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Old February 21st, 2008, 07:55 AM   #1
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Kansas City, Missouri - “The Little Apple“

Evidently the city was once called "The Little Apple" and also the "Paris Of The Plains."
The Little Apple reference had mostly to do with KC's art-deco skyscrapers, Mafia, great steaks and massive train station.
I've also found that KC once had more buildings over 10 stories than any inland (interior) city other than Chicago up until 1950.
Here are a few photos from my research of KC, "The Little Apple".

Click here for music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2UrKdnvZXw

This one is simply amazing

A sense of the scale

Last edited by gridley; March 1st, 2008 at 12:02 AM.
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Old February 25th, 2008, 05:43 AM   #2
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Municipal Stadium Photos from the KC Library Collection

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Old February 25th, 2008, 10:50 AM   #3
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"St. Louisan by choice, Missourian by geography"
My Photo Gallery Urban St.Louis.com Urban St.Louis forum
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Old February 26th, 2008, 01:11 AM   #4
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Beautiful thread! I really liked the pictures from the 1940 era best.
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Old February 26th, 2008, 02:50 AM   #5
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Thank you for the pictures. Kansas City looks great!
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Old February 26th, 2008, 06:57 AM   #6
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Dis city is da shiz
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Old February 26th, 2008, 07:23 AM   #7
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[QUOTE]I've also found that KC once had more buildings over 10 stories than any inland city other than Chicago up until 1950/QUOTE]

I would wager that this is not true on a count of that Detroit would take that title easily, prolly followed by St Louis.

Nice thread though
In America we don't solve social problems, we move away from them.

My new book on Buffalo architecture is available here:

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Old February 26th, 2008, 08:17 AM   #8
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LOL. Here we go again...

He supposedly did a scientific study on it... Granted, a quick glance at emporis shows over 100 listings of 10+ story buildings in Detroit with only about 55 in Kansas City.

And don't mention Detroit in this thread or he'll create another thread...
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Old February 26th, 2008, 03:47 PM   #9
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purchase prints
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Old February 26th, 2008, 11:42 PM   #10
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More research






1951 West Bottoms Flood


1977 Plaza Flood


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Old February 29th, 2008, 01:02 AM   #11
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I'm pretty sure that it's MANHATTAN, KANSAS that's referred to as the "Little Apple."

And I'm pretty sure every city in the "Great Plains" has at one point been called the Paris of the Plains. Even though none of them are anything like Paris. Ech.
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Old February 29th, 2008, 04:51 AM   #12
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More Research. Two interesting articles about KC and it's amazing boom, architecture and wealth. Both are an interesting reading and a peek back in time to this frontier-facing city.
This article has a prophetic message at the end.
I've included the links in case you want to read the entire articles.

Kansas City
(Originally Published Early 1900's)

IF you will take a map of the United States and fold it so that the Atlantic and Pacific coast lines overlap, the crease at the center will form a line which runs down through the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas. That is not, however, the true dividing line between East and West. If I were to try to draw the true line, I should begin at the north, bringing my pencil down between the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, leaving the former to the east, and the latter to the west, and I should follow down through the middle of Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri, so that St. Louis would be included on the eastern map and Kansas City and Omaha on the western.

My companion and I had long looked forward to the West, and had speculated as to where we should first meet it. And sometimes, as we traveled on, we doubted that there really was a West at all, and feared that the whole country had become monotonously "standardized," as was recently charged by a correspondent of the London "Times."

I remember that we discussed that question on the train, leaving St. Louis, wondering whether Kansas City, whither we were bound, would prove to be but one more city like the rest—a place with skyscrapers and shops and people resembling, almost exactly, the sky-scrapers and shops and people of a dozen other cities we had seen.

Morning in the sleeping car found us less concerned about the character of cities than about our coffee. Coffee was not to be had upon the train. In cheerless emptiness we sat and waited for the station.

While my berth was being turned into its daytime aspect, I was forced to accept a seat beside a stranger: a little man with a black felt hat, a weedy mustache of neutral color, and an Elk's button. I had a feeling that he meant to talk with me; a feeling which amounted to dread. Nothing appeals to me at seven in the morning; least of all a conversation. At that hour my enthusiasm shows only a low blue flame, like a gas jet turned down almost to the point of going out. And in the feeble light of that blue flame, my fellow man becomes a vague shape, threatening unsolicited civilities. I do not like the hour of seven in the morning anywhere, and if there is one condition under which I loathe it most, it is before breakfast in a smelly sleeping car. I saw the little man regarding me. He was about to speak. And there I was, absolutely at his mercy, without so much as a news-paper behind which to shield myself.

