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.

  • Central served those seeking education

    August 25th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News Published by the Elite Postcard Company, this color postcard shows Central High School that once stood at the corner of 11th and Locust Streets downtown.
    Originally opened in September


    The Chester steams through MO history

    August 18th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News This Fred Harvey postcard shows a scene near the Municipal Wharf at First and Main Streets.


    Power and light building: An Art Deco icon

    August 11th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News The Kansas City Power and Light building is arguably one of the finest examples of Art-Deco architecture in the country, rivaled only by the Chrysler Building in New


    Thacher Elementary now rubble & memories

    August 4th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News Louin Kennedy Thacher was born in Hornellsville, New York, and immigrated to the Kansas City area in the mid 1850s to take advantage of the huge land boom.


    Gayety Theater once took center stage

    July 28th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News Built of reinforced concrete and ornamental brick at a cost of $115,000, the Gayety Theater stood on the former site of the A.W. Armour home, one of the


  • From the Black Hills to the Blacktop, the Sturgis Rally endures

    July 21st, 2015
    by

    Northeast News Aug. 3, 2015, marks the beginning of the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota.


    Castle Hahatonka serves as an oasis from hectic city living

    July 14th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News “Here I will spend my leisure, secure from the worries of business and the excitement of city life.


    Legend lives on at Lover’s Leap

    July 7th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News Near the confluence of the Niangua and Osage Rivers along the south shore of the Lake of the Ozarks — mile marker 31.5 — a prominent bluff, said


    Uncle Sam ‘Wants You’ to know his origins

    June 30th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News Historians aren’t completely certain how the legendary character Uncle Sam was created or how he got his name.
    One prominent theory is that Uncle Sam was named after Samuel


    Winnwood has faded, but its legacy lives

    June 23rd, 2015
    by

    Northeast News A mere three stops after boarding the Interurban car of the KCCC&SJ’s Excelsior Springs line at 20th Street and Burlington Avenue in the then newly chartered North Kansas


  • Local Weather

  • What’s Happening

    Fire at abandoned elementary school in Northeast

    Joe Jarosz Northeast News Aug. 28, 2015 KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The Kansas City Fire Department spent Friday morning battling […]

    Charges filed in Monday’s shooting

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News Aug. 27, 2015 KANSAS CITY, Missouri — One suspect is in police custody following a shooting […]

    retorts illustrated bryan stalder

    retorts illustrated bryan stalder [...]