Minutes and Music

Missouri Valley Special Collections received two unique donations in April 2018.  Though completely different from each other in format and content, both illuminate aspects of Kansas City’s past that are often overlooked or forgotten.

Please note that neither of these collections is currently available for immediate use.  Contact lhistory@kclibrary.org or 816.701.3427 for assistance in accessing these materials.

Kansas City Association for Public Improvements/Chamber of Commerce record book, 1856-1879

Record book
Record book

The record book for the Kansas City Association for Public Improvements looks like it’s been used quite a bit over the years.  Generously donated by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, it contains the articles of incorporation, by-laws, and meeting minutes of the earliest iteration of that organization.  Among the 25 founders of the group are some well-known early residents of Kansas City: Johnston Lykins, Robert Van Horn, Kersey Coates, and Dr. Benoist Troost.  

Established on October 21, 1856, the goal of the Association was, “to foster and advance the public interest of Kansas City, until we shall occupy that exalted position to which her superior natural advantages so justly entitle her, the great commercial emporium of the West.”  The group officially changed its name to the Chamber of Commerce two months later in December 1856.  Members focused their efforts on attracting railroads, steamboats, and businesses to the city, as well as building commercial ties with nearby towns.  The volume contains minutes up to 1879, though there are a couple of gaps in the record.  Due to preservation concerns, the original book will be photocopied and scanned for researchers’ use.  This process is expected to be complete at the end of Summer 2018.  

Articles of Incorporation        Minutes for July 31, 1863
Left: Kansas City Association for Public Improvement Articles of Incorporation, October 21, 1856.
Right: Discussing the need for safe travel along the Santa Fe Trail during the Civil War, July 31, 1863.

Philip A. Stewart Charles L. Johnson Collection

Charles L. Johnson was a prolific composer from the 1890s into the mid-20th century.  Born in Armourdale in Kansas City, KS in 1876, Johnson spent most of his life in the area, writing, arranging, playing, printing, and selling music.  Best known for his ragtime songs, he composed almost 300 pieces of music during his lengthy career.  Johnson died in 1950, and in 1968 his widow, Eva, donated a collection of his printed and unpublished music, which we still have today.

Philip A. Stewart began collecting Johnson’s sheet music from area flea markets in the 1960s.  His intention was to preserve the legacy of a local musician who never achieved much fame outside of his hometown.  The project eventually turned into what Mr. Stewart referred to as a “quest” to learn more about the personal side of Johnson through his music.  He went on to compile three books on Johnson’s work: The Music of Charles Leslie Johnson: A Collector’s Journey (originally printed in 1996; revised and re-released in 2009); Rags and Other Riches: Instrumental Selections of Charles Leslie Johnson (2009); and A Songbook of Charles Leslie Johnson: War and Other Pieces (2010).  After Mr. Stewart passed away in 2017, his family donated his extensive collection to MVSC so that it would be accessible along with other Charles Johnson materials.  We hope to have the collection ready for public use by the end of 2018.

The Harvest Hop     Porcupine Rag

Dream of the Fairies     Lucinda's Rag Time Ball
Cover art for a few pieces from the Philip A. Stewart Charles L. Johnson Collection: The Harvest Hop (1908); Porcupine Rag (1909); Dream of the Fairies (1911); and Lucinda’s Rag Time Ball (1913).

MVSC is grateful for all our wonderful donors.  Thinking about giving something?  Visit this page to learn more about the donation process.


About the Author

Kate Hill is a Senior Archivist in the Missouri Valley Special Collections.


Please do not submit reference and informational questions for staff in the comments field.

If you have a question that requires staff assistance, please email Missouri Valley Special Collections at lhistory@kclibrary.org.

Thank you!