Kansas City

Tom Pendergast’s influence on Kansas City, Part I – Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri 2021-06-08 22:02:20 –

Kansas City, Missouri — If you’ve been to the town of Tom in downtown Kansas City, “people are thirsty.” You might have wondered, “Who is Tom?”

41 Action News asked Tom’s Town co-owner Theo Epstein for more information.

“He was bigger than the mob boss. He wasn’t bound by law for 13 years. He was law,” Epstein said.

* He * is Tom Pendergast. A man some said made Kansas City famous in the world of jazz, alcohol and corruption.

“Charlie Parker can play at one of the 200 Speakeasy and jazz clubs around here,” Epstein said. “He had 10 brands. [of liquor] And basically, you had to have one of those 10 brands. “

Epstein said January 19, 1920, the first day of Prohibition, was the greatest day of Pendergast’s life due to the lack of rules.

In the late 1800s, Pendergast moved to Kansas City and lived with his brother and city councilman James Pendergast. In 1910 James died and Tom soon took up the position. According to historians, Tom realized that he might have had more power if he wasn’t in the position. So he eventually resigned and focused on the Jackson County Democratic Party and his business ventures.

Legend has it that under his surveillance, muscles, and minor fraud, turnout was almost 100% under the Pendergast machine.

“He was bigger than the mob boss,” Epstein said. “Everyone reported to him. The mayor, fire department, police, everyone reported to him.”

This was especially important during the Prohibition era. Pendergast made money with his fist during that period. Much of his money came from two sources.

At first it was moonshine. Pendergast was so powerful that he often went bankrupt with his rivals, including Epstein’s grandfather.

Another source of income for Pendergast was his concrete company.

“Most of the story was a concrete company in Kansas City,” Epstein said. “That is, all the major projects are airport, brush creek, and Kansas City power and light projects, but they all went through Pendergast. He has about 42 companies, some of which By chance he won the highest and lowest bids because he was bidding on each other. “

In addition to Kansas City, Missouri, Police Headquarters, and Jackson County Courthouse, all the concrete used to build all these locations came from the Pendergast company.

Rumor has it that Pendergast used twice as much concrete, so these are some of the toughest buildings in Kansas City. That way he can charge the city twice.

According to historians, he used the money to bribe the police, who closed their eyes to alcohol and gambling during the abstinence period. He also used his friends to put him in political power. From the Great Depression of the 20s to the 1930s, when most cities struggled, the Pendergast machine continued to move Kansas City.

Kevin’s Chronicles of KC is a year-long series that looks back on the history of Kansas City. You can read more about the project and other stories at the following URL: kshb.com/chronicles..

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