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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photograph of Count Basie, piano, performing with Samuel "Baby" Lovett, drums; Clairborne "Frog" Graves, saxophone; and Jimmy Hill, guitar. A tipping "kitty" is shown at left center.
Bennie Moten's Orchestra, with instruments, taken by Bert Photo Studio, ca. 1926. Pictured from left: Thamon Hayes, trombone, Lammar Wright, cornet; Willie McWashington, drums; Leroy "Buster" Berry, banjo; Bennie Moten, piano; Harlan Leonard, reeds; Vernon Page, brass bass; Woody Walder, reeds; LaForest Dent, reeds. Source: Charles Goodwin.
Bennie Moten's Radio Orchestra, posed with instruments, ca. 1923. Pictured are Willie Hall (drums), Lammar Wright (trumpet), Bennie Moten (piano), Thamon Hayes (trombone), Woodie Walder (clarinet). Source: Duncan Scheidt.
Bennie Moten's Orchestra, with instruments on bandstand, likely to be Paseo Hall, 15th Street and Paseo Boulevard, Kansas City, Missouri, c. 1925. Pictured from left: Willie McWashington, drums; LaForest Dent, banjo; Vernon Page, brass bass; Thamon Hayes, trombone; Lammar Wright, cornet; Bennie Moten, piano; Harlan Leonard, alto saxophone; Woody Walder, tenor saxophone. Source: Charles Goodwin.
Chauncey Downs' band with Woody Walder (sax) and Ernie Williams at Chauncey Downs Hall (known later as the Casa Loma Ballroom) in the Downs Building at the southeast corner of 18th Street and Prospect Avenue, ca. 1940. Source: Corrine Walder.
An autochrome photograph of the West Bottoms and Kansas City Stock Yards as seen looking west from Kersey Coates Drive at its intersection with Beardsley Road, just north of 17th Street. This vantage point shows the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad in the foreground and the Kansas City Live Stock Exchange Building in the left background.
When it comes to assessing the trajectory of a political machine such as the one cobbled together over time by first Jim Pendergast, and then by his younger brother “Boss” Tom Pendergast, it is always best to follow the advice of the later Watergate journalists – that is, to “follow the money.” Under Jim, the Pendergast machine seems to have dealt more in dispensing jobs and small favors, with Jim taking a rather small cut of the proceeds. Jim, however, could meet his relatively small personal needs, which included taking care of his bride Mary Doerr (married in 1886) and her young son by a previous marriage. He chose never to live “high on the hog.” Tom, on the other hand, always seemed to need more money, especially after his own marriage to Carolyn Elizabeth Dunn in 1910.
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.
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...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.