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The Kansas City Journal-Post's Diamond Jubilee Section
- A Project Demonstrating the Possibilities of Digital Access & Preservation -

"The Kansas City Journal-Post in 1929 rounded out seventy-five years of continuous publication. In that three-quarters of a century this great city has grown from a babe in the cradle to its present stature. It is with the idea of depicting the astonishing development of this city and to give its fellow businesses a chance to make known the parts they have played in this growth, that the Journal-Post presents its Diamond Jubilee section."

- Kansas City Journal-Post, Dec. 31, 1929 (page 3)

A Short History of the Kansas City Journal-Post
Indexes to the Diamond Jubilee Section
(timeline, articles, and advertisers)
Images of the Diamond Jubilee Section
(thumbnail, medium, and large sized images of each of the 48 pages)
The Kansas City Journal-Post Digital Project


From Local Project to Lively Pioneer:
A Short History of the Kansas City Journal-Post

The Kansas City Journal-Post (1854-1942) chronicled a frontier town from its muddy river bank days through its jazz-age prosperity. City fathers Milton J. Payne, William Gillis, Dr. Benoist Troost, Thompson McDaniel, E. Milton McGee, William S. Gregory, Robert Campbell and the firm of Northrup and Chick pooled $1,000 to start a newspaper after the town's first one, The Public Ledger, folded. The weekly sheet adopted the moniker The Kansas City Enterprise and first appeared in print Saturday, September 23, 1854. Nettie Thompson Grove, a journalist for the Kansas Citian magazine, wrote in a September 1929 article: "This paper was the first application of Kansas City to a local project." The seminal newspaper would survive a bloody civil war and endure 88 years as a formative part of Kansas City history.

Operating over a saloon at Main Street and the levee, William A. Strong, editor, and David K. Abeel, publisher, tended to the daily responsibilities despite inexperience and other business priorities. In the summer of 1855, Strong met Robert T. Van Horn at the Virginia Hotel in St. Louis. Strong was searching for a professional to take over the newspaper and Van Horn, an experienced editor, had just come west. Strong urged Van Horn to go to Kansas City and see about The Enterprise.

A shrewd businessman and possessing a sharp political voice, Van Horn understood the role of a newspaper in promoting a town's interests and saw Kansas City as such a place to prosper. He purchased the newspaper for $250 and assumed full ownership and editorial duties while Abeel continued as head publisher. In 1857, Abeel purchased a half interest in the paper, marking the beginning of a partnership that lasted more than three decades.

With Kansas divided over the issue of slavery, the untamed West was a hotbed for politics. Van Horn did not favor the Southern cause or the extreme sectional views of the North, professing his loyalty instead for the "Douglas Democrats". In a March 1, 1856 article printed in The Enterprise, the Honorable B. F. Hallett of Massachusetts cemented Van Horn's stance: "Let those who have got the wolf (by the ears) hold on or tame and loose(n) him as they choose, and don't let us be tickling his tail to stimulate his rage and compel his master to hold him tighter."

In the fall of 1857, the newspaper was enlarged and its name changed to The Western Journal of Commerce. The following summer, Van Horn's operation expanded to include a daily publication, The Kansas City Daily Western Journal of Commerce. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Van Horn enlisted in the Union army and led a battalion of Kansas City volunteers. The Journal of Commerce became staunchly Republican thereafter, supporting industrial growth and railroad expansion. It successfully lobbied for the construction of the Hannibal Bridge at Kansas City and instigated the reorganization of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, which had ceased to exist during the Civil War.

The Journal of Commerce prospered in the following decade of Reconstruction, but by the 1880's it began a long, competitive fight to maintain readers. Van Horn was a seasoned businessman and politician, but his inability to keep pace with the rising newspaper magnate, William Rockhill Nelson, led to the sale of his newspaper. Van Horn retired from the newspaper business in 1896 and sold his interest to Charles S. Gleed and Hal Gaylord. For the next twenty-five years The Kansas City Journal, as it was known under the new owners, remained Kansas City's leading Republican organ.

Image courtesy Kansas City Public Library - Click for larger viewOn March 14, 1906, A. Fuller Brooker founded The Kansas City Post and bluntly decreed in its first daily issue: "It will be our purpose in politics to avoid participation in factional disputes and personal quarrels, and seek the general welfare of the Democratic party as a whole, and that only." The Post had remarkable success as a below-the-belt tabloid newspaper and engaged in heated battles with Nelson's Kansas City Star. Frederick Bonfils and Harry Tammen, during their tenure as owners and editors (1909-1922), encouraged every yellow journalistic method and reinforced the newspaper's allegiance to political boss Tom Pendergast. As the city's only Democratic sheet, The Post captured readers with elaborate photo spreads, comic strips, biting editorials and banner headlines printed in red ink.

