The 1920s: The birth of Kansas City

1920 Kansas City
Photo courtesy Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, 12th Street looking east from Walnut, c. 1920's

Kansas City was founded as a Missouri river outpost in 1838, but the birth of the city we know today came eighty years later, in 1920. The dawn of federal Prohibition supercharged the influence of corrupt political boss Tom Pendergast, who made Kansas City into a “wide-open town” infamously known as the “Paris of the Plains” for its free-flowing liquor, abundance of vice and enviable jazz scene. While the rest of the country chafed under Prohibition, KC gave safe harbor to the fringe of American culture, from socialist agitators to iconic fashionistas to adventurous filmmakers. A hundred years later, we look back at the most important era in our city’s history.

KC was once home to the country’s top fashion label

The of story of Jay McShann, Charlie Parker and the birth of the KC jazz era

PLAYLIST: The top ten songs from KC in the twenties

Small-town Kansas was once home to the nation’s most controversial publishing house

Local roots of the women’s suffrage movement

How America’s modern political parties first took shape in KC

Two pioneering documentary filmmakers came from Kansas

Eight newspapers that Kansas Citians read in the 1920s

How the Kansas City Monarchs became the city’s favorite sports team in the 1920s

You can still get a drink at these notorious Prohibition-era Kansas City speakeasies

 

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