A "Virtual Scrapbook" of Kansas City regional history
The role of the historian is to take the bits and scraps that have survived of the past and paste them together into a useable shape from which we can understand and learn about our present and future. This page presents a few of those bits and scraps some original documents, some thoughtful articles and reminiscences about Kansas City's regional experience.
As with any scrapbook, the choice of the fragments is somewhat personal, mirroring in part the interests, the philosophies, and the approaches to history of the SHSMO-KC staff. It is also determined by which projects are available and doable. Therefore the relationship among the parts may be evident, or they may be non-existent. Regardless, each element and the whole are provided for whatever value and enjoyment you may take from them.
Assistant Director, SHSMO-KC
THE KANSAS CITY HISTORY PROJECT
In the late 1950s a group of scholars lead by the University of Chicagos Dr. R. Richard Wohl undertook to study the history of Kansas City. This effort, known as the Kansas City History Project, was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Kansas City Trusts and Foundations. Kansas City was the subject of this work because it was considered large enough and diverse enough to be a representative urban community, while being enough to be a manageable project far more so than would be a study of New York, Chicago, or Boston.
The Project yielded a variety of results primarily as papers, theses and dissertations, and books. Many of the students went on to become noted scholars and teachers in urban history.
The History of Kansas City Projects and
the Origins of American Urban History
by Charles N. Glaab, Mark H. Rose, and William H. Wilson. [Reprinted from the JOURNAL OF URBAN HISTORY 18#4 (August 1992): 371-394 with permission from the Sage Publications, Inc.
This critical article, co-authored by two of the participants in the History Project, traces the origins and legacies of this important early effort in urban history studies. "The History of Kansas City projects developed because of three related circumstances; the sociopolitical concerns of foundations, the research strategies of scholars outside urban history, and the ability of the directors to relate urban history to both."
The Usable Past: A Study of Historical Traditions in Kansas City, by R. Richard Wohl and A. Theodore Brown. [Reprinted from The Huntington Library Quarterly 23 (May 1960): 237-59 with permission from the Huntington Library.]
"The Usable Past" article is both a valuable insight into the role of local historians writing about KCs past over a 100 year period, and also the philosophies and analytical methods of modern, academically trained historians as they evaluate sources.
The Influence of Surroundings by Sidney J. Hare by Sidney J. Hare. Park and Cemetery VII#7 (September 1897): 156-157.
Among the most influential planners in Kansas City and national was Sid Hare, founder with his son Herbert, of the landscape and city planning firm of Hare and Hare. This speech before the eleventh annual convention of the Association of American Cemetery Superintendents held in Cincinnati OH September 14th-17th, 1897 was abstracted in the Association's Park and Cemetery journal. Unfortunately the full text of the speech may not have survived. Reportedly Hare's speech was one of the earliest articulated links of landscape design and cemetery design which would influence two decades of refinements in cemetery design and ambience.
Water: Playful Pranks of the Missouri. Kansas City Times,
January 7, 1872, 4/1
"The Floods of 1827 and 1844 – Will There be a Flood this Spring – Some Recollections of a Native of the Soil."
This revealing article written for the Kansas City Times in 1872, reported memories from one of Kansas City's earliest residents – Pierre Menard Chouteau, son of Francois and Berenice Chouteau, who settled in the vicinity in 1822 Though some of the facts are garbled (the earlier flood was in 1826, not 1827), there are interesting tidbits of information and relationships of places and people.
STORY OF THE “EARLY DAYS” by Henry H. Avis.
"Personal reminiscences of freighting across the plains, the pony express, gold mining and Indian fighting."
In July 1921, 81 year old Henry H. Avis (1840-1927) for the occasion of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the State of Missouri felt compelled to put onto paper his reminiscences of his experiences from roughly 1857 to 1867 when he travelled and worked as an express rider, gold prospector and Indian fighter in Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. The original typescript document bares Avis' signature and a notary confirmation that it was "duly sworn, on his oath stated that the above and forgoing statement...was true to the best of his knowledge and belief at this day."
A Preliminary Survey of Photographers and Artists in Kansas City, Missouri, 1850 to 1882 (and a few miscellaneous photographers in Clay, Jackson, and Platte Counties, Missouri, 1860 to 1880) by David Boutros
A Preliminary Survey of Photographers and Artists in St. Joseph, Missouri, 1859 to 1889 by David Boutros
These papers, based upon research done nearly 30 years ago, is a preliminary attempt to provide for the student of historic photographs information for knowing the photographer behind the photograph. They are surveys of photographers and artists in Kansas City and St. Joseph: a compilation of names, occupations, addresses, and relationships of persons involved in what can be called the beginnings of the photographic and arts community in those western Missouri cities.
