture student during a previous year at the Art Institute of Chicago—her male counterparts in Paris were clearly unable to accept a talented, un-intimidated female in their midst. She would soon return to the United States, launch a prolific career as one of Kansas City’s most innovative architects, and come to be remembered as a pioneer among professional women.

Hudson Oil station

A world traveler and self-made millionaire, Mary Hudson was one of only three women on Forbes Magazine's list of 400 richest Americans. As an oil industry leader listed in the World's Who's Who of Women, she made international news when her empire collapsed. Hudson’s career began in 1933, as a 21-year-old widow with an infant to support. She borrowed $200 to buy a gas station in Kansas City, which led to a prominent role in a man's industry. An in-your-face independent distributor, among the first to offer no-frills, self-service gasoline, she co-founded a national organization for independent dealers.

Speedy Huggins

His booking agent gave him the nickname "Speedy" for his slow, soft-shoe dance style and his relaxed pace. While the multi-talented dancer, drummer and singer never gained national fame, as did contemporaries Count Basie and Charlie Parker, Speedy Huggins was one of the most beloved musicians in Kansas City. Prior to his death at the age of 85, he was a living legend, as well as a cherished Kansas City icon. He was one of the few jazzmen still working whose musical roots reached back to the heyday of Kansas City jazz, when the 18th and Vine district boasted one of the liveliest music and nightclub scenes in the country.

James Wesley Hurse

From humble beginnings, Rev. J. W. Hurse became a pillar of the African American community in Kansas City and an important religious figure in the United States. He came to Kansas City as an unskilled laborer with little formal education. Over the course of the next 50 years, he founded and presided over St. Stephen Baptist Church and rose to become the president of the National Baptist Convention.


Rose Mindlin's handmade hats were so admired that other women begged her to make theirs. When she could no longer keep up with requests, she hired help and opened a shop near 12th and Troost. That was a risky venture in 1904, but Rose was a risk-taker. Besides, she could work and keep an eye on her three boys, since the family lived at the back of the store. By 1918 she opened a new store at 3221 Troost. In 1922 her son, Harold, became her partner. By the time her husband died in 1923, her business was established enough that it provided job security for her three sons. The store expanded its line to include clothing, and reportedly became the first store outside downtown to offer stylish ready-to-wear women's apparel.

Postcard of the Linwood Boulevard Christian Church

Dr. Burris A. Jenkins used Kansas City as his pulpit, communicating with thousands of people through newspapers, radio waves, and authorship of 17 books. He served as pastor of the Linwood Boulevard Christian Church, later the Community Christian Church at 4601 Main Street. Often considered too liberal for his era or occupation, Jenkins won scores of followers with his blunt sermons, essays, and novels.

Jenkins Music Co.

John Wesley Jenkins expanded his family music business from a small room rented from a sewing machine and wall paper shop to numerous store locations throughout the Midwest. He began working for his father as a teenager and, upon his death in 1932, was a millionaire.

Charles Johnson

Charles Johnson was one of just a few white men who studied and mastered the African American ragtime music of the turn of the twentieth century. Although his early music training was not in this type of music, he found his musical talent well suited for ragtime piano playing and composing.

Postcard of the Jones Dry Goods Company

J. Logan Jones once recalled in an interview how he raised $400 to start his first retail operation. As a teen in southern Illinois, Jones purchased calves at a low price from several farmers in the area whose poor circumstances that year allowed them to winter only their hardiest stock. Jones fattened and resold the animals at a profit, hitting upon the strategy of “underbuying and underselling” to which he later attributed the great success of his dry goods and department stores in Illinois, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri.

John A. Jones owned and operated his barber shop and pool hall as one of the most respected businesses in the 18th and Vine neighborhood. By installing the best equipment and insisting on high standards of conduct, Jones’s business succeeded as one of the earliest and longest-lasting establishments in the neighborhood.

Henry Jost

Henry Jost was a respected lawyer and made savvy political connections, but it may have been his status as an orphan than won him the position of Kansas City’s mayor in 1912. Little is known of Jost’s early childhood. He was brought to an East Side orphanage in New York City at an early age—as an infant, toddler, or five-year-old, depending on the source. By most accounts, his mother had died, and his poor, ailing father could no longer care for him. He stayed in the Five Points Mission for Homeless Children until he was sent on a train westward with other children from the orphanage. He found a home in Nodaway County, Missouri.

