Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Expansion, and Aircraft
In the aftermath of the Panic of 1893, Marshall Murdock, always the pro-business/boosterism man denounced Mary Lease and “Sockless” Jerry Simpson as whiners and populism was the result of people who engaged in the boom getting their just desserts. Instead, Murdock supported the views of Russell Conwell and his “Acres of Diamonds” speech, in which he emphasized loyalty to the community and that everything that people needed to succeed was to be found in Wichita and in themselves.
But as we left off on the last paper with William Allen White transformation from conservative Republican to Progressive Republican (WAW never became a Democrat although he did say during the FDR years that he was a Democrat every year but election years), so becomes Victor Murdock, the son of Marshall Murdock and the heir to the Eagle (1894 he became the managing editor). In 1902, Victor is elected to the US House of Representatives as a conservative Republican a position he will keep until 1915. Gradually Murdock’s perspective was changing and in 1912 he left the Republican party to follow Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Bull Moose Party. Murdock became chairman of the Progressive Party from 1914-1916. In 1916 he was nominated as the Progressive Presidential candidate but refused to run. Instead in 1915 he had returned to Wichita and picked up the mantle of the editor of the Eagle again but continuing as a member of the Federal Trade Commission. (a Woodrow Wilson appointment). An interesting connection here, Victor Murdock was married to Mary Pearl Allen. Both were of Wichita’s uppercrust, powerbroker families and in the Wichita Social Register. Mary Pearl was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. T. Allen, he was involved in the development of the College Hill neighborhood. ) Eagle, 4/22/40.
By 1910, Wichita had 16 newspapers. Three of which appear to have been religious in nature and five of which were involving agriculture, which gives us a sense of priorities and dominant influences of the area. Of these only 3 were dailies—the Wichita Daily Beacon, the Wichita Daily Pointer and the Wichita Eagle. The Eagle was both a daily and a weekly and was the predominant newspaper at this time. Therefore, where the Eagle went, the community followed. (An aside, populists were very aware of this and hence the rise of the Populist Press. In Prairie Bachelor by Fenwick, Isaac Werner talks about this in his diary. Another thing that I did not realize was that being a speaker was considered to be a profession at this time. He talks a lot about Mary Lease and what a powerful speaker she is and he considers this as a career for himself. Modern history teachers often do not give 19th century people enough credit, for example, they do not see the layers of Carrie Nation, or the populists or Murdock. These people had great complexity and intelligence. I think that a long study of Murdock and the Murdock family would be fascinating. I always credit Bent Murdock with much of WAW’s achievements, they had a lifelong friendship.)
Wichita’ population was becoming more diverse. Chinese and Mexican workers had been brought in to work on the railroads. Lebanese started coming to Wichita in 1895, many were fleeing the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. Most were Christian and were seeking economic opportunity.
In 1912, the “labor unions of the city joined together in a petition asking the city employ only Wichita worker, excluding foreigners.” (Minor 97) Wichita, much like other cities, had begun segregation in the 1890s after the passage of Plessy v Ferguson and in the following decades it began firmly established and a caste system of sorts began, with African Americans isolated and, on the bottom,, Hispanics, Lebanese, Jews (I do not know if this is true in Wichita but in other cities there is a class system in the Jewish religion, including being orthodox v non-orthodox, and convert or born, etc.) and others in the middle and Europeans on the top. Although, within the Europeans there were distinctions and Protestants were higher ranking than Catholics. Due to this African Americans began to establish parallel cities in Wichita and elsewhere. Initially, the African American community was centered around Main and Water streets west of the courthouse.
In 1868 Kansas law allowed but did not require segregated schools. As African American population rose in the state with the arrival of the Exodusters, more schools began to segregate and in 1879 the Kansas legislature passed a bill allowing first class cities (those with populations of 15,000 or more) to operate separate primary schools. And by 1906 Wichita had segregated schools. Segregation did not come to the schools earlier because there was such a small black population. By 1912, Wichita has 2 African American elementary schools, eventually there will be four. And at the high school level there was de facto segregation.
Total Population v African American Population in Wichita
1920 72,217 (1921 Tulsa riot victims flee to Wichita) 5,000
(It is interesting to note: Topeka’s black population in 1885 was 4,111/19,088; and at 1905 4,111/34,986; this gives an idea of the growth of Wichita and racial distribution versus other areas of the state)
And the African American community began the process of setting up a dual set of institutions. Prominent African American newspapers were the Searchlight and the Negro Star and there were African American funeral homes, banks, Masonic organizations, etc. At this time the African America community was located in the area around Douglas and Grand Avenues.
