Library Launches New Website Examining Kansas City Under Tom Pendergast

Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Courtney Lewis
Library Launches New Website Examining Kansas City Under Tom Pendergast

Kansas City, MO - The Kansas City Public Library has launched a new website dedicated to examining Kansas City under political boss Tom Pendergast. “The Pendergast Years: Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression” is live at

The site is intended to move beyond existing nostalgia for the Pendergast era, uncover facts and documentation, and prompt new research to arrive at a deeper understanding of the period. Through its resources students, researchers, and the general public can draw meaningful lessons from this transformational time in Kansas City's history.

The website features an extensive collection of more than 8,000 photos, letters, and documents, along with film and audio clips, that were scanned and catalogued from the Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections and a consortium of archives partnering on the project. Stemming from research produced for a public symposium held at the Library in the spring of 2016, the website also boasts 18 new scholarly essays focusing on broad swaths of life in Kansas City and concentrating on the peak years of the Pendergast Machine (1925–1939). Major themes include race relations, health care, unionization, Kansas City’s Mexican Community, the 1928 Republican National Convention, women’s political activism, the Kansas City Stockyards, Kansas City jazz and more. 

“A lot of these subjects, even though they’re prominent, they haven’t had an original scholarly treatment in 20 years – or 40 years in some cases,” says Jason Roe, the Kansas City Public Library’s digital history specialist. 

The Library worked with nineteen partners on the website, including the Kansas City Museum, LaBudde Special Collections and Marr Sound Archives at UMKC, American Jazz Museum, State Historical Society of Missouri, Jackson County Historical Society, and National Archives at Kansas City. A full list of partners can be found at

The project is made possible by multiple sponsors, including the Institute of Museum & Library Services under provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, as administered by the Missouri State Library, a Division of the Office of Secretary of State; the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area, the Missouri Humanities Council with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Tom's Town Distilling Co.; private donors; and an ongoing partnership with the Center for Midwestern Studies at UMKC