Issac Katz

Isaac "Ike" Katz, who would go on to found the Katz Drug Co. in Kansas City and become a pioneer in the modern pharmacy business, was born in the town of Husiatin in western Ukraine (then a part of Russia) on March 8, 1879. Ike Katz brought customers into his drug stores with a unique business model, where customers could fill prescriptions, shop for groceries, buy appliances, and even purchase exotic pets such as monkeys or baby alligators; all at cut-rate prices. At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, the company boasted 65 retail locations spread across seven states.

Kansas City’s Edward Harry Kelly became a nationally recognized ragtime composer just as ragtime became the most popular music in the country. Ragtime, jazz, and musical comedy have often been called Americans’ gifts to music. Ragtime gave birth to Dixieland music and contributed to early jazz. When ragtime is played on the piano, it has a ‘ragged’ sound because the pianist plays regular rhythmic bass with the left hand and a complex melody with the right.

William E. Kemp

William Kemp served for nine years as Kansas City mayor—longer than any other mayor. From 1946 to 1955, the tall, elegant man led the city through a period of growth as city boundaries were expanded to 85th Street, a traffic department was organized, the Paseo and Chouteau bridges were built and Starlight Theater became the crown jewel of the city’s centennial celebration.

R. Crosby Kemper, Sr.

Rufus Crosby Kemper, who went by R. Crosby or Crosby, was born in 1892 in Valley Falls, Kansas. The family moved to Kansas City in 1893 and lived in homes in the 2600 block of Troost Avenue and at 1000 Westover Road. James Madison Kemper was born in 1894. The Kemper sons attended Kansas City public schools and the University of Missouri, where they played on the football team. Both men also fought in World War I.

William Thornton Kemper moved to Kansas City in 1893 and established himself as a grain merchant, working out of the Kansas City Board of Trade. Over the next decade, he reaped profits from several organizations of his own creation: Kemper Mill and Elevator Company, Kemper Mercantile Company, and Kemper Investment Company. An avid Democrat, Kemper had a lifelong taste for politics. He ran for mayor of Kansas City in 1904, losing in a year when the Democratic vote was split by a factional rift. He made another run for mayor in 1906 on an “anti-bossism” platform, but his party’s nomination went to the Democratic machine-backed candidate. In the same year, he headed an affiliate of the National Bank of Commerce, and over the next two decades, the bank headed by Kemper evolved into the Commerce Trust Company. Kemper remained interested in politics and served as Missouri’s Democratic National Committeeman from 1924-36. 

George Kessler

George Kessler used his vision and skill to transform early Kansas City from an eyesore to a model for the City Beautiful Movement. Before Kessler arrived here in the 1880s, the city’s west bluffs were a slum, Hyde Park was a shanty town, and Penn Valley Park was known as Vinegar Hill. His distinctive park and boulevard system brought beauty and a civilized appearance to our town.

Andy Kirk

Andy Kirk was never a topnotch instrumentalist, composer, arranger or personality, yet he parlayed his musical talent, organizational skills, and a series of lucky breaks into an enormously successful career as a bandleader. Although his musical legacy is not as great as that of rival bandleaders Benny Moten and Count Basie, Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy was one of the most popular big bands during the heyday of jazz in Kansas City and one of the first regional orchestras from the southwest to achieve national prominence.

Irwin Krikwood

After William Rockhill Nelson's death in 1915, Laura and Irwin ran the Kansas City Star with the help of the Nelson-trained staff. Under her leadership, the Star printed its first photograph and first comics, both banned by her father, and began WDAF Radio as part of the Star empire.

Johnny Kling baseball card

Arguably one of the most overlooked players from the early days of baseball, Johnny Kling, a native of Kansas City, was the game’s premier defensive catcher in the first decade of the 20th century and a key member of the great Chicago Cub teams of 1906 to 1910. Nicknamed “Noisy” for the constant stream of chatter he maintained behind the plate, Kling was admired by teammates and opponents for his ability to defend, handle pitchers and engage in the mental aspects of the game during the “dead-ball era.” Kling returned to Kansas City after his retirement from baseball and pursued a successful career in business, primarily real estate. In 1933 he bought the minor league Kansas City Blues and immediately eliminated segregated seating at Meuhlebach Field, which was also the stadium used by the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues.

