Kansas City: . Large albumen photograph, 11 x 21.75 inches, mounted on a printed broadside measuring 20 x 24 inches. A few small chips at upper left corner and right edge of image; upper left quadrant of print separating from mount, with some slight wrinkling. Image fading somewhat, but still very distinct. Mount composed of multiple, layered sheets beginning to separate. Light wear at edges; light dampstaining at left edge, slightly entering border of photograph. Evenly tanned, light foxing. Good. Item #1783
A striking mammoth photograph of the Kansas City Stockyards as they were in 1894, which acts here as the centerpiece of a large broadside advertising the yards and three of the principal livestock merchants and meat packing businesses operating there during the last decade of the 19th century. The stockyards were opened in 1871 in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City, which straddles the border of Missouri and Kansas at the confluence of their namesake rivers, in order to create a marketplace for cattle and other livestock closer to Western producers than the country's principal yards at the time in Chicago. This proximity to suppliers and the status of Kansas City as a significant transportation hub, with connections to many of the major western railroads, allowed the stockyards to rival their counterparts by the end of the 19th century, and the owners of the yards could boast a daily processing capacity of over 170,000 animals in an operation that covered 200 acres and employed 20,000 people.
The present large-scale photograph demonstrates the success and scale that the stockyards had attained by the mid-1890s. Animal pens containing what must be thousands of cattle stretch for nearly as far as the the eye can see. Interspersed among the pens are the numerous outbuildings and structures required for moving, inspecting, treating, and otherwise handling the livestock. Only in the distant background are the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, as well as several of the rail bridges that transversed them, visible. Surrounding the image are advertisements for three major livestock and meat packing business operating at the stock yards, the Campbell Commission Company, the Armour Packing Company, and the Holcomb-Leary Company, as well as a brief promotional text for the yards themselves, which reads, in part:
"The Kansas City stock yards are the most complete and commodious in the West, and second largest in the world. Higher prices are realized here than farther East.... There are in regular attendance sharp, competitive buyers for the packing houses of Chicago, Omaha, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, New York and Boston, and the export trade to Europe. All the eighteen railroads running into Kansas City have direct connection with the yards."
Below the text, data for 1893 are given, which state that the yards handled almost 1.75 million cattle, two million hogs, and 570,000 sheep during the year. We can locate no similar images in scope or size from this period. A rare and ephemeral, not to mention arresting, promotional piece.