In 1922, Walter Dickey approached Bonfils and Tammen about the acquisition of The Post. Dickey had purchased The Journal a year before and was convinced he needed two daily papers to compete with Nelson's Star and Times. The Journal's circulation had waned while The Post's had reached its zenith, and Dickey jumped at the chance to inject life into his newspaper venture. Despite his inexperience in the printing business and repeated caveats from colleagues, Dickey bought The Post with money from his Clay Manufacturing Company. He moved the two papers into a building at 22nd and Oak and established a costly around-the-clock operation. Dickey continued to sink funds into the struggling newspapers as circulation continued to drop. In a desperate attempt to recover losses, Dickey consolidated the two publications on October 4, 1928 under the title The Journal-Post. By the time of his death in 1931, Dickey's clay company had declared bankruptcy and estimated losses for The Journal-Post soared into the millions of dollars.

Chronic financial troubles, changing management and political controversy marked the last decade for The Journal-Post. Many staff members, sensing the inevitable, sought employment elsewhere. To add insult to injury, The Journal-Post's unwavering loyalty for Boss Tom proved costly when reformers successfully dismantled the Pendergast machine in the late 1930's. The newspaper was published as The Kansas City Journal in its last four years, dropping Post from the name to distance itself from the sensationalism that the latter name evoked.

Image courtesy Kansas City Public Library - Click for larger view
In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt lauded the newspaper's contribution to the field of journalism in a letter to the editor. That same year, a young photographer for The Journal named Jack Wally went undercover with a small, concealed camera to capture some of Kansas City's most notorious gambling operations. His findings were published anonymously in a splashy two-page spread for Life magazine. In the final issue of The Journal on March 31, 1942, the pioneering newspaper bowed out in style, thanking loyal readers and advertisers "and to the Star-the traditional handshake at the last bell of the last round. We will be going now."


Sources:

Brown, Theodore. "Robert Thompson Van Horn And The Growth Of One Frontier." The Trail Guide , 6.3 (October 1961): 1-14.

[Farewell Announcement]. The Kansas City Journal , 31 March 1942: 1

Greenwood , James M. "Colonel Robert T. Van Horn: His Life And Public Service." The Annals Of Kansas City , 1.4 (October 1924): 417-433.

Grove, Nettie Thompson. "The Development Of Kansas City And The West Has Had Help Of The Press Since 1851." The Kansas Citian , 10 September 1929: 44, 56.

Hallett, B. F. "The 'Aggressions Of Slave Power' - What Is It They Call The 'Slave Power?'" The Kansas City Enterprise , 1 March 1856: 1.

[Letter From Franklin Roosevelt]. The Kansas City Journal , 4 October 1938: 1.

Popper, Joe. "Newsman's Camera Caught Rip-roaring KC." Kansas City Star , 7 June 1997: A1.

[Salutatory]. The Kansas City Post , 14 March 1906: 1.

Shoemaker, Francis Floyd. The Kansas City Post , Its Founding, Growth, And Decline . MA Thesis. University of Missouri , 1958.


Text by Kelly McEniry
Dept. of Special Collections - Marr Sound Archives
Miller Nichols Library
University of Missouri-Kansas City


part of Kansas City skyline in 1929

The Kansas City Journal-Post Digital Project

This project began as an effort in preservation which grew into an exploration of the possibilities of improved access to fragile materials through digitization. The Journal-Post's Diamond Jubilee edition was printed in 1929 on highly acidic newsprint that is in extremely fragile condition seventy-one years later. Requests for access to the original copy made it clear that the item was disintegrating and had to be reformatted either to microfilm or acid-free paper if the information was to survive. Microfilm was not a timely alternative and, although the original could not be saved, digital scanning equipment was available to create an electronic version of the item which could then be printed in color on acid-free paper. In addition to this printed use-copy, the digital images also made it possible to provide increased access to the original via the Internet. Furthermore, digitizing permitted the creation of enlarged images of each page for improved viewing, and the creation of several indexes to the content of the Diamond Jubilee section made the item even more accessible to use.

The original as well as the laser print copy of the Kansas City Journal Post's Diamond Jubilee section of 1929 have been cataloged and are accessible via Merlin , the UMKC Libraries' online catalog. The following links are to the indexes mentioned above and to images of each of the 48 pages of the Diamond Jubilee section.

Many thanks to Mr. Moses Ong for his invaluable technical assistance throughout this project.



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June 23, 2005