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Nell Donnelly Reed
Author: 
Jason Roe

Nell Donnelly and her chauffeur, George Blair, were kidnapped on December 16, 1931. Donnelly had become famous after her 1916 founding of the Donnelly Garment Company, which sold stylish but affordable dresses for daily wear by ordinary women. Backed by the sales of “Nelly Don’s,” as the dresses became known, the company grew into a multi-million dollar business with over 1,000 employees in the 1920s.

Mary McElroy
Author: 
Jason Roe

One of Kansas City's most sensational and ultimately tragic crimes began on May 27, 1933 with the kidnapping of Mary McElroy, the daughter of controversial city manager Henry F. McElroy, who had close ties to the political machine operated by “Boss” Tom Pendergast. She was released after 34 hours of captivity, following payment of a $30,000 ransom, but she never recovered from the emotional turmoil that ensued.

Complaint for Criminal Case No. 12126: United States vs. Walter H. McGee, Wendell Johnson, Clarence Stevens, L. R. Gilbert, Hazel Johnson, Lenora Gilbert, Clarence Click, and George McGee, Defendants. In this document, Thomas J. Layson calls upon the court to charge the defendants with the kidnapping of Mary McElroy, daughter of Kansas City, Missouri city manager Henry Francis McElroy. Layson also charges the defendants with ransoming Mary McElroy for $30,000.00.

Date: 
June 2nd 1933

Indictment for Criminal Case No. 12126: United States vs. Walter H. McGee, Wendell Johnson, Clarence Stevens, L. R. Gilbert, Hazel Johnson, Lenora Gilbert, Clarence Click, and George McGee, Defendants. The defendants are charged with the kidnapping of Mary McElroy, daughter of Kansas City, Missouri city manager Henry Francis McElroy, and ransoming Mary McElroy for $30,000.00.

Date: 
June 3rd 1933

Warrant to Apprehend for Criminal Case No. 12126: United States vs. Walter H. McGee, Wendell Johnson, Clarence Stevens, L. R. Gilbert, Hazel Johnson, Lenora Gilbert, Clarence Click, and George McGee, Defendants. This document calls for the arrest of the defendants charged with the kidnapping of Mary McElroy, daughter of Kansas City, Missouri city manager Henry Francis McElroy, and ransoming Mary McElroy for $30,000.00.

Date: 
June 3rd 1933

Anonymous letter to Governor Lloyd C. Stark, describing ongoing corruption during elections, and making other accusations of misdeeds in Kansas City. The writer signs off anonymously, saying "am not signing my name for I rather live a while longer and you could have a leak in your office."

Date: 
December 1940

Photograph of the letter from Mary McElroy to her father Henry F. McElroy detailing the terms of her ransom as demanded by Walter H. McGee. This reproduction was used as evidence against McGee in the Criminal Case No. 33947: State of Missouri vs. Walter H. McGee.

Date: 
May 27th 1933

Photograph of the letter from Mary McElroy to her father Henry F. McElroy detailing the terms of her ransom as demanded by Walter H. McGee. This reproduction was used as evidence against McGee in the Criminal Case No. 33947: State of Missouri vs. Walter H. McGee.

Date: 
May 27th 1933

Photograph of a small home at 1310 State Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas, taken in connection with Criminal Case No. 33947: State of Missouri vs. Walter H. McGee. McGee instructed Henry F. McElroy to visit this house to obtain further instructions for the payment of ransom and release of McElroy's daughter, Mary McElroy. This vantage point was taken facing north on State Avenue between N 13th Street and N 14th Street in Kansas City, Kansas.

Date: 
1933

Photograph of a home at 5718 County Line Road (now 47th Street), Kansas City, Kansas, taken in connection with Criminal Case No. 33947: State of Missouri vs. Walter H. McGee. McGee held Mary McElroy captive in the basement of this residence for $60,000 ransom. He later accepted $30,000 for her release. This vantage point faces east from just north of 47th Street.

Date: 
1933

Photograph of a home at 5718 County Line Road (now 47th Street), Kansas City, Kansas, taken in connection with Criminal Case No. 33947: State of Missouri vs. Walter H. McGee. McGee held Mary McElroy captive in the basement of this residence for $60,000 ransom. He later accepted $30,000 for her release. This vantage point faces northeast from 47th Street.