"Are you from New York?" he asked.

With about the same amount of effort it would take to make a long after-dinner speech, I managed to enunciate a hollow : "Yes."

"I thought so," he returned.

It seemed to me that the remark required no answer. He waited; then, presently, vouchsafed the added in-formation: "I knew it by your shoes."

Mechanically I looked at my shoes ; then at his. I felt like saying: "Why? Because my shoes are polished?" But I did n't. All I said was, "Oh."

"That 's a New York last," he explained. "Long and flat. You can't get a shoe like that out in this section. Nobody 'd buy 'em if we made 'em." Then he added : "I'm in the shoe line, myself."

He paused as though expecting me to state my "line." However, I did n't. Very likely he thought it some-thing shameful. After a moment's silence, he asked: "Travel out this way much?"

"Never," I said.

"Never been in Kansas City?"

I shook my head.

"Well," he volunteered, "it 's a great town. Greatest farm implement market in the world." (He drawled "world" as though it were spelled with a double R..) "Very little manufacturing but a great distributing point. All cattle and farming out here. Everything depends on the crops. Different from the East."

I looked out of the window.

It was different from the East. Even through the smoky fog I saw that.

"Kansas City!" called the negro porter.

I arose with a sigh, said good-by to the little man, and made my way from the car.

The heavy mist was laden with a smoky smell like that of an incipient London fog. Through it I discerned, dimly, a Vesuvian hill, piling up to the left, while, to the right, a maze of tracks and trains lost themselves in the gray blur. Immediately before me stood as disreputable a station as I ever saw, its platforms oozing mud, and its doorways oozing immigrants and other forlorn travelers. Of all the people there, I observed but two who were agreeable to the eye : a young girl, admirably modish, and her mother. But even looking at this girl I remained depressed. "You don't belong here," I wished to say to her, "that 's clear enough. No one like you could live in such a place. You need n't think I live here, either; for I don't! Most decidedly I don't !"

We got into a taxi, my companion and I, and the taxi started immediately to climb with us, like a mountain goat, ascending a steep hill in leaps, over an atrocious pavement, and between vacant lots and shabby buildings which seemed to me to presage an undeveloped town and, worse yet, a bad hotel.

My companion must have thought as I did, for I re-member his saying in a somber tone : "I guess we 're in for it this time, all right!"

Those are the first words that I recall his having spoken that morning.

After ascending for some time, we began to coast down again, still through unprepossessing thorough fares, until at last we slid up in the mud to the door of the Hotel Baltimore—one of the busiest hotels in the whole United States.

On sight of the hotel I took a little heart. Break-fast was near and the hostelry looked promising. It was, indeed, the first building that I saw in Kansas City, that seemed to justify "City."

The coffee at the Baltimore proved good. We saw that we were in a large and capably conducted caravansary—a metropolitan hotel with a dining room like some interior in the capitol of Minnesota, and a Pornpeian room, the very look of which bespoke a cabaret performance at a later hour. From the window where we sat at breakfast we saw wagons with brakes set, descending the hill, and streams of people hurrying on their way to work : sturdy-looking men and healthy-looking girls, the latter stamped with that cheap yet indisputable style so characteristic of the young American working woman—a sort of down-at-the-heels showiness in dress, which, combined with an elaborate coiffure and a fine, if slightly affected carriage, makes her at once a pretty and pathetic object.

In Kansas City one is well within the borders of the land of silver dollars. Dollar bills are scarce. Pay for a cigar with a $5 bill, and your change is more than likely to include four of those silver cartwheels which, though merely annoying in ordinary times, must be a real source of danger when the floods come, as one understands they sometimes do in Kansas City. Not only are small bills scarce but, I fancy, the humble copper cent is viewed in Kansas City with less respect than in the East. I base this conclusion upon the fact that a dignified old negro, wearing a bronze medal suspended from a ribbon tied about his neck, charged me five cents at the door of the dining room for a one-cent paper—a rate of extortion surpassing that of New York hotel news stands. However, as that paper was the Kansas City "Star," I raised no objection; for the "Star" is a great newspaper. But of that presently.