There was enough of an African American population to support having a baseball team-the Monrovians, which when incorporated had a stock value of $10,000 (that is roughly $150,000 today). The Monrovians had their own ballpark at 12th and Mosley called Monrovian Park and they played everyone. They played their games to raise money for local causes such as the Phyllis Wheatley Children’s Home. In 1922, they played a game against the Ku Klux Klan. I suspect this was because they knew that this game would pull in a lot of people and raise the receipts for the day. ( https://www.ebbets.com/blogs/news-and-history/wichita-monrovians)
I have been studying housing patterns in Topeka for years, and sometime in the teens/20s is when Topeka began to segregate in housing based on color, before that it was much more based on money. James Guy (an attorney) and Van Buren (a funeral home owner) both lived on the high status/high visibility Topeka Avenue and the AME Church was just two blocks from the Capitol in a very prestigious area. Nick Chiles in his newspapers, the Plaindealer, said of the Potwin Place Neighborhood that it was discrimination by price. This does not seem to be the case in Wichita— where segregation lines seem to have been more clearly drawn from the start. This is going way down the line in time, but I know that the Wichita NAACP was approached for the school desegregation case before Topeka and they turned the NAACP down. I am interested to learn more about this.
By the 1930’s Mexican Americans would be Kansas’ second largest immigrant group (Germans were the largest). The Mexican American during this era begin to shift from the railroads (most likely because the work of building the railroads was generally done and the railroads were employing less people lower skill/lower wage people and the higher wage jobs were probably reserved for whites. In this period, I believe that both Mexican Americans and African Americans were prohibited from union membership, which would have also guarded these jobs. In Kluger’s Simple Justice, he says that the reason Oliver Brown was chosen as the lead case for Brown v. the Board was because he worked for Santa Fe and belonged to the union and therefore had some job protections whereas the other plaintiffs had none such protections. This has been disputed, but to me it rings true and Kluger’s work has generally been outstanding.) to meat packing industry. Large concentrations who began in boxcar housing in the area near Orme and St. Francis, in what was at the time Wichita's southern end shifted and the area around Broadway and Waco became the center. A number of housing areas emerged as well, including the El Hurache neighborhood at 17th to 20th, Santa Fe, Mead and Moseley. Much like the African American community, the Mexican American community was developing independently in the midst of the larger city.
Women were prominently involved in business in the Mexican American community. Particularly in the area of restaurants. Many of these restaurants grew out of church dinners and community events. One such restaurant is Connie’s Mexico Café (which appears to still be in business), which grew out of Concepcion Lopez’s cooking for fundraisers for St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church. The style of Mexican American food in Wichita features flour tortillas, ground beef, potatoes, and peas. (https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/connie-s-mexico-cafe/1029)
Church based community food celebrations were important in Wichita’s culture, a few included-Deli Days at the Congregation Emanu-El, Jewish Temple with “Uncle Manny’s Deli”, the Lenten oyster feed—St. James Episcopal Church, Old English Tea at St. James Episcopal Church and the Lebanese Dinner at St. George’s Cathedral. These church celebrations (fund raisers) were the basis for restaurants and an occasion for people to cross ethnic divides.
Wichita in the twenties becomes a hub of business, and businesses that begin in Wichita take off to be national and international. The Coleman Company which was founded in 1900 by William Coffin Coleman selling gasoline pressured lamps had taken off. William Dye, the “Chili King of the West” is building an international business importing spices and peppers. And Wichita becomes a city of oil and aviation. (both of which seem like topics that should have their own papers).
Not all businesses were a success, or even meant to be. This was the time of patent medicine and flim flam men and Rajah Rabbit seems to have been just that sort of enterprise. J.S. Porter came to town shortly after the 1929 stock market crash. Promising that he would be building a rabbit farm at the vacant Kansas Sanitarium property and investors would reap fantastic profits he solicited funds from wishful Wichitans who wanted to turn around the bad luck of the Depression. (remember the leaders of Wichita had always felt that through the force of their determination that they could turn things around and that Wichita would be a great city.) The Wichita Eagle on February 9th, 1930 ran the headline “Where Rabbit is King" and dedicated the front page to how to raise rabbits and the great benefits of it. Porter ended up raising about $340,000 from local investors before leaving town and vanishing with the money and leaving behind 55,000 rabbits. ( https://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/kansas-105/article1065124.html)
The businesses that really stand out from the 20’s and 30’s are the diners. This was the heyday of dinners, but in most places, they were a single Mom-and-Pop location, but an unusual number of franchises/chains come out of Wichita. I think that this also goes to the ambition and sense of seeing themselves as leaders of the area. Here are the diners from the period that become chains:
Walter Anderson began in the restaurant business by running food stands and in 1916 opened his first diner in a converted streetcar. By 1920 Anderson had four diners and was looking to expand.
