KCUR 89.3 is the flagship NPR station in the Kansas City metro and they recently wrote a fantastic article on how for much of the 20th century, the clothes that Middle America wore came from Kansas City factories.
KCUR writes: “Scores of clothing manufacturers, many of them headquartered near Broadway in the northern part of downtown, produced work clothes for laborers and farmers, house dresses for homemakers and uniforms for industry and the military. Kansas City’s Garment District stretched roughly from Sixth to 11th streets and from Washington to Wyandotte. There and in scattered other plants, thousands of seamstresses made everyday wear that average people purchased from mail-order catalogs and from retail shops across the Midwest and the South.
Local businesses were accustomed to serving a large region. After the arrival of the railroad in the 1860s, Kansas City carved an economy out of transporting and distributing goods made elsewhere, and clothing formed an important part of that. From the city’s central location, wholesalers moved items produced in the east to merchants in small towns across the growing West.
Around the turn of the century, Kansas City shops began to make some of those garments themselves. With the opening of a U.S. entry port in Galveston, Texas, immigrants from eastern Europe funneled north to settle in Kansas City. Among them were skilled tailors and seamstresses who organized their own shops and watched them grow…”
Read the full article and listen to a great podcast from KCUR on Kansas City’s heyday in manufacturing here.