Kansas City History

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

In the early 20th century, people didn't have a lot of options for making the tradition of unwrapping gifts more festive. They'd cover packages with brown shipping paper or newspaper, or sometimes wallpaper or fabric.

Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards, Inc., gets credit for starting the modern-day gift wrap industry 100 years ago, an invention created out of necessity during the holiday season. 

Public Domain

Few people bring Kansas City's history to life like Monroe Dodd. But in light of our resident chronicler's move to Colorado, we indulge on one more journey through the great folklore of our town. Then, Kansas City Ballet's lead dancer, Lamin Pereira, shares his experience performing in The Nutcracker. ​Also, learn about a crisis rural America is facing through the lens of a novelist.

Guests:

National Archives and Records Administration

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James is a pretty colorful character, but did you know he wears a magical bow tie that lets him travel through time? Today, the authors of a new children's book tell how they chose the mayor and his neckwear to recount Kansas City's history.

TheNaska / Flickr -- CC

Meet a soon-to-be-NASA engineer from Missouri who raps about math.

Plus: what are the smells of KC, both past and present? We explore the rich tapestry of Kansas City scents, good and bad, and how they affect our experience of a place.

Guests:

B. Allen / VOA

It's no secret that race influences a lot of things in our lives, including how our cities are laid out. Today, urban designer Tyler Cukar explains the lasting legacy of racism and redlining that's shaped Kansas City, and how we can move toward a more racially integrated future. Then, if you remember one image from last year's Democratic National Convention, it's probably of Khizr Khan. The Gold Star father raised a lot of attention when he held up a copy of the Constitution and challenged Donald Trump to give it a read.

CCAAL Inc.

For an artist, one year is plenty of time to develop new techniques and mature. Today, we check in on local artist Rodolfo Marron, who, after two residencies in New York, has returned to Kansas City with a new exhibit. Then, learn about Liberty's African-American heritage from the group dedicated to documenting and preserving its history.

Guests:

A handgun and six bullets on a desk.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office / Wikimedia Commons

Drag is big these days in pop culture, but the cross-dressing tradition goes back further than most people realize. Today, we trace its roots on the American frontier. Then, we take a close look with sociologist and researcher Jonathan Metzl at claims that gun violence in America is primarily a mental health issue, and not one related to the easy availability of firearms.

On the southwest corner of Troost and Linwood Boulevard, Katz's Drug Store was quietly torn down after years of vacancy. Today, we learn what old landmarks have to teach us about Kansas City's history and why the demolition of Katz has garnered so much attention — even from young people who never shopped there.

Guests:

Tools, lumber and bolts are just a few of the things that come to mind when thinking about a hardware store — but how about the smell? Today, meet a local perfume maker who decided to recreate the scent of a Kansas City hardware store. Also, we discuss how the community is affected when these old "mom n' pop" businesses close shop.

Guests:

alanagkelly / Flickr -- CC

Hear the story behind a classic Kansas City restaurant, then visit a new cafe that's located inside an antique mall. Plus: our Food Critics search out the best Italian food in and around KC, from beloved old-school favorites to interesting new takes on the cuisine.

Guests:

The Nelson-Atkins Museum campus with an illuminated Bloch Building on right.
Charvex / Public Domain

It's been a decade since the Bloch Building began illuminating the east side of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and its architect, Steven Holl, says it remains one of his most important works.

The sentiment was echoed by Time magazine in 2007, when it dubbed the structure that year's top "architectural marvel."

The Nelson-Atkins Museum campus with an illuminated Bloch Building on right.
Charvex / Public Domain

When the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art opened the Bloch Building, its "lens" architecture was so different from the existing museum that many didn't see how the two could stand side by side. Today, the architect of the addition, Steven Holl, talks about returning to his building ten years later.

Intel Free Press / Flickr - CC

Kansas City has its fair share of historic buildings, but they're not always easy to find and appreciate. Today, learn how a new guidebook is bringing these sites to people's attention. Then, pediatrician Dr.

Public Domain

They may be icons of the old west, but cowboys aren't just an American phenomenon. Today, we learn the long history of the horseback herdsmen, whose roots go back to Africa. Then, we discuss climate change and the complexities of reducing fossil fuel use with environmentalist Bill McKibben. Later, we ask Sam Cossman why on earth he climbs into active volcanoes and what he hopes to gain from doing so.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

This is the final season for the popular Netflix series Longmire, but not for the books that inspired it. Today, their author, Craig Johnson, reveals the inspiration for his latest novel about the fictional sheriff of Wyoming's Absaroka County, and relates what it felt like when his character came to life on screen. Then, learn what a Prairie Village husband and wife team did when their passion for amassing memorabilia about Kansas City left them with a collection too big to fit under one roof.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Nestled between Kansas City’s downtown business district and the River Market are a bunch of buildings that once literally hummed with the sound of fashion.