Later I found fastened to the wall of my bathroom something which, as I learned afterward, is quite common among hotels in the West, but which I have never seen in an eastern hotel—a slot machine which, for a quarter, supplies any of the following articles: tooth paste, listerine, cold cream, bromo lithia, talcum powder, a toothbrush, a shaving stick, or a safety razor.

Counterbalancing this convenience, however, I found in my room but one telephone instrument, although Kansas City is served by two separate companies. This proved annoying; calls coming by the Missouri & Kansas Telephone Company's lines reached me in my room, but those coming over the wires of the Home Telephone Company had to be answered downstairs, whither I was summoned twice that morning—once from my. bath and once while shaving. I had not been in Kansas City half a day before discovering that monopoly—at least in the case of the telephone—has its very definite advantages. A double system of telephones is a nuisance. Even where, as for instance in Portland, Oregon, there are two instruments in each room, one never knows which bell is ringing. Duplication is unnecessary, and where there are two companies, lack of duplication is annoying. Every home or office in Kansas City provided with but one instrument is cut off from communication with many other homes and offices having the other service, while those having both instruments have to pay the price of two.

It always amuses me to hear criticisms by foreigners of the telephone as perfected in this country. And our sleeping cars and telephones are the things they in-variably do criticize. As to the sleeping car there may be some justice in complaints, although it seems to me that, under the conditions for which it is designed, the Pullman car would be hard to improve upon. It is the necessity of going to bed while traveling by rail that is at the bottom of the trouble. But when a foreigner criticizes the American telephone the very thing he criticizes is its perfection. If we had bad telephone service, and did n't use the telephone much, it would be all right, according to the European point of view. But as it is, they say we are the instrument's "slaves."

That was the complaint of Dr. George Brandes, the Danish literary critic. "The telephone is the worst instrument of torture that ever existed," he declared.

"The medieval rack and thumb-screws were playthings compared with it."

Arnold Bennett, in his "Your United States," tells of having permanently removed the receiver from the telephone in his bedroom in a Chicago hotel. His action, he declares, caused agitation, not merely in the hotel, but throughout the city.

"In response to the prayer of a deputation from the management," he writes, "I restored the receiver. On the horrified face of the deputation I could read the unspoken query: `Is it conceivable that you have been in this country a month without understanding that the United States is primarily nothing but a vast congeries of telephone cabins?'

Now, the thing which Mr. Bennett, Dr. Brandes, and many other distinguished visitors from Europe seem to fail to comprehend is this: that, being distinguished visitors, and therefore sought after, they are the telephone's especial victims, and consequently gain a wrong impression of it. They themselves use it little as a means of calling others ; others use it much as a means of calling them. Furthermore, being strangers to this highly perfected instrument, they are also, quite naturally strangers to telephonic subtleties. Mr. Bennett proved his entire lack of knowledge of the new science of telephone tact when he tried to stop the instrument by re-moving the receiver. Any American could have told him that all he need have done was to notify the operator, at the switchboard, downstairs, not to permit him to be disturbed until a certain hour. Or, if he had wished to do so, he could have asked her to sift his messages, giving him only those she deemed desirable. He would have found her, I feel sure, as capable, on that score, as a well-trained private secretary, for, among the many effective services of the telephone, none is finer than that given by those capable, intelligent, quick-thinking young women who act as switchboard opera-tors in large hotels and offices. I am glad of this opportunity to make my compliments to them.

If an American wishes to appreciate the telephone, as developed in this country, he has but to try to use the telephone in Europe. In London the instrument is a ridiculous, cumbersome affair, looking as much like an enormous metal inkwell as any other thing—the kind of inkwell in which some emperor might dip his pen before signing his abdication. To call, you wind the crank violently for a time, then taking up the receiver and mouthpiece which are attached to the main instrument by a cord, you begin calling : "Are you there, miss? Are you there? I say, miss, are you there?" And the question is quite reasonable, for half the time "miss" does not seem to be there. In Paris it is worse. Once, while residing in that city, I had a telephone in my apartment. It was intended as a convenience, but it turned out to be an irritating kind of joke. The first time I tried to call my house, from the center of town, it took me three times as long to get the connection as it took me to get New York from Kansas City. In the beginning I thought myself the victim of ill luck, but I soon came to understand that was not the case—or, rather, that the ill luck was of a kind experienced by all users of the telephone in Paris. The service there is simply chaotic. It is actually true that I once dispatched a messenger on a bicycle, calling my house on the phone, immediately afterward, and that the messenger had arrived with the note, after having ridden a good two miles, through traffic, by the time I succeeded in talking over the wire. However, in the interim I had talked with almost every other residence in Paris.

