The Cities of America: Kansas City

In 1945, the Post began a series that profiled 120 cities across North America. First stop: Missouri.

Kansas City skyline in 1945

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In 1945, The Saturday Evening Post began publishing profiles of the major cities in America, highlighting each city’s attractions and unique character. The war was ending, and it was time to turn the nation’s attention to its own backyard. Some of the features hint at problems, but most are brimming in anticipation of living in a modern era free from war and sacrifice.

In all, the Post featured 120 cities over eight years. Now, 76 years later, we’re sharing the series, which offers a fascinating look at the mid-century character of these places. As the editors dryly noted with the very first city, they started the series with some misgivings: “There are few things that produce so sharp a difference of opinion as a candid discussion of a place that happens to be somebody’s home town.”

The first place featured in the series is Kansas City, published in the August 25, 1945, issue. Writer George Sessions Perry’s highlights from the article include:

  • The recently concluded reign of political boss Tom Pendergast, who could “could stuff a ballot box as deftly as a Midwest farm wife can stuff a hen.”
  • The city’s transformation into a haven for those with extralegal vocations (i.e., crooks).
  • The mighty reach of the hometown paper, The Kansas City Star, where Ernest Hemingway was briefly a police reporter. At the time the Star was employee-owned and thriving.
  • The suburban wonder of the Country Club District. The “4000-acre development devoted almost entirely to one-family homes, is said to be the largest undertaking of its kind in the world.” (There’s no mention of the restrictive racist and anti-Semitic covenants enacted by the developer.)

As Kansas City (and the rest of the nation) prepared to exit the war, it looked to create a bright future for its residents. While the stockyards were still a robust concern, the city was turning its attention to art, technology, and research. But it would always have a connection to its “turbulent, hell-roaring and remarkably happy past.”

If you’d like to find your city, members can browse for it in our archive, which features thousands of issues of the Post dating back to 1821.

Read “The Cities of America: Kansas City” by George Sessions Perry from the August 25, 1945, issue of the Post.

Featured image: Kansas City, Missouri, 1945 (photo by Hans Knopf, ©SEPS)

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