Pendergast Loses $600,000

Tom with nephew Jim Pendergast

In a period from approximately mid-August to mid-September 1935, Tom Pendergast wagers over $2 million on horse races and loses $600,000.

Date : 
August 15, 1935
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Author: 
William Worley
Metropolitan Community College

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.

Author: 
Jason Roe
Kansas City Public Library
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.
Related Collection Items: 
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.