She is said to have belonged to the "silk stocking set," but Della Cochrane Lamb spent most of her life working with those less fortunate than herself. Della began channeling her abundant energy and talent into community service in 1897, when she was still a teenager. That year, Melrose Methodist Church Auxiliary opened a day nursery on Fifth Street. One of the first day care centers in Kansas City, it looked after the children of immigrant north side families so that their mothers could work. When the Fifth Street nursery evolved into the Institutional Neighborhood House in1906, Lamb became president of its board of directors. She remained president for 27 years.

In 1914, Frank Sherman Land sold a restaurant to work full-time coordinating Scottish Rite masons’ relief efforts to needy Kansas City families—a job he had begun as a volunteer. Several years later, Land became interested in helping boys rendered fatherless by World War I, and after a failed effort to recruit mentors from the business community, he conceived the idea of a fraternal society in which boys could find fellowship with other boys. 

Park Central Hotel

Johnny Lazia (born Lazzio) gained prominence in Kansas City’s politics during the 1920s and ‘30s due to his leadership of the North Side Democratic Club, engagement in local organized crime, and involvement with Tom Pendergast’s political machine. Pendergast dominated Kansas City politics not by holding elected offices, but through his machine of alliances and affiliates.

George E. Lee

During the 1920s and early 1930s, George E. Lee fronted one of the most popular and successful bands in Kansas City. Though more akin to a vaudeville troupe, George E. Lee’s Novelty Singing Orchestra was the chief rival of the Bennie Moten Orchestra for supremacy among the city’s many outstanding black bands.

Julia Lee

Julia Lee was known for her husky voice, her straightforward piano style, and the easy, but heartfelt way she sang. In a professional singing career that spanned four decades, Lee built a national reputation as one of the great female blues singers of all time.

Dorothy Lillard began teaching in the Kansas City public schools at the age of 18. When she retired 50 years later, she had traveled the world, taught school in four countries, and become something of a Kansas City legend. Lillard began her teaching career in 1927. Her first assignment was with a first-grade class at the W. W. Yates Elementary School at 13th and Lydia streets. She quickly earned a reputation as an exacting instructor, a stickler for excellence, and a teacher who insisted that parents take responsibility for raising their children. As a result, she made a lifelong impression on generations of young Kansas Citians.

Robert A. Long

While many entrepreneurs are motivated by youthful dreams of great success, the founder of one of Kansas City’s largest business empires claimed never to have set lofty goals for himself, but instead advised simply “doing what seems to be assigned to you to do next, and keep pegging at it.” This practical philosophy led Robert A. Long to build his Long-Bell Lumber Company from the ground up and made him one of the nation’s leading industrialists.

Jacob Loose

Self-made millionaire Jacob Loose moved to Kansas City in 1882, entered the cracker business, and eventually founded the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company, a gigantic producer of cookies and famous Sunshine Crackers. After a serious illness, he semi-retired in 1919 and died in 1923. His will created the Million Dollar Charity Fund Association, managed by his wife, Ella Loose. Her legacy includes the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Affiliated Trusts as well as Loose Park at 52nd and Wornall Road.

Arthur Mag, who at age 78 was serving as a director on the boards of 29 corporations, was once described as “one of the best arguments in town against early retirement.” Mag believed in modernizing the law to allow arrangements in which trustees, who already were permitted to manage and invest trust funds, would also be empowered to make decisions as to how they could be used.

Conrad Mann

Between 1910 to 1939, nearly every major civic improvement in Kansas City bore the mark of Conrad Mann. This massive, bear-like man with a brusque, unpolished manner was a uniquely talented leader who knew how to "get things done."

Mayerberg would become best known for his vocal and courageous opposition to violations of the city charter—and public trust—by political machine boss Tom Pendergast, his lieutenant City Manager McElroy, and Pendergast’s north side enforcer, John Lazia.

Henry McElroy

Henry F. McElroy was hand picked in 1926 by boss Thomas J. Pendergast to be Kansas City’s first city manager. This gave Pendergast complete control over Kansas City.

McRill died as he had lived, pushing his handcart through downtown streets. For almost 30 years, he was a familiar sight to people working or shopping downtown. He collected discarded newspapers and sold them to a paper processing company. He found broken wooden boxes at the City Market, repaired them, and sold them back to the vendors.

