Pendergast still watches West Bottoms

PC-Pendergast.jpg

By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
Northeast News
March 12, 2014

Born in 1856 in the Ohio River town of Gallipolis, James Pendergast was the second of nine children. His Irish Catholic family later moved to Independence, Mo.

Pendergast worked as a laborer and had an affinity for horse racing. After a single trip to the track, he won enough money on a horse named “Climax” to open a saloon in the rough-and-tumble West Bottoms area, Kansas City’s First Ward. Pendergast was elected to the position of alderman in 1892, a post he held until 1910.

Alderman Jim was famous for his black “Bismarck” moustache and dapper dress. Pendergast was a true man of the people, cashing checks for laborers in his St. Louis Avenue establishment. His political faction of “Goats” were in a constant battle for power with Joe Shannon’s “Rabbits” for control over everything from illegal liquor and gambling to prostitution and deal fixing in the state capital.

Jim Pendergast died in 1911, and most of the business operations of the “Pendergast Machine” fell to his brothers, Tom and Mike. The “Machine” controlled all aspects of Missouri politics through the 1930s and the Great Depression – which was largely unfelt here in Kansas City due to “Boss Tom’s” corruption and skimming from such projects as the new City Hall, County Courthouse and Municipal Auditorium. Work was available to anyone who wanted it, as long as you were aligned with “the Machine.”

The Pendergast era came to an unceremonious end in 1945 when Tom was convicted of tax evasion. Throughout the trial, new evidence was discovered every day as to how deep the tentacles of the Pendergast Machine stretched into local, state and federal government.

This postcard shows the statue of “Alderman Jim” Pendergast in its original location just below present-day Case Park, overlooking his beloved First Ward. The card is one in a series of sepia-tone postcards published by John Straley who lived at 213 N. Mersington Ave., right here in Historic Northeast.

Comments are closed.

  • The wild waters of pre-levee Kansas City

    July 19th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News Published by the North American Postcard Company of Kansas City, Mo., this week’s card is a Real Photo Postcard showing the West Bottoms area looking northwest toward the


    Christmas in July

    July 12th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News This week, a rare treat — a Real Photo postcard showing a newly completed Penn Valley Drive in Penn Valley Park, Kansas City, Mo.


    Bible College once served Historic Northeast

    July 6th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News Established in 1890 as a school for “girls,” the Scarritt Bible and Training Institute was located at Harris (now Norledge Avenue) and Askew avenues in Historic Northeast Kansas


    Celebrating with Uncle Sam: Happy Fourth of July!

    June 28th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News Historians aren’t completely certain how the legendary character Uncle Sam was created, or for whom (if anyone) he was named.


    Kansas City’s old Convention Hall

    June 21st, 2016
    by

    Northeast News This week, we feature a rare advertising postcard showing the old Convention Hall, which was destroyed by fire in early April 1900 — just 90 days prior to


  • Century-old view of KC from river

    June 14th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News Kansas City’s riverfront on the Missouri River is pictured in this old, turn-of-the-century postcard published by The Southwest News Company of Kansas City.


    Viaduct connected Kansas cities

    June 7th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News This postcard, titled “United States Troops Crossing Intercity Viaduct, Kansas City, Mo.,” shows what seems to be an unending column of Army troops crossing the then-newly constructed bridge


    ‘The great white city’

    June 1st, 2016
    by

    Northeast News Electric Park was named for the 100,000 electric light bulbs outlining its buildings and rides.


    Thoroughly modern courthouse

    May 25th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News This linen postcard, showing north and west sides of what at the time was the new Jackson County Courthouse and the intersection of 12th and Oak streets, was


    Summer brings rain, sometimes flooding

    May 17th, 2016
    by

    Northeast News As we approach the summer rain season, it is fitting that we run a postcard showing a scene in the West Bottoms during the great flood of 1908:


  • Local Weather

  • What’s Happening

    Community volunteers, CORO KC combine to clean up Northeast

    Northeast News July 23, 2016 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – A group of community volunteers teamed up with interns from Park […]

    CORO KC interns set community service project for July 23

    Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri - A dozen interns sponsored by Park University will wrap up an eight-week public affairs program on Saturday, July 23, by holding a group community

    retorts illustrated bryan stalder

    retorts illustrated bryan stalder [...]