From the 1940s through the early 1980s, Kansas City had one of the largest garment industries in the nation. It spanned the area roughly from Wyandotte to Washington and Sixth to Ninth Streets. The local manufacturers there created some of the country’s best-known brands: The Donnelly Garment Company, commonly known as Nelly Don, and YouthCraft, maker of coats and dresses. At its peak the industry was estimated to support over 75 companies.

Trishhhh / Flickr - CC

After handing off the reins of A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor is back on the road. Today, we speak with the legendary radio personality about the Love & Comedy Tour that's taking him across the country and through the Paris of the Plains. Then, we learn the history of how mafiosos survived in Kansas City after the death of political mob boss Tom Pendergast.

Wikimedia Commons

The definition of an American family is no longer a man and his wife, living in suburbia with their 2.3 kids. Today, we learn about some of the economic forces reshaping families. Then, we explore the history of sandlot baseball in Kansas City, and find out how communities are trying to revive the tradition. Later, we discuss the controversy over Democratic Missouri Sen.

courtesy: Kansas City Parks and Recreation

The controversy surrounding Confederate statues and memorials across the United States has officials in Kansas City, Missouri scrutinizing one here. And it's in a very prominent spot: right in the middle of Ward Parkway, just south of 55th Street.

Chris Dahlquist

What do you expect to find at a vending machine? Soda or chips? How about a full-blown history tour?

That’s the idea behind photographer Chris Dahlquist’s exhibit History Vendor, located at City Market Park on 3rd and Main Street through mid-October.

frankieleon / Flickr - CC

Just because court filings suggest illegal opioid use is down in Kansas' wealthiest county doesn't mean its residents are unaffected by rising usage nationwide. Today, we'll find out what opiate use looks like in Johnson County. Then, we learn what exactly makes sports fandom such a big deal in Kansas City, whether it's for the Chiefs, the Royals or Sporting KC.

Kansas City Royals

John Schuerholz, the Kansas City Royals general manager when they won the 1985 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame Sunday in Cooperstown, New York, but he finds himself in the peculiar position of not receiving the Royals’ highest honor.

A talk with the creator and director of two new shows that are premiering at the Kansas City Fringe Festival this weekend. One show was inspired by a box of old letters; the other by folk music.

Plus: there used to be a poor farm at 119th and Ridgeview Road; it was another time period's model for helping the homeless. The story of Johnson County's poor farm and the attitude towards poverty that it represents.

Guests:

Charvex / Wikipedia Commons

The J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain is named after a man who did great things for Kansas City. However, his achievements were accompanied by racist beliefs and policies that still divide us. Today, the Ethics Professors discuss whether we should rename monuments that honor historic figures whose standards don't pass contemporary moral muster. Then, we explore the gray area of political free speech for public educators.

News-Press & Gazette Company

The Northland’s Liberty Tribune newspaper, one of the oldest weeklies in the country, recently rolled off the printing press for the last time. Since 1846, residents had unfurled their own paper published under the motto, “Willing to praise but not afraid to blame.”

However, with circulation figures in slow decline, a merger with the Kearney Courier and the Smithville Herald allowed the owners, the News-Press & Gazette Company, to cut costs.

Three positions are gone, bringing total staff down to 15. The Smithville office has also closed.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR 89.3

When Makeda Peterson was growing up, history was personal to her.

Her father, Horace Peterson III, founded the Black Archives of Mid-America. He also started Kansas City’s Juneteenth celebration in 1980.

As a current organizer and coordinator of Juneteenth KC, she is continuing his legacy.

Public Domain / Detroit Free Press

Five decades ago, social unrest gripped cities across the country, at one point even spilling into the streets of Kansas City. Today, we find out what the "long, hot summer" of 1967 can teach us about race relations and cultural diversity in present-day America. Then, host Steve Kraske brushes up on his Shakespearean script-reading skills with veteran acting coach and director Ian Wooldridge.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3

Winding 10 miles north and south through the heart of Kansas City, Paseo Boulevard, or "The Paseo," is the longest and one of the oldest boulevards in the city. But before we had The Paseo, and all the other parkways and boulevards that have come to define the city, Kansas City was basically a congested metropolis that was hard to get around. 

The DLC / Flickr -- CC

Why is the Paseo Boulevard named after a street in Mexico? And how did this road help shape our city? We explore the history of what some people consider KC's first boulevard, and we find out what's in store for the future of this picturesque roadway.

Guests:

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Sports fans in Kansas City and beyond are generally a forward-thinking bunch — “There’s always next year,” goes the rallying cry. But what keeps fans coming back for more is a healthy sense of history and, as commentator Victor Wishna explains in “A Fan’s Notes,” an occasional blast from the past. 

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