Jay McShann

Pianist, band leader, composer, and vocalist Jay "Hootie" McShann is recognized as one of the most influential blues and jazz artists of the twentieth century, with a career that spanned over 60 years. A bluesman at heart, McShann helped shape the Kansas City sound which was heavily influenced by blues and swing.

Nightclub owner, raconteur, and aspirant to political office, Milton Morris was one of the great champions of Kansas City jazz. His storytelling skills, wisecracks and foot-long cigars also secured his reputation as one of the city's most colorful characters

Bennie Moten Orchestra

Kansas City jazz, a hard-swinging, blues-based musical style that flourished in the 1920s and '30s, is arguably this city's greatest contribution to the uniquely American art form of jazz. Of the countless musicians and bandleaders who played at nightclubs, ballrooms, social clubs, and all-night jam sessions in the 18th & Vine district during that golden era, none embodied Kansas City jazz more than Bennie Moten.

Muehlebach Field

George Edward Muehlebach assumed leadership of the Muehlebach Brewing Company in 1905 at the young age of 23, when George Muehlebach, his Swiss-born father and founder of the brewery died. A Kansas City promoter, he built the Muehlebach Hotel at 12th and Baltimore in 1916, became a bank director, board member of Research Hospital, and a member of several prestigious clubs.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

Father Jose Munoz arrived in Kansas City in 1914, a penniless refugee of the Mexican Revolution and was welcomed into the city’s Mexican community as the only Spanish speaking priest for miles. Soon after his arrival, he founded the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe on 23rd Street, a foundation for Kansas City’s Hispanic community.

University of Kansas City Administration Building

His name was never a household word in Kansas City and, although Ernest Newcomb played a large part in determining the location of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he was not even well-known on campus for many years. As the administrative founding father of UMKC, Newcomb is now considered to have been an important figure in the history of higher education in Kansas City, but a change in management during the university’s early years strained his relationship with the school for nearly four decades.

J.C. Nichols
Jesse Clyde (“J.C.”) Nichols was a nationally renowned city planner in Kansas City from the first decade of the 20th century to the 1950s, whose legacy has come under intense scrutiny for his practices of racial redlining and segregation. Among his mixed legacies are several subdivisions in suburban Kansas City, the Country Club Plaza, and the national spread of deed restrictions and homeowner associations
Rev. Edwin O'Hara celebrating mass
When he became bishop of Kansas City in 1939, Bishop O'Hara brought with him a national reputation for progressive achievements. The clergyman decided early in his career that education was the key to success for individuals and the church.

Louis Oppenstein was a millionaire who served his community quietly, showing his appreciation for Kansas City. He served as president of the board of public works, city councilman, police commissioner, and as a member of the Board of Education. He was also very active in Kansas City's Jewish community, serving as a trustee of Congregation B'nai Jehudah, board member of Menorah Medical Center, and director of the Jewish Community Center.

Satchel Paige

By the 1930s, Satchel Paige had acquired a reputation as one of the finest pitchers in the game, white or black. He earned more money than any other black player and even more than many white major league players. Seemingly everywhere he played he attracted record crowds that sparked wider interest in black baseball players and helped the Negro Leagues ball clubs attain financial stability.

Guy Brasfield Park

Guy B. Park was a rather ineffectual governor bound to Thomas Pendergast's political machine by gratitude for putting him in office. Through Park's connection with the Pendergast organization, a great deal of federal money was diverted to Kansas City resulting in high dollar contracts going to Pendergast-machine owned businesses.

Charlie Parker

Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas, on August 29, 1920. He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where he played in jazz clubs as a teenager and young man. The local jazz culture based in the Vine Street nightclub district cultivated his talents as a teenager. Indeed, it was during this period that Kansas City made notable contributions to jazz with hometown artists such as Count Basie, Bennie Moten, and Buster Smith.

Politician, gambler, night club owner, newspaper publisher, and bon vivant, Felix Payne was one of the most influential African Americans in Kansas City in the 1920s and 1930s.