Anderson official founds White Caste in 1921 by partnering with Edgar Waldo Ingram and making White Castle into a chain of restaurants. White Castle was the first fast-food hamburger chain and set the stage for the diners that would follow. It featured innovations such as newspaper ads, a standardized food prep system where everything was in each of a person standing still, uniforms, and paper boxes. White Castle was designed to establish reliability, reliable food, cleanliness and service standards. (It is interesting that this came out of Kansas as did the Harvey House restaurants, which I would call America’s first chain restaurants and both were based on the principals of cleanliness, reliability and standardization.).
White Castle engineer Lloyd W. Ray created a steel building (24’ x 12’) in 1928 that was portable. Portable was important because leases were unreliable and might not be extended, or lease conditions might not be favorable, being portable allowed White Castle to pick up and move. This portability led to the small size, it would be easy to pick up and lift as a unit. White was important in the name and in the restaurant design as it represented strength and cleanliness. This was the first of White Castle’s Porcelain Steel Buildings. This first building was at Hillside and Douglas. https://www.thefabricator.com/thefabricator/article/shopmanagement/hamburgers-metal-and-mettle
Eventually, Ingram will buy out Anderson and moves the chain offices to Ohio. White Castle will adopt a building that looked like their iconic emblem—the White Castle, which were immediately recognizable to travelers and White Castle’s Porcelain Steel Buildings becomes a subsidiary to the With Castle restaurant company. This spin off company began in 1934 after Ingram had moved the company to Columbus Ohio. I am fairly certain that these are part of the inspiration of the Lustron homes that will come in the post-World War II era. https://www.thefabricator.com/thefabricator/article/shopmanagement/hamburgers-metal-and-mettle
Ablah Hotel Supply Co.at 13th and Grove, built pre-packaged small, portable, metal diners, perhaps as many as 200 which were operated under various names and owned outright by others. iIn addition to this the Ablah’s ran a chain of restaurants in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Arthur Valentine had one such of these buildings for their location in Hutchison (they had 4 locations at this time) and he becomes a salesman for Ablah. By the end of the 1930’s Valentine has taken over the construction of diners and has maybe as many of 50 Valentine Diners in operation in southwest Kansas. They become known in the 1930s as Valentine Dinners when an employee buys them out and later a Sutch-A-Burger and then Sport Burger Drive In. The Valentine Diners were a direct spin off from White Castle in my opinion. https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/valentine-diners-business/18734#vlunch
I have found that there were 2 Valentine Diners in Topeka in which the buildings are still around. One is in North Topeka and has continuously operated as a restaurant.
And the other, of later design (obviously not portable) is in the SE part of town and is a car dealership. I do not know if the later design is prefabricated, but it could be.
The first Nu Way Café opens in 1930, while not as large of chain as White Castle. NuWay was located along automobile routes and featured loose meat sandwiches and root beer. Marked by their Tudor style buildings. (There are several buildings similar to these in Topeka which I had always attributed to being old filling stations, I can find no reference to Nu Way Cafes being in Topeka though and I have asked about all of these chains on the Topeka History Geeks facebook page) I think that this chain may still be going, according to a Topeka Capital Journal article from 2019, it was bought by Homer’s of Leavenworth. https://www.cjonline.com/news/20190826/homers-purchases-nu-way-drive-in.
The Wichita Eagle July 5th, 2020, The NuWay Café.
In the 1920’s America is shifting from a railroad-based world to an automobile based one. Prior to this, petroleum came from a farm supply store. But, now, the filling station emerges. Along with it a culture of the Sunday Drive, the Road Trip and the gas station as a gathering place for men.
In 1927 Phillips uses Wichita as a test market for their cottage style gas station. https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/46-gas-stations.htm. According to this article, the cottage/Tudor style gas stations were designed to make them more palatable to upscale residential neighborhoods. This kind of logic would also work with what I have found out about adoption homes and other elements of a city that may be less desirable (prison and mental hospital designs come to mind immediately). It is interesting that the garage has moved from something that you would want to hide to “snout” houses where the house design is secondary to the bragging rights of the garage. (Phillips is based in Bartlesville and has the Hugoton wells, but why the pilot filling station design in Wichita?)
Another of the chains to come out of Wichita are the Vickers gas stations. Vickers got his start with a refinery in Potwin and processing oil from the Butler county area in the late teens. Jack Vickers begins the Vickers filling and oil stations and by 1950 he has built this into a chain of over 300. Vickers also sponsors the Wichita Vickers, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball team playing in the National Industrial Basketball League. (this is unusual to me, I have found a lot of baseball teams in Kansas but not a lot of basketball) Vickers was a member of the Wichita and Country Clubs, the Wichita Polo team and he and his wife were names on the social register. At the height of the Depression, Vickers built “Vickridge”—a 12-bedroom mansion costing $100,000. Vickers represents the changing social structure and increasing wealth of Wichita. Wichita Eagle, November 11, 1940, page 1
Archibald Derby and the Derby Refinery.