The telephones in France and England are controlled by the government. If that accounts for the service given, then I hope the government in this country will never take them over. Bureaucracy makes the Continental railroads inferior to ours, and I have no doubt it is equally responsible for telephone conditions. Bureaucracy, as I have experienced it, feels itself intrenched in office, and is consequently likely to be in-different to complaint and to the requirements of progress. When I called New York from Kansas City I was talking within ten minutes, and when, later on, I called New York from Denver, it took but little longer, and I heard, and made myself heard, al-most as though conversing with some one in the next room. As I reflect upon the countless services per-formed for me by the telephone, upon these travels, and upon the very different sort of service I should have had abroad, I bless the American Telephone and Telegraph Company with fervent blessings. And if I said about it all the things I really think, I fear the reader might suspect me of having received a bribe. For I am aware that, in speaking well of any corporation I am flying in the face of precedent and public opinion.

Toward noon, the pall of smoke and fog which had blanketed the city, vanished on a fresh breeze from the prairies, and my companion and I, much inspirited, set forth on foot to see what the downtown streets of Kansas City had to offer. We had gone hardly a block be-fore we realized that our earlier impressions of the place had been ill-founded. We had arrived in the least agreeable portion of the city, and had not, hitherto, seen any of the built-up, well-paved streets. "Petticoat Lane"—the fashionable shopping district on Eleventh Street between Main Street and Grand Avenue—has a metropolitan appearance, and the wider avenues, with their well-built skyscrapers, tell a story of substantiality and progress. But the most striking thing to us, upon that walk, lay not in the great buildings already standing, but in the embryonic structures everywhere. All over Kansas City old buildings are coming down to make place for new ones; hills of clay are being gouged away and foundations dug; steel frames are shooting up. Never, before or since, have I sensed, as I sensed that day, a city's growth. It seemed to me that I could feel expansion in the very ground beneath my feet. Looking upon these multifarious activities was like looking through an enormous magnifying glass at some gigantic ant hill, where thousands upon thousands of workers were rushing about, digging, carrying, constructing, all in breathless haste. Nor was the incidental music lacking; the air was ringing with the symphony of work—the music of brick walls falling, of drills digging at the earth, and of automatic riveters clattering their swift, metallic song, high up among the tall, steel frames, where presently would stand desks, and filing cabinets, and typewriter machines.

"Did you ever feel a city growing so?" I asked of my companion.

"Grow!" he repeated. "Why it has grown so fast they have n't had time to name their streets."

The statement appeared true. We had looked for street signs at all corners, but had seen none. Later, however, we discovered that the streets did have names. But as there are no signs, I conclude that the present names are only tentative, and that when Kansas City gets through building, she will name her streets in sober earnest, and mark them in order that strangers may more readily find their way.

The "slogan" of Kansas City suggests that of Detroit. Detroit says : "In Detroit life is worth living." Kansas City is less boastful, but more aspiring. "Make it a good place to live in," she says.

As nearly as I can like the "slogan" of any city, I like that one. I like it because it is not vainglorious, and because it does not attempt cheap alliteration. It is not "smart-alecky" at all, but has, rather, the sound of some-thing genuinely felt. And I believe it is felt. There is every evidence that Kansas City's "slogan" is a promissory note—a note which, it may be added, she is paying off in a handsome manner, by improving herself rapidly in countless ways.

Perhaps the first of her improvements to strike the visitor is her system of parks. I am informed that the parked boulevards of Kansas City exceed in mileage those of any other American city. These boulevards, connecting the various parks and forming circuits running around and through the town, do go a long way toward making it "a good place to live in." Kansas City has every right to be proud, not only of her parks, but of herself for having had the intelligence and energy to make them. What if assessments have been high? Increased property values take care of that; the worst of the work and the expense is over, and Kansas City has lifted itself by its own bootstraps from ugliness to beauty. How much better it is to have done the whole thing quickly—to have made the gigantic effort and attained the parks and boulevards at what amounts to one great municipal bound—than to have dawdled and dreamed along as St. Louis and so many other cities have done.

