Kansas City elections a century ago

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

Election season is in full swing and right along with that we’ve got two vintage political postcards from the November election of 1908. First off “our next Congressman,” William Patterson Borland.

Borland was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1867 and migrated to Kansas City after completing law school at the University of Michigan. He was the founder of the Kansas City School of Law and served as dean of the school from 1895 to 1909, when he was sworn into the 61st Congress after the November election. He served four terms as a Democrat, and died near Coblenz, Germany while on a Masonic mission abroad. He is interred in Elmwood Cemetery.

Mayor Henry M. Beardsley, who served as Kansas City’s Mayor from 1906-1907, graces the second postcard this week. Prior to his stint as Mayor, Beardsley was a City Councilman from 1898 to 1906. He lost the seat during the 1908 election, probably due to his butting heads with the Pendergast political machine that was rising to power in Kansas City at the time. As Mayor, one of his accomplishments was appointing a board that drafted a new city charter that was adopted in 1908. Beardsley also chaired the committee that oversaw the design of the Liberty Memorial.

After leaving office, Beardsley founded an organization called Society of the Friendless, an organization dedicated to rehabilitating prisoners. Believing that criminals “should be on the credit side instead of the debit side of society,” he often did pro-bono work for those accused of crimes and could not afford an attorney. Beardsley died on April 19, 1938 after suffering a heart attack in his Armour Boulevard home. He is also interred in Elmwood Cemetery. Beardsley Road that runs along Kansas City’s west bluff is named for him.

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