James F. Pendergast
Jim presented himself as an advocate for the common working man, which enhanced his political base. He helped people find jobs and provided coal and food to the needy. In 1894 Jim’s brother Tom, the youngest of the Pendergast siblings, joined the family business in Kansas City. Jim moved Tom quickly into grassroots politics, teaching him how to get out the vote and how to steal elections.
Tom Pendergast
Tom Pendergast
Coinciding with the rapid expansion of Pendergast’s businesses in the 1920s and 1930s, Tom Pendergast consolidated his political power at the end of 1925 and maintained a firm grip until the late 1930s. He gained almost unchallenged control due to a change in the city government that was, ironically, first proposed by well-meaning reformers including the philanthropist William Volker.
Henry Perry BBQ

Perry’s lessons in the art of seasoning, smoking, and serving meat to Kansas Citians spawned both the Bryant and Gates barbecue names and led the way for the nearly 100 barbecue restaurants in the city today.

Dr. John Edward Perry
In 1910, Dr. Perry opened a private hospital, the Perry Sanitarium and Training School for Nurses, at 1214 Vine Street. There he developed strong medical and pediatric units to serve the minority community. The sanitarium became Wheatley-Provident Hospital, a public institution, in 1916.
Nelle Peters

Nelle Nichols Peters is known as a pathbreaking female architect, designer of nearly 1,000 local buildings, and one of the most prolific architects in Kansas City during the 1920s. Despite the fact that many of these buildings still occupy prominent locations, especially near the Country Club Plaza, Nelle Peters remains a relatively obscure figure in Kansas City history.

Elmer Pierson

Elmer F. Pierson, who, along with his brother John, would go on to found the Vendo company and dominate the world's soft drink vending machine industry, was born on August 27, 1896. In addition to its achievements in the vending industry, Pierson's company made significant contributions to America's war effort during World War II and dabbled in new innovations in other, unrelated industries.

J. W. Putsch

Initially, Justus W. Putsch didn’t want to go into the restaurant business. Yet, for over 30 years, the Putsch name was synonymous in Kansas City with both gourmet food and cafeteria-style dining. Jud Putsch was born in Marshall, Missouri, where his parents operated a confectionery. The family moved to Kansas City in 1924 and opened the Bluebird Cafeteria at Troost Avenue and Linwood Boulevard. While he was a student at Westport High School, Putsch worked at the Bluebird and developed a distaste for the restaurant business.

Sally Rand

Rand used her dancing talent and flamboyant style appearing as an exotic dancer in burlesque houses across the country. After her appearance at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, her name became a household word.

Sarah Rector

Sarah Rector, Kansas City’s “First Black Millionairess,” was known in Kansas City for her “fairy tale” ascension to money and fame, fine living at Rector Mansion, and reported entertaining of African American celebrities such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Joe Louis, and Jack Johnson. Rector’s story, however, is a complex narrative that stands at the intersections of race, indigenous sovereignty, children’s rights, and the oil boom in Oklahoma; it requires wading through questionable news reports and legal statutes while examining the shifting status of freedmen during the early part of the 20th century.

James Alexander Reed

James Reed was once an outsized figure in Missouri life and politics. An attorney by trade, Reed brought his skills as a shrewd prosecutor to each position he held in state and local government. A loyal ally to those he supported and a bitter enemy to those he disagreed with, Reed was sure to provoke strong responses in all who knew him. And though he was a polarizing figure in his day, often facing severe criticism and opposition, Reed never stopped fighting for what he believed in: a limited federal government, the sovereignty of the states, and individual liberty.

Nell Donnelly Reed
Urged by neighbors, who were wearing her creations, she took a sample to a downtown store. When she delivered 218 finished dresses, they sold out in a few hours. That was the beginning of Donnelly Garment Company which grew to $3.5 million in sales and l,000 employees by 1931
Nell Donnelly Reed

Born Ellen Quinlan in Parsons, Kansas, Nell Donnelly Reed was the founding owner of the Donnelly Garment Company. The women’s clothing line became a national sensation. Reed’s was the first company to mass produce affordable and attractive ready-to-wear clothing for women. She was one of many people to capitalize on the garment industry’s move to Kansas City and other spaces outside of the Northeast. Reed was a talented designer who envisioned the mass production of flattering, beautiful clothing for working class women. After selling a few of her new designs to local stores, Reed decided to open her own shop. This was the start of the Donnelly Garment Company, officially founded in 1916. The innovation and glamour of Reed’s professional and social life in Kansas City, especially after her advantageous marriage to former-Senator James A. Reed, is clouded by accusations of her abusive managerial practices and her clashes with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union.