The Central Traffic Parkway of St. Louis is, as has been said in an earlier chapter, still on paper only. But the Paseo, and West Pennway, and Penn Valley Park, in Kansas City, are all splendid realities, created in an amazingly brief space of years. To make the Paseo and West Pennway, the city cut through blocks and blocks, tearing down old houses or moving them away, with the result that dilapidated, disagreeable neighbor-hoods have been turned into charming residence districts. In the making of Penn Valley Park, the same thing occurred : the property was acquired at a cost of about $800,000, hundreds of houses were removed, drives were built, trees planted. The park is now a show place; both because of the lesson it offers other cities, and the splendid view, from its highest point, of the enterprising city which created it.

Another spectacular panorama of Kansas City is to be seen from Observation Point on the western side of town, but the finest views of all (and among the finest to be seen in any city in the world) are those which unroll themselves below Scaritt Point, the Cliff Drive, and Kersey Coates Drive. Much as the Boulevard Lafayette skirts the hills beside the Hudson River, these drives make their way along the upper edge of the lofty cliffs which rise majestically above the Missouri River bottoms. Not only is their elevation much greater than that of the New York boulevard, but the view is in-finitely more extensive and dramatic, though perhaps less "pretty." Looking down from Kersey Coates Drive, one sees a long sweep of the Missouri, winding its course between the sandy shores which it so loves to inundate. Beyond, the whole world seems to be spread out farms and woodland, reaching off into infinity.

Below, in the nearer foreground, at the bottom of the cliff, is the mass of factories, warehouses and packing houses, and the appalling web of railroad tracks, crammed with freight cars, which form the Kansas City industrial district, and which, reduced by distance, and seen through a softening haze of smoke, resemble a re-lief map—strange, vast, and pictorial. Beyond, more distant and more hazy, lies the adjoining city, Kansas City, Kas., all its ugliness converted into beauty by the smoke which, whatever sins it may commit against white linen, spreads a poetic pall over the scenes of industry—yes, and over the "wettest block," that solid wall of saloons with which the "wet" state of Missouri so significantly fortifies her frontier against the "dry" state, Kansas.

So far, Kansas City has been too busy with her money-making and her physical improvement, to give much thought to art. However, the day will come, and very soon, when the question of mural decoration for some great public building will arise. And when that day does come I hope that some one will rise up and remind the city that the decorations which, figuratively, adorn her own walls, may well be considered as a subject for mural paintings. I should like to see a great room which, in-stead of being surrounded by a frieze of symbolic figures, very much like every other frieze of symbolic figures in the land, should show the splendid sweep of the Missouri River, and the great maze of the freight yards, and the wonderful vistas to be seen from the cliffs, and the rich, rolling farm land beyond. How much better that would be than one of those trite things representing Justice or Commerce, as a female figure, enthroned, with Industry, a male figure, brown and half-naked, wearing a leather apron, and beating on an anvil, at one side, and Agriculture, working with a hoe, at the other. Yes, how much better it would be ; and how much harder to find the painter who could do it as it should be done.

In view of the enormous activity with which Kansas City has pursued the matter of municipal improvement, and in view of the contrasting somnolence of St.. Louis, it is amusing to reflect upon the somewhat patronizing attitude assumed by the latter toward the former. Being the metropolis of Missouri, St. Louis has the air, sometimes, of patting Kansas City on the back, in the same superior manner that St. Paul assumed, in times gone by, toward Minneapolis. It will be remembered, however, that one day St. Paul woke up to find herself no longer the metropolis of Minnesota. Young Minneapolis had come up behind and passed her in the night. As I have said before, Kansas City bears more than one resemblance to Minneapolis. Like Minneapolis, she is a strong young city, vying for State supremacy with another city which is old, rich, and conservative. Will the history of the Minnesota cities be repeated in Missouri? If some day it happens so, I shall not be surprised.

Last edited by gridley; February 29th, 2008 at 05:37 AM.
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Old February 29th, 2008, 04:58 AM   #13
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Another interesting historical article.


