Truman and the Pendergast Political Machine

Jon Taylor
Historian Jon Taylor of the University of Central Missouri examines the most consequential political marriage in our city’s and state’s history: Harry S. Truman, the Kansas City haberdasher who became president, and his relationship with Tom Pendergast, boss of Kansas City's political machine during the 1920s and ’30s.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Program: 
6:30 pm
It remains an inconvenient truth about the Kansas City haberdasher who became president: Harry S. Truman owed his start as a public official to Tom Pendergast’s political machine. Truman was troubled by the graft and corruption, to be sure, but also acknowledged, “I am obligated to the Big Boss. … He in times past owned a bawdy house, a saloon and gambling establishment, but he’s all man. I wonder who’s worth more in the sight of the Lord?”

Historian Jon Taylor of the University of Central Missouri examines the most consequential political marriage in our city’s and state’s history, drawing from an article he has written for the Library’s new historical website The Pendergast Years (pendergastkc.org). The site spotlights the era of the 1920s and ’30s that saw KC both flourish and struggle with the complications of bossism.