Judge Albert L. Reeves despised Tom Pendergast and his Democratic machine. He felt that Pendergast corrupted the young men of Kansas City, especially those from the heavily Italian North End. Reeves particularly disdained the machine’s underhanded tactics involving voting fraud and eventually brought an end to Pendergast’s control of the ballot box.

Children's Mercy Hospital

As a clinician, Richardson was known for her total commitment to her patients. Technically, she was among the region's most skilled surgeons in the area of facial reconstruction for children born with cleft lip and palate. But she also emphasized the importance of sympathy and understanding, tending to her patients' emotional needs as well as physical ailments. To this end she encouraged hospital designs integrating light and fresh air, filled the wards with toys, and recruited comedians and circus clowns visiting Kansas City to perform for the children.

Roberts Co. Advertisement

Homer Roberts was as persistent in the 1920s as any car salesman today, but his goals reached well beyond the next sale. With enduring determination and a love of the motorcar, Roberts was the first African American to own an automobile dealership in the country.

Roy Roberts

Roy Roberts began his lifelong newspaper career delivering The Kansas City Star as a boy in Lawrence, Kansas. When he retired from The Star in January 1965, he had served the newspaper for 56 years as a reporter, managing editor, president, editor, and general manager. Roberts' 56 years with the newspaper took Kansas City readers through the Depression, the fall of the Pendergast machine, and many elections. He developed a national reputation for political savvy and his close acquaintances included Alf Landon, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon Johnson.

Wilber "Bullet Joe" Rogan

Wilber "Bullet Joe" Rogan was one of the best and most versatile players in the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues. Known primarily for his fastball, Rogan had an assortment of effective pitches that made him the ace of the pitching staff of the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1920s.

Joe Sanders

The advent of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s made a local Kansas City musical group popular all over the country. Joe Sanders together with Carleton Coon formed a band that became known as the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks. They started out playing at the Plantation Grill in the Hotel Muehlebach, and local radio station WDAF broadcast their show across the airwaves.

Eblon Theater Orchestra with James Scott
James Scott, who was born in Neosho and died in Kansas City, Kansas, was one of the biggest names in ragtime, second only to the great pianist and composer Scott Joplin.

Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Ruth associated with the leading figures of Kansas City’s musical community. Ruth’s involvement with the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra was a family affair: while her husband played cello for the orchestra, she sold subscriptions to its concerts. Ruth Seufert’s sales talent and commitment to the Philharmonic eventually earned her an appointment as the organization’s business manager.

Joseph Shannon

Joseph “Joe” Shannon presided over Kansas City’s Northside Democratic Party from the early 20th century to 1930, after which he relocated to Washington, D.C., for a 14-year tenure as a U.S. Congressman. Shannon’s political career was marked by his Jeffersonian Democratic views and his tenuous relationships with brothers James and Tom Pendergast.

Vivian’s characteristic assertiveness led to her activism with the “clean sweep” reform movement of the late 1930s in which a non-partisan coalition triumphed over the corrupt but crumbling Pendergast political machine in city elections. After several years working as an office manager for a telegraph company, she took a job in the Kansas City office of the Missouri Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Bryce Smith

Bryce B. Smith was a member of the city council from 1920 to 1924 and was elected mayor on the Democratic ticket in 1930, the second Kansas City mayor under the city manager charter. During his campaign, Smith publicly declared his independence from Pendergast-machine politics, but those were empty words. When he won the election, the Pendergast machine gained complete control over City Hall.

Hilton Smith was a mainstay of the Kansas City Monarchs' pitching staff from 1936 until 1948, a time when the Monarchs were one of the dominant teams in the Negro Baseball Leagues. Although he was well known in the baseball world, the quiet, workmanlike Smith was greatly overshadowed by Satchel Paige, his flamboyant teammate, and Smith never got the public acclaim he deserved.

N. Clark Smith

Harlan Leonard once described N. Clark Smith’s impressive persona as the segregated Lincoln High School’s band leader in Kansas City, saying that Major Smith held a “commanding personality”: “He was short, chubby, gruff, military in bearing, wore glasses, and was never seen without his full uniform and decorations. His language was rather rough and occasionally shocking to the few young ladies who were taking music classes, though never offensive. Major Smith simply ran a tight ship. . . . He drilled the Lincoln marching bands until they were the best in the area, some said the best of their kind in the Middle West.”