Odds And Ends Kansas City
(Originally Published Early 1900's)

THE quality in Kansas City which struck Baron d'Estournelles de Constant, the French states-man and peace advocate, was the enormous growth and vitality of the place. "Town Development" quotes the Baron as having called Kansas City a "cite champignon," but I am sure that in saying that he had in mind the growth of the mushroom rather than its fiber; for though Kansas City grew from nothing to a population of 250,000 within a space of fifty years, her fiber is exceptionally firm, and her prosperity, having been built upon the land, is sound.

That feeling of nearness to the soil that I met there was new to me. I felt it in many ways. Much of the casual conversation I heard dealt with cattle raising, farming, the weather, and the promise as to crops. Business men and well-to-do women in the shopping districts resemble people one may see in any other city, but away from the heart of town one encounters numerous farmers and their wives who have driven into town in their old buggies, farm wagons, or little motors to shop and trade, just as though Kansas City were some little county seat, instead of a city of the size of Edinburgh.

In earlier chapters I have referred to likenesses between cities and individuals. Cities not only have traits of character, like men, but certain regions have their costumes. Collars, for example, tend to become lower toward the Mississippi River, and black string ties appear. Missouri likes black suits-older men in the smaller towns seem to be in a perpetual state of mourning, like those Breton women whose men are so often drowned at sea that they never take the trouble to remove their black.

Western watch chains incline to massiveness, and are more likely than not to have dangling from them large golden emblems with mysterious devices. Likewise the western buttonhole is almost sure to bloom with the insignia of some secret order.

Many western men wear diamond rings—pieces of jewelry which the east allots to ladies or to gamblers and vulgarians. When I inquired about this I heard a piece of interesting lore. I was informed that the diamond ring was something more than an adornment to the western man ; that it was, in reality, the survival of a fashion which originated for the most practical reasons. A diamond is not only convenient to carry but it may readily be converted into cash. So, in the wilder western days, men got into the way of wearing diamond rings as a means of raising funds for gambling on short notice, or for making a quick getaway from the scene of some affray.

Whether they are entirely aware of it or not, the well dressed men of eastern cities are, in the matter of costume, dominated to a large extent by London. The English mode, however, does not reach far west. Clothing in the west is all American. Take, for ex-ample, coats. The prevailing style, at the moment, in London and in the eastern cities of this country happens to run to a snugness of fit amounting to actual tightness. Little does this disturb the western man. His coat is cut loose and is broad across the shoulders. And let me add that I believe his vision is "cut" broader, too. Westerners, far more than easterners, it seems to me, sense the United States—the size of it and what it really is. Time and again, talking with them, it has come to me that their eyes are focused for a longer range : that, looking off toward the horizon, they see a thousand miles of farms stretched out before them or a thousand miles of mountain peaks.

And even as coats and comprehension seem to widen in the west, so hats and hearts grow softer. The derby plays an unimportant part. In Chicago, to be sure, it makes a feeble effort for supremacy, but west of there it dies an ignominious death beneath an avalanche of soft felt hats. Felt hats around Chicago seem, however, to lack full-blown western opulence. Compared with hats in the real middle west, they are stingy little headpieces. When we were in Chicago that city seemed to be the center of a section in which a peculiar style of hat was prominent—a blue felt with a velvet band. But that, of course, was merely a passing fashion. Not so the hats a little farther west. The Mississippi River marks the beginning of the big black hat belt. The big black hat is passionately adored in Missouri and Kansas. It never changes; never goes out of fashion. And it may be further noted that many of these somber, monumental, soft black hats, with their high crowns and wide-spread brims, have been sent from these two western states to Washington, D. C.

At Kansas City there begins another hat belt. The Missouri hat remains, but its supremacy begins to be disputed by an even larger hat, of similar shape but different color. The big black, tan or putty-color hat be-gins to show at Kansas City. Also one sees, now and again, upon the streets a cowboy hat with a flat brim. When I mentioned that to a Kansas City man he did n't seem to like it. With passionate vehemence he declared that cowboy hats were never known to adorn the heads of Kansas City men—that they only came to Kansas City on the heads of itinerant cattlemen. Well, that is doubtless true. But I did not say the Mayor of Kansas City wore one. I only said I saw such hats upon the street. And—however they got there, and wherever they came from—those hats looked good to me!

