During the Great Depression, Kansas City witnessed the rise and triumph of a Democratic Party political boss. Tom Pendergast used his influence and patronage to bring money and jobs into the city. In addition, Harry S. Truman’s political career began with the aid of Tom Pendergast, something that Truman had to accept and also overcome as he continued his political career.
The Jackson Country Democratic Club, also known as the Thomas
J Pendergast Headquarters, was located at 1908 Main Street in Kansas City. Raymond
H. Sanneman designed the two-story brick building that was completed in 1926
housing a public space on the first level, and a private space on the second
level. Pendergast’s office was on the second floor in the northwest corner. The
building has not seen a lot of alteration and is still in good condition.
Tom Pendergast was a notorious political boss who controlled
much of Kansas City’s political scene; he dominated the Democratic Party,
especially from 1926 to 1939. Harry S. Truman was successfully introduced into
the political machine because of aid from Tom Pendergast. Truman learned as he
continued into his career, that his relationship with Pendergast was frowned
upon by many in Washington D.C. even though others in Kansas City held him in
high regard. Mr. Truman continued to campaign and reinvent himself, allowing
him to become President, after Pendergast was arrested for tax evasion.