Spalding’s Commercial College

This week, in tandem with our weekly “Remember This” column, we feature an advertising postcard for Spalding’s Commercial College located at Tenth and Oak streets in downtown Kansas City.

Spalding’s Commercial College was founded on October 25, 1865 by E. H. Spalding and his son James F. Spalding in the east wing of the New York Life building, 814-818 Delaware Ave., just a half a block away from Vaughn’s Diamond at Ninth and Main streets. The card touts “actual business and banking thoroughly and quickly taught at day and night school.”

Shorthand, typewriting and telegraphy were also taught along with book-keeping. Tuition was $30 for three months and $60 for six months. Night School was a discounted $10 for three months or  $20 for six months.

James F. Spalding was born in Michigan on July 28, 1835. In 1860 he graduated from the classical department of the University of Michigan, and received a Masters of Arts degree in 1863. Spalding migrated to Kansas City, joining his father in the founding of the business college. According to published accounts of the day, Spalding founded the first school in Kansas City, two years before the first public school was opened. The first classroom was located in a small building at Second and Main streets. Seven students comprised the graduating class that year.

Through the years, a number of local businessmen attended the college, including Harry S. Truman. Truman enrolled shortly after graduating from high school in 1901, taking a typing class in the summer and bookkeeping and shorthand classes in the fall. After the fall semester, he quit school to help his father with his business ventures.

In the early 1900’s the college moved to a corner in the Commercial Block at 11th and Main streets. By 1909, the college had moved to a three story structure at 10th and Oak streets, and Spalding, then over 70 years old, retired from the day-to-day operation of the college, which was left to his son, George E. Spalding.

In 1897, Spalding commissioned Composer and Musician B.L. James to write the Spalding’s Commercial College March, dedicated to the students and staff at the college.

On the 50th anniversary of the college, in December 1915, Spalding made a grand prediction for the city.

“Those who live to see this city 25 years from now will see a city of a million, solid with business, houses of every type in the district between Broadway and Troost, and south past the Union Station.”

Spalding died at his home at 2305 Tracy on August 16, 1916 at the age of 81. He is interred in Forest Hill Cemetery. At the time of his death, over thirty thousand students had passed through the doors of the school.

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