Why is Kansas City in Missouri? Mr. Beat answers, and films on location, getting some strange looks on State Line Road. Yayness!
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“Kansas City and How It Grew, 1822-2011”
by James R. Shortridge
In 2005, I watched the British band Keane at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City. After they finished playing a song, the lead singer, Tom Chaplin, said it was the band’s first time in Kansas. Many members of the crowd immediately booed him for saying that. Why?
Kansas City is in Missouri.
But at least Chaplin had a good excuse, as most people who are not American don’t know that. They may not even know that Kansas and Missouri exist, although a lot of people seem to know Kansas due to The Wizard of Oz.
Before you get all mad at stuff. I know there’s more than Kansas City, Missouri.
Across the street there’s a Kansas City, Kansas, too!
Most of my wife’s family is from that Kansas City, the one in, you know, Kansas. But Kansas City, Kansas, or KCK is often overshadowed by Kansas City, Missouri, or KCMO due to the fact that it’s more than three times larger and has the majority of attractions that “Kansas City” is known for. Sure, KCK has the Kansas Speedway and Sporting KC, but KCMO has the Power and Light District, the Sprint Center, the World War 1 Museum, Westport, the Country Club Plaza, the Royals and the Chiefs, and Bryan Busby.
So there are two Kansas Cities, but why is the Kansas City most people think of the one that’s in Missouri? Well strangely, Kansas City, Missouri existed first. First known as The City of Kansas, it was incorporated on February 22, 1853. Its residents named it after the Kansa, a Native American tribe that the residents of Kansas also named their state after later on. Keep in mind that Kansas didn’t exist yet in 1853. The next year, it became a territory and it didn’t become a state until 1861.
It wasn’t until October 1872 that a few smaller towns all together to officially form Kansas City, Kansas. Of course, this was after Kansas City, Missouri’s population had skyrocketed. Before the Civil War, KCMO had less than 5,000 people. A decade later, it was approaching 35,000. The folks in KCK wanted to piggyback on the success of KCMO and essentially confuse visitors into thinking THEY were the real Kansas City. I should mention that before this, Kansas politicians made several attempts to annex KCMO and the surrounding area into Kansas. The Kansas City Times editorial board wrote, “Kansas City, Mo, is the legitimate outgrowth of the state of Kansas. In everything but a line on the map she is essentially a city of Kansas.” Unfortunately for Kansas, Missourians didn’t want to lose KCMO because you know, KCMO is awesome, so they fought back.
Since then, the two cities and their suburbs have thrived in their own ways, but KCMO often dominates the headlines. Freaking KCMO.
Anyway, how about this street behind me? It divides not just part of KCK and KCMO, but Kansas and Missouri further south. It’s called State Line Road, and it’s one of the most unique borders in the world. A street that divides two states presents unique challenges. Taxes are lower on this side than that side (that’s why you typically see more businesses on this side). At one time, the drinking age was 18 on that side of the street but 21 on this side. That led to a lot of 18 year olds crossing this street from here to there and later stumbling back, at least I presume. But how and why did State Line Road come to be?
The earliest mention of State Line Road comes from an 1872 directory. Back then, it was just a few blocks long. Just like today, people went back and forth across the border like it was nothing. Back then, this was where the cows were. In fact, cows could often be in both states at the same time. The stockyards straddled the border so that people could more easily conduct business on both sides of the state line, sometimes within the same building.
Soon though, it became apparent that a road separating the stockyards made it easier to move about to conduct such business. As the cities and their suburbs grew to the south, so did State Line Road. Today, it stretches nearly 14 miles.