Some of the bronzed cattlemen one sees in Kansas City, though they yield to civilization to the extent of wearing shirts, have not yet sunk to the slavery of collars. They do not wear "chaps" and revolvers, it is true, but they are clearly plainsmen, and some of them sport colored handkerchiefs about their necks, knotted in the back, and hanging in loose folds in front. Once or twice, upon my walks, I saw an Indian as well, though not a really first-class moving-picture Indian. That is too much to expect. Such Indians as one may meet in Kansas City are civilized and citified to a sad degree. Nor are the Mexicans, many of whom are employed as laborers, up to specifications as to picturesqueness.

I feel it particularly necessary to state these truths, disillusioning though they may be to certain youthful readers who may treasure fond hopes of finding, in Kansas City, something of that wild and woolly fascination which the cinematograph so often pictures. True, a large gray wolf was killed by a Kansas City policeman last winter, after it had run down Linwood Boulevard, biting people, but that does not happen every day, and it is recorded that the youth who recently appeared on the Kansas City streets, dressed in "chaps" and carrying a revolver with which he shot at the feet of pedestrians, to make them dance, declared himself, when taken up by the police, to have recently arrived from Philadelphia, where he had obtained his ideas of western manners from the "movies."

I mention this incident because, after having labeled Kansas City "Western," I wish to leave no loopholes for misunderstanding. The West of Bret Harte and Jesse James is gone. All that is left of it is legend. When I speak of a western city I think of a city young, not altogether formed, but full of dauntless energy. And when I speak of western people I think of people who possess, in larger measure than any other people I have met, the solid traits of character which make human beings admirable.

Kansas City is said to be more American than any other city of its size in the United States. Eighty per cent. of. its people are American born, of either native or foreign parents. Its inhabitants are either pioneers, descendants of pioneers, or young people who have moved there for the sake of opportunity. This makes for sturdy stock as inevitably as close association with the soil makes for sturdy simplicity of character. The western man, as I try to visualize him as a type, is genuine, generous, direct, whole-hearted, sympathetic, en-. ergetic, strong, and—I say it not without some hesitation—sometimes a little crude, with a kind of crudeness which has about it something very lovable. I fear that Kansas City may not like the word "crude," even as I have qualified it, but, however she may feel, I hope she will not charge the use of it to eastern snobbishness in me, for that is a quality that I detest as much as any-body does—a quality compared with which crudeness be-comes a primary virtue. No; when I say "crude" I say it respectfully, and I am ready to admit in the same breath that I dislike the word myself, because it seems to imply more than I really wish to say, just as such a word as "unseasoned" seems to imply less.

You see, Kansas City is a very young and very great center of business. It is still engrossed in making money, but, being so exceptionally sturdy, it has found time, outside of business hours, as it were, to create its parks and boulevards—much as some young business man comes home after a hard day's work and cuts the grass in his front yard, and waters it, and even plants a little garden for his wife and children and himself. He attends to the requirements of his business, his family, his lawn and garden, and to his duties as a citizen. And that is about all that he has time to do. He has the Christian virtues, but none of the un-Christian sophistications. Art, to him, probably signifies a "fancy head" by Harrison Fisher; literature, a book by Harold Bell Wright or Gene Stratton Porter; music, a sentimental ballad or a ragtime tune played on the Victor ; architecture—well, I think that means his own house.

And what is his own house like? If he be a young and fairly successful Kansas City business man, it is, first of all, probably a solid, well-built house.. Very likely it is built of brick and is "detached"—just barely detached—and faces a parked boulevard or a homelike residence street which is lined with other solid little houses, like his own. Now, while the homes of this class are, I think, better built and more attractive than homes of corresponding cost in some older cities—Cleveland, for example—and while the streets are pleasanter, there is a sort of standardized look about these houses which is, I think, unfortunate. The thing they lack is individuality. Whole rows of them suggest that they were all designed by the same altogether honest, but somewhat inartistic, architect, who, having hit on one or two good plans, kept repeating them, ad infinitum, with only minor changes, such as the use of vari-colored brick, for "character." True, they are monuments to the esthetic, compared with the old brownstone blocks of New York City, or the Queen Anne blocks of cities such as Cleveland, but it must be remembered that New York's brownstone period, and the wooden Queen Anne period, date back a good many years, whereas these Kansas City houses are new. And it is in our new houses that we Americans have had a chance to show (and are showing) the improvement in our national taste. I do not complain that the domestic architecture of Kansas City represents no improvement; I complain only that the improvement shown is not so great as it should be—that Kansas City residences, of all classes, inexpensive and expensive, in town and in the suburban developments, are generally characterized by solidity, rather than architectural merit. The less expensive houses lack distinction in about the same way that rows of good ready-made overcoats may be said to lack it, when compared with overcoats made to order by expensive tailors. The more costly houses are for the most part ordinary—and some of them are worse than that.

