Taste & See KC: How Kansas City got the nickname 'Paris of the Plains'

Posted at 12:46 PM, Jun 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-26 13:46:21-04

Kansas City is known as the "Paris of the Plains," but how did it get that nickname?

In the early 1900s, some journalists compared KC to Paris because of its "sinful" nightlife, according to author John Simonson.

An article in the Omaha World-Herald began, “If you want to see some sin, forget about Paris and go to Kansas City.” Simonson said the reporter and his photographer visited Kansas City’s red-light district, night clubs and gambling houses.

During this time, political boss Tom Pendergast ran Kansas City. Under him, gambling was popular, alcohol flowed during prohibition and ballots were cast to keep political friends in power, according to the Kansas City Public Library.

Local reformers were against Pendergast’s control, and citizens and the press relentlessly demanded change. Reform candidates were elected to the City Council in 1934.

According to the KC Library, in 1939, Pendergast was arraigned on failing to pay taxes on a bribe received to pay off gambling debts. He served 15 months in prison, then lived quietly in his home until his death in 1945.