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Kansas City Stockyards
Kansas City Stockyards
TitleKansas City Stockyards
DescriptionPostcard of the Kansas City Stockyards
Historical ArticleThe Kansas City Stock Yards had become a great central market place, with railroads, quarantine yards, chutes, pens, packing houses and a water system to all parts of the yards, when G.H. Otto copyrighted this lithographed scene in 1899. It was No. 7 of a set of the first picture post cards made of Kansas City.

Only a few years earlier the marketing of cattle had been chaotic. The continual drives of great herds from Texas to points in Missouri, notably Sedalia, Boonville, Lexington and Independence, through the year 1855, were conducted over the bitter opposition of Missouri farmers, due to tick fever with which many Texas cattle were infected and which spread to local livestock. In 1866, when 260,000 head arrived at the railroad in Sedalia and tick fever became prevalent, farmers offered armed resistance and stampeded herds.

In 1867 the Kansas Legislature established a quarantine line north and south through Kansas on the sixth principal meridian. This limited drives to west of that line.

In 1868 the Kansas-Pacific Railroad reached Abilene and that town became the mecca for the trail herds. Later as the Legislature moved the quarantine line farther westward and the railroads advanced, Ellsworth, Hays and Dodge City became the chief loading points.

But during all these years there was no central marketplace in the West. Stock was driven to the nearest railroad, shipped to various Eastern points and sold for what it would bring. Out of this need came the enterprise to establish a central market at Kansas City, the natural marketing center for a vast Western territory.

For many years the willow flats, located on the east bank of the Kaw, from its mouth to the hills behind Argentine, had been a trading center. Here the trappers, hunters, farmers, squatters and Indians came to trade in livestock, grain, furs and any other commodities. It was a good camping ground with easy access to water.

With the coming of the Kansas-Pacific in 1862 and a railbed west of the Kaw, trading became concentrated on the east bank of the Kaw at 12th Street. (An early print pictures a long trail herd, with their driver on horseback, swimming across the Kaw.)

Expecting an increase in cattle, which had numbered 35,000 in 1867, Col. L.V. Morse, then superintendent of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, and James F. Joy, mapped off five acres and early in 1870 built 11 pens, 15 unloading chutes and a set of scales. That year some 100,000 head of cattle were handled. It was the beginning of the Kansas City Stock Yards, which grew to be second in size in the world. Pictured are the many pens and chutes, and in the background the chimneys of the packing houses, pouring out smoke.

An inset below shows the early Livestock Exchange Building on the east bank of the Kaw. The building was one that had been added to and the roof raised several times. It formed a complete rectangle around an open grassy court, occupied 2 1/2 acres, and contained 380 office rooms. A line across the tiled floor of the lobby marked the state line between Kansas and Missouri.

Disastrous floods of 1903 and 1908, when water reached the second floor, made a new building necessary. The present nine-story Livestock Exchange Building, fronting on Genesee at 16th, was erected in 1909-1911, at a site several blocks east of the old location.

Kansas City Times
May 8, 1981

AuthorRay, Mrs. Sam (Mildred)
Item TypePostcard
CollectionMrs. Sam Ray Postcard Collection (SC58)
See finding aid: http://localhistory.kclibrary.org/u?/Local,36981
Local SubjectLivestock Pens
Livestock Exchange Building
Digital FormatJPEG
RepositoryMissouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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