In 1922, Samuel and two of his brothers, Sanders and David, founded a business of their own. Although they were young men, each had experience in the newspaper and agricultural industries, and their collective knowledge led to the founding of the Southwestern Miller, a weekly journal of the grain and milling trade.

Clara Stover

The Stovers, beginning with their early farming venture in Canada, had been willing to dream big and risk bitter failure. After one fantastic near miss, they founded the candy company that endures today as a household name for quality sweets.

House of Robert Sutherland

Robert Sutherland began working in the timber business at the age of 19 by operating a lumberyard in Independence, Kansas. At the age of 33 he bought his first yard and started an empire that grew into one of the largest lumber businesses in the Midwest.

John Cameron Swayze

John Cameron Swayze, the first anchorman on network news, got his big break in Kansas City. He had a distinctive voice and won oratorical contests in his Atchison, Kansas, high school. Swayze left the University of Kansas in 1929 to try his luck as an actor on Broadway. The impact of the stock market crash in October 1929 closed many theaters; Swayze decided to move to Kansas City.

Marion Talley

Marion Talley was hailed as a musical prodigy at eight years old. Her astounding voice brought her early notoriety. But like many who gained fame at the loss of childhood, the pressure of being in the public eye would later prompt her to live in seclusion. She died in oblivion and her death went unnoticed by the music world.

Edward Tanner

Architect Edward Tanner helped design some of our favorite streetscapes. His work can be seen on the Country Club Plaza, on the campus of UMKC, in Prairie Village, and in Kansas City’s most picturesque suburbs. A longtime partnership with developer J. C. Nichols cultivated Tanner’s creativity in our Midwestern city.

R.T. Coles classroom

As a teacher, school administrator, public official, and civic leader, Earl D. Thomas forged a long and distinguished record of achievement. Although his efforts were focused largely on the betterment of Kansas City’s African American community, the city as a whole benefited from his activities in a wide variety of fields.

William Thompkins

The son of a former slave, William J. Thompkins had a multi-faceted career as a physician, hospital administrator, newspaper publisher, and civil servant. A respected physician, Thompkins was involved in the founding of General Hospital No. 2, which opened in 1908, and by 1924 it was the first hospital in the U.S. to be staffed entirely by African Americans.

Solomon H. Thompson

With Kansas City, Missouri, physician, T. C. Unthank, M.D., Dr. Thompson founded Douglass Hospital and Training School for Nurses. Dr. Thompson’s hospital fell under the authority of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1905. In 1924 the hospital purchased a new building at 336 Quindaro Boulevard. In 1937 it moved, for the last time, to 3700 North 27th Street, on the campus of Western University.

Virgil Thompson

Virgil Thomson, composer and music critic, was born on November 25, 1896, in Kansas City, Missouri. Although he would go on to live much of his life in New York and Paris, and brush elbows with world-renowned musicians and intellectuals, Thomson always claimed he drew on the musical inspirations from his childhood in Kansas City.

Harry S. Truman

Truman entered the thick of local politics when he served a Jackson County judgeship in the 1920s. He was elected U.S. Senator with a landslide vote and was sworn into office on January 3, 1935. Truman had established his record by improving county roads and overseeing the construction of the new Jackson County courthouse. His successful campaign undoubtedly benefited from the support of local political boss, Tom Pendergast. Although he was criticized for his association with Pendergast, Truman stated that Tom Pendergast never asked him to do a single dishonest act, and he never abandoned his friend.

Portrait of Joe Turner

Joe Turner had a tremendous voice and a talent for improvising lyrics. He was called the "Boss of the Blues," and during the 1930s—Kansas City's musical heyday—"Big Joe" Turner was the greatest blues singer in town.

Thomas Unthank
Dr. Unthank began a crusade to develop a municipal hospital solely to serve the minority community. White physicians and city leaders showed little interest in his proposal. Dr. Unthank eventually overcame the indifference and prejudice shown by city officials and the white medical community. He persuaded the city to allow the old General Hospital to become the "colored division" when white patients were moved to a new, modern facility in 1908. The building was renamed General Hospital No. 2. This was the first public hospital used exclusively for minority citizens in the United States.
George Van Millett

Native Americans on horseback, steamboats at the levee and early frontier characters were some of the first subjects for artist George Van Millett, who spent his life painting the people and scenes of Kansas City.

