Title: J. J. Foster
Description: Advertising card for J. J. Foster with an image of red and white flowers. Front of card says: "J. J. Foster, Harness, Saddles, Dog Collars. Pure Witch Hazel 25c Quart. Telephone 2028." Back of card is blank. Address given on front of card:
511 Main St.
Subject(s): Advertising cards; Saddlery; Flowers;
Local Subject(s): Foster, John J.;
Date: ca. 1880-1900
Item Type: Advertising Card
Dimensions: 7 x 14 cm.
Collection: Advertising Cards (SC3)
See finding aid: http://www.kchistory.org/u?/Local,37216
Company Notes: John J. Foster was born on a farm in Camden, Ray County, Missouri, April 5, 1858, to George W. and Kezziah Foster. The 1870 census lists George as both a farmer and druggist who came to Missouri from Ohio around 1836.
In 1876 J. J. Foster arrived in Kansas City from Richmond to further his education. He attended Franklin school. Due to financial difficulties, however, he was forced to drop out. He entered a three-year apprenticeship with Mr. Deberry learning the saddle and harness trade by “greasing the harness and aiding the cutters and stitchers.” Upon completion of the apprenticeship, Foster became a partner with Deberry. They purchased a saddlery business at 306 Main Street that had been operated by Smith & McDonald since the 1840s. This earned him the distinction in later years of having one of the “oldest retail harness establishments in Missouri.”
A year and a half later, Foster bought out DeBerry, and J. J. Foster operated his own saddlery and harness business. He moved his shop to 511 Main in 1889 where it remained for 40 years. Foster’s trade mark, a dapple-grey painted wooden horse called Display, stood in front of the store for many of those years. When age and the automobile caused Foster to close shop in 1929, Display found a home in the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
In 1905 Foster expanded, opening another store at 1122 Grand. A few years later, in1908, Adolph Helmreich joined the firm along with George M. Wagner. They operated under the new name of Foster Helmreich Wagner Harness Co. and added a store at 1330 Main.
Over the more than 50 years that Foster was in business, he actively participated in many civic and community activities. He was a director of the Horse Show Association (which later became part of the American Royal) and provided prizes for the different events, like the 1897 J. J. Foster’s Special: “lady’s and gentleman’s saddle, bridle and blanket, complete.” His booths at the Priests of Pallas fall festival were large and attractive.
Additionally, Foster was a member of the Elm Ridge Golf and Country Club, Knife & Fork Club, Rotary Club, Elks, Moose, Commercial Club, Latour Hunting Club, and the Cooley Lake Hunting & Fishing Club among others. Foster’s favorite pastime was hunting, but he was also a keen baseball fan, acting as president of the J. J. Foster City League ball team.
In 1887 Foster purchased the land which he leased for 99 years to the Kansas City Power and Light Company for their new building that was constructed in 1931.
On a personal note, Foster married Miss Elizabeth Mintun, of Kansas City, June 30, 1879. Later, on June 29, 1914, he married Charline Bayha, whose father, John Bayha, operated a real estate company. They had a son, John J. Foster, Jr., who was 14 years old when Foster died April 14, 1932. Foster is buried at Mt. Washington cemetery.
Written by librarian Sherrie Kline Smith, 2006
See Also: SC3, Box 9, Scrapbook 3, page 81
Location: SC3, Box 2, Harness/Saddlery
Repository: Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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