Date: 
1933

Photograph of the basement of a home at 5718 County Line Road (now 47th Street), Kansas City, Kansas, taken in connection with Criminal Case No. 33947: State of Missouri vs. Walter H. McGee. McGee held Mary McElroy captive in this basement for $60,000 ransom. He later accepted $30,000 for her release.

Date: 
1933

Court Opinion by Commissioner Walter H. Bohling for Criminal Case No. 33947: State of Missouri vs. Walter H. McGee, Appellant. Upon reviewing the assignments of error in McGee's motion for a new trial, Bohling affirms that McGee was guilty of kidnapping Mary McElroy on May 27, 1933 and holding her for ransom. Mary was the daughter of Henry F. McElroy, City Manager of Kansas City, Missouri.

Date: 
March 30th 1935

Recurring magazine feature, "Chief's Chair", from the October 1933 issue of "Startling Detective Adventures". This article was used in support of the defendant in Criminal Case No. 35160: State of Missouri vs. Adam Richetti. It implicates Vernon C. Miller (Verne C. Miller) and William Weissman as the murderers in the Union Station Massacre and also mentions the kidnapping of Mary McElroy.

Date: 
October 1933

Photograph of Ralph T. Harding, Lillie Knight, and Clarence Click (left to right) in the court room. The caption on the back of the image reads, "Watch your credit, International Chicago, 8817, 12-8-33, Charged with Kidnaping Mary McElroy: Clarence Click (right), discussing his case with Miss Lillie Knight, young woman attorney, who pleaded with a Kansas City jury not to send click to the gallows; at left is chief counsel for defense, Ralph T. Harding. Click is charged with kidnaping Miss Mary McElroy, daughter of City Manager H. F.

Date: 
December 8th 1933

Photograph of Mary McElroy who was kidnapped in 1933 at 25 years old and held for ransom. The caption on the back of the image reads, "KC 539217, A SUICIDE, KANSAS CITY, MO:- A recent picture of Miss Mary McElroy, daughter of recently deceased City Manager H. F. McElroy, who ended her own life recently with a bullet from a.25 caliber gun. It is believed she had been despondent since the death of her father, which occurred while he was under federal indictment. ET, CREDIT LINE (ACME) 1/23/40 (JC)."

Photograph of Ralph T. Harding, Walter McGee, John V. Hill, and Joseph B. Keenan (left to right) at the trial of Walter McGee. The caption on the back of the image reads, "STATE ASKS DEATH PENALTY FOR KIDNAPER, Photo shows the courtroom of Judge Allen C. Southern at Kansas City, Mo. During the trial of Walter McGee, who is charged with being the ringleader of the gang that kidnaped Mary McElroy, daughter of the City Manager of Kansas City, and held her till a ransom of $30,000 was paid left to right: Ralph T.

Date: 
July 26th 1933

Photograph of Mary McElroy who was kidnapped in 1933 at 25 years old and held for ransom. The caption on the back of the image reads, "IC217320... CHICAGO BUREAU, FORMER KIDNAP VICTIM RETURNS HOME, Mary McElroy, 26 year old daughter of Henry McElroy, City Manager of Kansas City, Mo. is shown above at the home of Mayor G.M. Ridenour at Normal, Ill. Feb. 11, after her father had got in touch with her as she was fleeing to Chicago from home on a bus, because of threatening messages she is said to have received from friends of her kidnapers whom she had helped to prosecute.

Date: 
February 11th 1935

Photograph of George McGee, Lillie Knight, and Ralph T. Harding (left to right) with R. H. Moore removed from the picture to the right. The caption on the back of the image reads, "Like in the case of his brother, Walter, the state has asked the death penalty for George McGee, youthful accused member of the gang which kidnaped Miss Mary McElroy, daughter of City Manager H. F. McElroy of Kansas City. Walter McGee was the first kidnaper ever given the death penalty in this country." George McGee is shown in this picture conferring with his three attorneys.

Date: 
1933

Photograph of convicted kidnapper George McGee. The caption on the back of the image reads, "KC 212964... CHICAGO BUREAU, LIFE SENTENCE GIVEN GEORGE McGEE FOR McELROY KIDNAPING. George McGee, shown above on witness stand, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the kidnaping of Miss Mary McElroy, daughter of the Kansas City, Mo. city manager, on May 27, from her home. Walter McGee, brother of George, the leader of the kidnap gang, has been condemned to die by hanging, the first such verdict to be returned in the United States in kidnap cases.

Date: 
November 5th 1933

Pages

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.