Wall of Honor

Read about prominent entrepreneurs from Kansas City history in our "Wall of Honor."

Kersey Coates

Kersey Coates, civic leader: 1823-1887

A highly educated Quaker from Pennsylvania and former teacher with a law background, Kersey Coates came to Kansas City in 1854 as a land investor. He developed the first upscale neighborhood on land purchased from Berenice Chouteau along the west bluffs, far from the riverfront gully town. His Quality Hill became an area of well-designed buildings and gracious brick homes for the wealthy. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by Barbara Magerl)

More about Kersey Coates on KCHistory.org.

Chester Arthur Franklin

Chester Arthur Franklin, founder of The Call newspaper: 1880-1955

Chester Arthur Franklin founded THE CALL newspaper in May 1919. It was owned and operated by him until his death on May 7, 1955. Born on June 7, 1880, Chester Franklin was the only child of George F. Franklin, a barber, and Clara Belle Williams Franklin, a teacher. He was born at the time when African Americans were moving out of Texas in search of better educational opportunities for their children. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format)

More about Chester Arthur Franklin on KCHistory.org.

Barnett Helzberg, Sr.

Barnett Helzberg, Sr., businessman: 1902-1976

Barnett Helzberg Sr. was one of Kansas City’s boldest and most successful businessmen. In his 50-plus years in business, he built a small, family-owned jewelry store into one of the largest and most profitable jewelry store chains in the country.

Helzberg was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and attended Benton Elementary School, where Walt Disney was one of his classmates. His father, a Russian immigrant, opened the first Helzberg Diamond Shop in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1915. A few years later, he suffered a stroke, and Barnett, a 16-year-old student at Central High School, became responsible for the store. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by David Conrads)

More about Barnett Helzberg, Sr. on KCHistory.org.

William T. Kemper

William T. Kemper, banker: 1865-1938

In an homage to William T. Kemper at the time of his death, The
Kansas City Star
fondly wrote that “no one was just like ‘W. T.’ in flashing a welcome across the wide expanse of the Commerce lobby, a kindling of the eye, an impetuous wave of the arm, warmth in homely words.” Kemper applied this spirit of friendliness and approachability to his business and banking organizations, resulting in a number of highly profitable ventures. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by Daniel Colement)

More about William T. Kemper on KCHistory.org.

R. A. Long

R. A. Long, lumberman: 1850-1934

While many entrepreneurs are motivated by youthful dreams of great success, the founder of one of Kansas City’s largest business empires claimed never to have set lofty goals for himself, but instead advised simply “doing what seems to be assigned to you to do next, and keep pegging at it.” This practical philosophy led Robert A. Long to build his Long-Bell Lumber Company from the ground up and made him one of the nation’s leading industrialists. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by Daniel Coleman)

More about R. A. Long on KCHistory.org.

Jacob Loose

Jacob Loose, business man and civic leader: 1850-1923

Jacob Leander Loose established the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company in Kansas City, Mo. Loose Park was named after him.

More about Jacob Loose on KCHistory.org.

August Meyer

August Meyer, parks and boulevards leader: 1851-1905

August Meyer was born to German parents in St. Louis in 1851. He studied mining and metallurgy in Europe and then made a fortune as a mining engineer in Colorado, before coming to this area in 1882. Once here, he helped turn a small smelting planet in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kansas, into one of the major metal treatment plants in the country. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by Janice Lee)

More about August Meyer on KCHistory.org.

Arthur Stilwell

Arthur Stilwell, railroad president: 1859-1928

The triumphs, tragedies, and just plain interesting anecdotes of Arthur Stilwell’s life could fill up a many-chaptered tome. Stilwell actually devoted himself to writing at the end of his life, penning a six-part autobiography for the Saturday Evening Post, numerous philosophical essays, and Christian Science hymns. Whether sharing his big dreams with Cornelius Vanderbilt or Pancho Villa, he was rarely at a loss for words, and his practical execution of the plans he promoted made him one of Kansas City’s first successful venture capitalists. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by Daniel Coleman)

More about Arthur Stilwell on KCHistory.org.

Thomas Swope

Thomas Swope, land developer and philanthropist: 1827-1909

Thomas Hunton Swope led a quiet but successful life as one of Kansas City’s most prosperous land developers. He generously gave tracts of land for a hospital and the vast acreage of Swope Park. But it was the millionaire’s death that created a frenzy in the press for years, as his physician was tried for his murder. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by Susan Jezak Ford)

More about Thomas Swope on KCHistory.org.

William Volker

William Volker, businessman and philanthropist: 1859-1947

William Volker arrived in Kansas City in 1882, seeking to do business in a town where rapid settlement and advantageous rail and river access had created one of the Midwest’s most robust economies. Volker had spent less than half of his 23 years in the United States; he had immigrated with his parents from Germany at age 12 to Chicago, where his parents remained. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by Daniel Coleman)

More about William Volker on KCHistory.org.

John Barber White

John Barber White, lumber magnate and library donor: 1847-1923

John B. White enjoyed a notable career in the lumber business, but he would become better known for his lifelong passion for books. Raised in New York, where he first entered the lumber business, White saw opportunity in the forested regions of Missouri. He helped organize the Missouri Lumber & Mining Company, building a sawmill in southeast Missouri to take advantage of the abundant pine forest. This company was the first to enter the yellow pine industry. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by Janice Lee)

More about John Barber White on KCHistory.org.

Willard Winner

Willard Winner, pioneer builder and realtor: 1849-1929

“Don’t think that I ever let a piece of ground get away from me if I could get the money to buy it,” a 78-year old Willard E. Winner assured a group of Kansas City businessmen in 1927. At the peak of his success 40 years earlier, Winner’s investments encompassed over 20,000 acres of real estate in Jackson, Platte, and Clay Counties. His obituary, however, would report that he “died poor,” making him a tragic example of the boom-to-bust economy of late nineteenth-century Kansas City. Many of Winner’s visions for the city’s future eventually came to be. (Missouri Valley Special Collections biography in PDF format by Daniel Coleman)

More about Willard Winner on KCHistory.org.