The primary method of this study was to read and record information from the available city and business directories of Kansas City, St. Joseph, and the State of Missouri. This research, though an important first step, is far from conclusive. The persons listed were likely not the only photographers in the cities. Amateurs and semi-professional photographers who were found in the directories under other professions were not included. Artists, artist suppliers, and picture dealers have been included because many were known to also deal with photographers. Also listed were persons employed by the photographers and others including retouchers, camera operators, print finishers, and even messengers and porters.
Artists played an important role in the photographic industry. The term “artist” applied in the directories to the early photographers illustrates the relationship of the two professions. Further, the artist often used photographs to supplement his work, and the photographer used the artist’s brush to improve his photographic images. Many artists were employed by photographers to perform two functions: to retouch the negative to improve on the reality of the image taken, and to color the photographic print giving a more life-like illusion to the final product.
The material presented in each paper is divided into two parts: an alphabetical listing of the persons associated with the photographic industry with a chronological account of their occupations, business addresses residences, and a yearly index of the names of these same persons.
A Brief History of Kansas City
Medical Schools with Kansas City or University of Kansas City as part of their
by Marilyn Burlingame (May 24, 2005)
Researchers, most specifically genealogists not residing in this area, who enter “Kansas City College” or “Kansas City University” into an Internet search engine, inevitably find “The University of Kansas City” (now the University of Missouri-Kansas City) on their screen. This usually results in a request to the University of Missouri-Kansas City Archives for records, particularly student information.
Unfortunately, little such information is available. The Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Kansas City has the Jackson County Medical Society Records (KC0088), the Kansas City Academy of Medicine Records (KC0187), and the Kansas City Medical Library Club Records (KC0186), which contains brief histories and lists of faculty for many schools, but not students. Additionally, there is useful information in From Shamans to Specialists, A History of Medicine and Health Care in Jackson County Missouri by Barbara M. Gorman, Richard D. McKinzie, and Theodore A. Wilson (Kansas City, MO: Jackson County Medical Society, 1981). Also available and very useful is, Hospital Hill: An Illustrated Account of Public Health Care Institutions in Kansas City, Missouri by James Soward, (Kansas City: Truman Medical Center Charitable Foundation, 1995). [Soward's research notes are in SHSMO-KC's James L. Soward (1932-2005) Papers (0879kc).]
This paper by Marilyn Burlingame, long-time Senior Archives Specialist for the University of Missouri-Kansas City University Archives, pulls together a very brief "genealogy" of the various medical schools in Kansas City.
Broadcasting in Kansas City
The following three papers were authored by William James Ryan, a broadcast historian and professor emeritus of communication at Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri. He was chair of the Department of Communication, and the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts at Rockhurst. Bill Ryan began the Kansas City Broadcasting Oral History Project (KCBOHP) in 1985, producing 100 oral history interviews with men and women who served a variety roles in Kansas City radio and television. These interviews were named the Kansas City Broadcasting Oral History Collection (KCBOHC) and are now be found in the William James Ryan (1940- ) Papers (K0457), at the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Kansas City (SHSMO-KC).
From this wealth of research he has written a number of papers and articles, including "Which Came First?—65 Years of Kansas City Broadcasting,” (Missouri Historical Review LXXXII  (July 1988): 408-423) for which he received the Missouri State Historical Society's Author's Award. He has a chapter in Television in America: Local Station History from Across the Nation (Iowa State University Press, 1997), and nine articles in Historical Dictionary of American Radio (Greenwood, 1998). His book manuscript, Keep Watching Kansas City: Where Listeners Become Friends. A Regional History of Broadcasting, 1914-1979, that SHSMO-KC hopes to publish in the future.
Bill is a member of the Oral History Committee of the American Journalism Historians Association, the Society for Professional Journalists, Missouri Broadcast Education Association, and the History Division of the Association of the Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication.
African-Americans in Local Broadcasting: Kansas City, 1922-1982
This paper is derived from a presentation to the 77th Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, Kansas City, Missouri, October 9, 1992.
Reporting the ‘51 Flood: An Oral History of the Impact of a Natural Disaster on Local Broadcast News
This paper is derived from a presentation to the American Journalism Historians Association Annual Meeting, Lawrence, Kansas, October 1-3, 1992.