William Volker

As the brainchild of Kansas City philanthropist William Volker, the Board of Public Welfare was the first modern welfare department in the United States, a groundbreaking forerunner to modern welfare programs, and intended as a counterbalance to the charitable activities of the city's political machines led by Tom Pendergast and Joe Shannon. The board was just one of Volker’s many memorable contributions that included the creation of Research Hospital, the establishment of the University of Kansas City (now UMKC), the Civic Research Institute, the purchase of the land for Liberty Memorial, and reportedly thousands of individuals who received his gifts when down on their luck.

Portrait of Frank P. Walsh

Frank P. Walsh was a progressive lawyer and labor advocate. Walsh’s views of shared wealth, combined with his skill as a litigator, equipped him for prominent positions in the New Deal era. Described as an “agitator” and a radical, Walsh believed a country that was rapidly accumulating wealth should have higher standards of living for its citizens than primitive food and shelter.  His impact in Kansas City was defined by his passion for labor rights, public welfare, and a government accountable to the people. Though his practiced for some time in New York, he always considered Kansas City his home.

Few goals were too ambitious for Bruce R. Watkins, Kansas City's first African American to serve on the city council and make a serious run for mayor. Although he lost his bid for mayor in 1979 to Dick Berkley, Watkins left an indelible mark in Kansas City history.

Cas Welch
For over thirty years, Casimir Welch controlled "Little Tammany," 36 precincts east of downtown, for Thomas J. Pendergast. This area was heavily populated, largely with African Americans. Through the usual ploys of free food and coal to the needy, Welch gained his constituents' trust and admiration, and they repaid him by voting as they were told.
Roy Wilkins

On August 30, 1901, Roy Wilkins was born in St. Louis, Missouri. From a modest background, Wilkins would go on to graduate from the University of Minnesota, become the editor of The Call newspaper, and lead the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for more than two decades at the height of the civil rights movement.

The Kansas City Monarchs

J. L. Wilkinson made his mark on history in three important ways: as the founder and owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the greatest teams in the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues; as a pioneer in the use of lights in baseball; and as the man who gave Jackie Robinson his professional start in the game.

Claude "Fiddler" Williams didn't play the instrument for which he became best known until after he had already mastered the guitar, mandolin, banjo, cello, and bass. Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on February 22, 1908, Williams began his musical career 10 years later.

A glimpse into the history of education in Kansas City would not be complete without a profile of Hazel Browne Williams, the first African American fulltime professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Hazel Browne, a native Kansas Citian, was born on February 9, 1907, the only child of John and Effie Moten Browne. She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1923, where she earned the honor of serving as the first woman sponsor major of the school's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). Her reputation for breaking barriers would continue throughout the rest of her life.

Mary Lou Williams

In a remarkably productive career that spanned a half century, Mary Lou Williams established herself as a pianist, composer, and arranger, an unprecedented feat that has remained an inspiration to women in jazz.

Wolferman's Grocery

The first Wolferman's, located at 9th and Oak, was a one-story, rented space in which canned goods and freshly ground coffee were sold. Wolferman learned hard lessons by experience; for instance, he was thrilled on the first day open to sell many cans of peaches at 15 cents apiece, only to learn later that each cost 25 cents to restock. The work was long and difficult. Wolferman made early market rounds each morning, then visited customers in person to take orders.

Woolf Brothers store

Woolf Brothers set the style for men in Kansas City and throughout the region, with stores in Wichita, Dallas, Tulsa, and Memphis. As a manager, Woolf was beloved by his employees, who sometimes felt that the lifelong bachelor cared for them as he would a large adopted family. The company was known for its profit sharing opportunities and for hiring and keeping quality long-time employees, a practice that freed Woolf to pursue his many other interests.

Lester Young

Lester Willis Young was one of the premier saxophonists of the 1930s and 40s whose style and sound was emulated by future generations of jazz musicians. Hailed as “The President of the Tenor Sax” by his close friend Billie Holiday, he was simply “Prez” to his peers. While in Kansas City, Lester freelanced with Bennie Moten, George Lee, Clarence Love and other bands, before joining the Count Basie-Buster Smith band at the Reno Club in 1934.