When the Pendergast machine was at the height of its power, Kansas City’s economy was dominated by major industries related to railroads, stockyards, garment manufacturing, agricultural production, automobiles, and more. Several local industries were among the largest of their type, which gave national significance to the many local disputes between labor and management.
Kansas City, like other American cities, added new suburban-style developments at its edges during the early decades of the 20th century. What makes it a unique case for understanding this shift is the character of Jesse Clyde (J.C.) Nichols. Born in Olathe, Kansas, in 1880, Nichols had a career that spanned the first half of the 20th century, and included transforming thousands of acres of land into a planned suburban community.