Elinor Fox and WHB’s Wartime Programming
Kansas City’s pioneer WHB is an example of how local radio could offer opportunities for innovative programming developed by an energetic career-minded woman in the late 1930s and how her responsibilities increased as men left for the military while the station adapted to a wartime mode. Placed in the context of WHB’s wartime programming, this paper uses oral history research with Elinor Fox Kamen to tell how she entered radio just before World War II, wrote, produced and announced her own new programming ideas during the war and then moved out of broadcasting after the war.
Submitted to the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication Midwest Journalism Conference, April 8-9, 1994, Columbia, Missouri.
Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawks: “The Orchestra That Made Radio Famous”
The Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawks Orchestra was the first band to broadcast popular music live to a nation-wide radio audience on a regular schedule. The orchestra’s debut was heard throughout North America. Carleton Coon and Joe Sanders pioneered the use of radio to reach a mass audience with popular music, leaving a legacy to musicians who followed.
Original manuscript written December 6, 1987; edited for presentation at the Popular Culture Association conference on February 17, 1989.
Still Serving Kansas City: A History of Prime Health by Michael B. Wood (August 2005)
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to care about the history of an organization that no longer exists—either in name or in function. On closer examination, though, Prime Health’s story is one of commitment to a community and to an ideal by a group of citizens who felt they could make a difference.
Prime Health was the first HMO established in metropolitan Kansas City, opening its doors in 1976. Part of a national effort to provide economical quality health care, from the beginning it was at the forefront of the HMO movement, in that it was among the first medical operations in the country to make widespread use of nurse practitioners to enhance access to and quality of care. The collaborative model using physicians and nurses is widely used in clinic settings today; was selected by Medicare to become one of four demonstration sites for its “risk” contracts, which allowed beneficiaries to have their coverage provided by an HMO; was the first health plan in the area to offer preventive and early detection services in its basic package, to provide enrollment with no exclusion for preexisting services and to implement an “urgent care” program—opening its health centers in the evening and on weekends to deter unnecessary emergency use.
This article provides a first hand view of the development of this exceptional institution, written by one of its founders, Michael B. Wood.
The William Volker and Company by David Boutros
William Volker, the businessman, is unfortunately overlooked in favor of William Volker, the philanthropist. Volker is perceived in the popular tradition as a kind hearted “easy touch” who could not say no to an out-stretched hand. In fact, Volker was not an “easy touch” but was as methodical in his philanthropy as he was in his business, and many of his business goals—providing quality service, giving incentives for self reliance and efficiency, and being busy and happy—were also the goals of his giving. For this reason Volker’s business life is, in fact, an important factor in understanding the actions and values of the man. The significance of the William Volker and Company is not only the means by which Volker gained the wealth he so freely gave away, but is also an expression of his most basic attitudes toward life and his fellow men.
This article traces the history of the Company and the interaction of its founder's personal philosophy in its operation and development.
Also see The William Volker and Company Records (K0059).
Letters from the Century Box.
The evening of December 31, 1900, citizens of Kansas City gathered at Convention Hall to celebrate the new year and the new century. They placed mementoes of the community into a cooper box to be sealed for a future generation of Kansas Citians to open. That box, the Century Box, remained closed, stored first in a wall at Convention Hall, and then when that building was razed in 1936, moved to a wall at Municipal Auditorium's Music Hall. On January 1, 2001, nearly 1,000 interested citizens came to Union Station to watch the Century Box opened and to hear the messages and see the mementoes revealed. Among the first items to come out of the Box was the letter from the James A. Reed, Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, which was read to the crowd by the city's current Mayor, Kay Barnes.
Equally interesting is the future thinking letter by the Kansas City, Kansas Mayor, R.L. Marshman. Anticipating great technological changes, Marshman also projected many political and social changes to the metropolitan area.
It is important to see these letters, and the other messages from the Century Box, as expressions of optimism and of hope from a generation that created the "Kansas City Spirit". Rebuilding Convention Hall in 90 days, they believed and intended to make Kansas City into the "City of the Future". With these letters the Mayors, assuming the success of that venture, are sharing in its glory and the dawn of yet another new century.
Resources and tools
Kansas City Regional Histories Bookshelf
A contribution to the KC150 Celebration.
State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Kansas City has brought together the digital publications and indexes of some of the key Kansas City regional history books.
Last revised: Monday, December 31, 2012
© State Historical Society of Missouri