Loose Memorial Flagpole
Dedicated on July 5, 1915, with an attendance of nearly 90,000, the Loose Memorial Flagpole was gifted by Jacob Loose in memory of Thomas H. Swope. Originally 200 feet tall, the now 175-foot flagpole is accompanied by a rectangular marble base with four brass plaques that include the memorial’s dedication, lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a verse from the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address. Both Loose and Swope were generous Kansas City philanthropists. As the largest individual landowner in the area at the time, Thomas Swope is known for the donation of the land for Swope Park in 1896 and General Hospital in 1905. Jacob Loose founded the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company in 1902 which created the Hydrox cookie. Loose also created the endowment for Children’s Mercy Hospital and established the Million Dollar Charity Fund Association.
Loose Memorial Flagpole was erected in honor of Thomas H. Swope.
The Loose Memorial Flagpole in Swope Park c. 1920. Photo courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.
Loose Memorial Flagpole dedication plaque.
Loose Memorial Flagpole plaque featuring the Declaration of Independence.
Loose Memorial Flagpole featuring the Gettysburg Address.
Loose Memorial Flagpole featuring lyrics to "The Star Spangled Banner."
Portrait of Jacob Loose. Photo courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.
Portrait of Thomas Swope c. 1906. Photo courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.
Backstory and Context
Donated by Jacob Loose, the Loose Memorial Flagpole was erected in memory of Thomas H. Swope (1827-1909), Kansas City philanthropist who generously donated the land that created Swope Park. Jacob Loose (1850-1923) first proposed the idea of erecting a memorial flagpole to the Board of Park Commissioners in November 1912 and was approved in January 1913. Loose worked with several companies in creating the different elements of the flagpole, including its marble base, the pole itself, brass plaques, and a copper weathervane. A location was finally decided in May 1915 and dedicated on July 5, 1915 with an estimated crowd of 90,000 in attendance.
At 200 feet in height, this was the tallest unguyed flagpole in the world, meaning there are no stabilizing wires securing it to the ground. The flagpole rests in a large, rectangular marble base accompanied by four brass plaques and a weathervane. The four plaques were installed on each side of the base and include a dedication plaque, the Gettysburg Address, the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and a portion of the Declaration of Independence.
While the unguyed flagpole has remained stable, it has experienced a few compromising events. The first occurred two weeks after the dedication ceremony when strong winds blew the eagle weathervane off of the top. It was placed back, however, a storm in 1919 broke the top 15 feet off of the pole. This time, the eagle was replaced with a copper ball, and later with another weathervane. In 1931, a plane crashed into the flagpole during a storm and while repairing the damage, the height of the pole was reduced to 175 feet. The memorial got a facelift when it was repaired, cleaned, and painted in 2010, as well as the recreation of the brass plaques that had disappeared in the early 1980s. It was rededicated on July 9, 2011.
Thomas Hunton “Colonel” Swope was born in 1827 in Kentucky. He was a Yale graduate and speculated in mining and real estate investments, finally settling in the Kansas City area in 1857. Here, he purchased an abundance of land, becoming the largest individual landowner in Kansas City. His most famous legacy is the purchase and donation of 1,334 acres of land for Swope Park in 1896, the second largest municipal park in the United States at the time. In 1905, he donated a 4.5-acre tract of land at 23rd and Cherry for a new hospital, opening as General Hospital in October 1908. Mr. Swope mysteriously died of a cerebral hemorrhage on October 3, 1909, sparking a years-long murder investigation of the family physician. No conviction was ever made, leaving the true cause of Swope’s death unknown to this day.
Self-made millionaire Jacob Leander Loose was born in 1850 in Greencastle, Pennsylvania. After leaving high school at age 16 to work, he opened a dry goods store with his brother David in Chetopa, Kansas in 1870. He moved to Kansas City in 1882, where he entered the cracker business. First, he bought a controlling interest in the Corle Cracker Company with his brother Joseph, then organized and became president of the American Biscuit Company. He took a break from business for his health in 1897 and upon his return in 1902, he founded Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company. The company became highly successful with the release of the Hydrox cookie (similar to the Oreo cookie before Oreo) and Sunshine Biscuits. In 1913, he started the endowment fund for Children’s Mercy Hospital. Due to more health concerns, he semi-retired in 1919 and died on September 8, 1923 in his Massachusetts summer home. In another act of generosity after his death, his will established the Million Dollar Charity Fund Association which gave resources to people in need.
Loose Flagpole, Kansas City Parks & Recreation. Accessed March 2nd 2022. https://kcparks.org/places/loose-flagpole-2/.
"Jacob L. Loose Dies in the East." Joplin Globe (Joplin, MO) September 19th 1923. Vol. XXVIII, No. 35, pg. 1.
Magerl, Barbara. Biography of Jacob L. and Ella C. Loose, The Pendergast Years. Accessed March 2nd 2022. https://pendergastkc.org/article/biography/jacob-l-and-ella-c-loose.
Stahly, Nichole. "Swope Park." Clio: Your Guide to History. February 11, 2022. Accessed March 2, 2022. https://theclio.com/entry/146055.