I am well aware of the fact that the foregoing statements are altogether likely to surprise and annoy Kansas City, for if there is one thing, beyond her parks and boulevards, upon which she congratulates herself peculiarly, it is her homes. I could detect that, both in the pride with which the homes were shown to me and in the sad silences with which my very mildly critical comments on some houses, were received. Nevertheless, it is quite true that Kansas City very evidently needs a good domestic architect or two ; and if she does not pardon me just now for saying so, I must console myself with the thought that, ten or fifteen years hence, she will admit that what I said was true.

Kansas City ought to be a good place for architects. There is a lot of money there, and, as I have already said, a great amount of building is in progress. One of the most interesting real estate developments I have ever seen is taking place in what is called the Country Club District, where a tract of 1,200 acres, which, only five or six years ago, was farm land, has been attractively laid out and very largely built up on ingenious, restricted lines. In the portion of this district known as Sunset Hill, no house costing less than $25,000 may be erected. As a matter of fact, a number of houses on Sunset Hill show an investment, in building alone, of from $50,000 to $100,000. In other portions of the tract restrictions are lower, and still lower, until finally one comes to a suburban section closely built up with homes, some of which cost as little as $3,000-which is the lowest restriction in the entire district.

I visited the new Union Station, which will be in operation this winter. It is as fine as the old station is atrocious. I was informed that it cost between six and seven millions, and that it is exceeded in size only by the Grand Central and Pennsylvania terminals in New York. The waiting room will, however, be the largest in the world. - The gentleman who showed me the station gave me the curious information that Kansas City does the largest Pullman business of any American city, and that it also handles the most baggage. He attributed these facts to the great distances to be traveled in that part of the country and also to the prosperity of the farmers.

"You see," he said, "Kansas City has the largest undisputed tributary trade territory of any city in the country. We are not, in reality, a Missouri city so much as a Kansas one. Indeed Kansas City was originally intended to be in Kansas and was really diverted into Missouri when the government survey established the line between the two states. We reach out into Missouri for some business, but Kansas is our real territory, as well as Oklahoma and Arkansas. We get a good share of business from Nebraska and Iowa, too. These facts, plus the fact that we are in the very center of the great American feed lot, account for our big bank clearings. In bank clearings we come sixth, St.. Louis being fifth, Pittsburgh seventh, and Detroit eighth. And we are not to be compared in population with any of those cities.

"Almost all our greatest activities have to do with farms and produce. We are first as a market place for hay and yellow pine; second as a packing center and a mule market; third in lumber, flour, poultry, and eggs, in the volume of our telegraph business, and in auto-mobile sales. And, of course, you probably know that we lead in the sale of agricultural implements and in stockers and feeders."

At that my companion, who, because he resided for a long time in Albany, N. Y., prides himself upon his knowledge of farming, broke in.

"I suppose," said he, "that instead of drawing stockers and feeders with horses, they use gasoline motors nowadays ?"

"Oh, no," said the Kansas City man, "they walk."

" Walk?" exclaimed my companion. "They have made an advance in agricultural implements since my day if they have succeeded in making them walk!"

"I'm not speaking of agricultural implements," said our informant. "I'm speaking of stockers and feeders."

"What are stockers and feeders?" I asked.

"Cattle," he said. "There are three kinds of cattle marketed here; first, fat cattle, for slaughter; second, stockers, which are young cows used for stocking farms and ranches; third, feeders, or grassfed steers, which are sold to be fattened on grain, for killing. In stockers and feeders we lead the world; in fat cattle we are second only to Chicago."

Last edited by gridley; February 29th, 2008 at 05:35 AM.
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