1. Walt Disney’s Dream Of A Talking Mouse
Where would we be without Disney? I don’t want to find out. A life without “Aladdin” is no life at all, really. Walt Disney’s family moved to KCMO while he was still in elementary school. There he met Walter Pfeiffer, whose family introduced Walt to the world of vaudeville and movies.
Walt began taking classes at the Kansas City Art Institute, and after spending some time abroad he returned to Kansas City in 1919 in hopes of getting his artistic career off the ground. The rest is talking mouse history.
2. … And The Mouse Himself
Source: YouTube user Crayshen
One of Walt Disney’s first ventures into animation was with the short-lived film studio Laugh-O-gram Films, based in KCMO. Walt was contracted to animate 12 shorts, which were called Newman’s Laugh-O-grams.
It is at his desk here at Laugh-O-grams where Walt has said that he found his inspiration for the world’s most famous mouse: Mickey himself. An actual mouse who became friendly with Walt and continued to visit his desk daily is what made it all happen.
3. Barbecue, Kansas City Style
All cities that are famous for their barbecue are convinced that theirs is the best. But there’s something about Kansas City Style barbecue that makes it stand out from the pack.
The now-famous slow-cooked dish landed on the map due to using a variety of different meats slathered in a thick tomato and molasses-based sauce and then slow-smoked over different types of wood.
And Kansas City’s burnt ends are the shining star and can be found at just about every single one of the 100 barbecue restaurants in KCMO.
4. The Greeting Card Company That Invented Greeting Cards
Hallmark has been making it easy to send nice wishes to people you care about for over a century. And the pioneers of the greeting card industry got their start all those years ago right here in Kansas City.
The idea began in 1903 when Joyce Clyde Hall became intrigued with the popularity of postcards. He soon moved on to manufacturing greeting cards. In 1917 the company produced the first known mass-marketed wrapping paper and in 1928, they became known as Hallmark.
5. Easter Mornings By Russell Stover
Source: Flickr user Mike Mozart
Russell Stover might be known for their heavenly little bites of chocolate heaven, but the company got its start back in 1921 when Russell Stover and his partner Christian Nelson invented the world’s first chocolate-dipped ice cream bar, naming it the Eskimo Bar.
In 1925, they opened candy factories in both Denver and Kansas City. Then, in 1931, as the company continued to grow, the Russell Stover headquarters officially moved to Kansas City where it has been running strong ever since.
6. “A Farewell To Arms”
Ernest Hemingway is one of the biggest names in 20th century literature. And it stands to reason that he learned his craft and gleaned inspiration for his work right here in Kansas City.
Hemingway worked as a journalist and reporter for The Kansas City Star where Hemingway has said that he learned the most valuable tricks of the trade: “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.”
7. Multiplex Movie Theaters
Source: Flickr user camknows
Next time you’re checking out the next blockbuster hit on a massive IMAX screen, in a cushy leather seat, you can know that Kansas City has been hard at work making it happen.
AMC Movie theaters opened the two-screen Parkway Twin in a shopping center on Kansas City’s Ward Parkway in 1963. Legend has it that owner Stanley Durwood had the idea to improve his flatlined profit margin by adding a second screen to this theater while keeping the same staff. It was a hit and the movie industry quickly followed suit, giving rise to multiplex theaters.
8. The Original Blonde Bombshell
Back before anyone had even heard of Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow was one of the biggest blonde bombshells of Hollywood’s glamour age. She was MGM’s leading lady, discovered by Howard Hughes.
She was ranked 22nd on the list of AFI 100 Years…100 Stars List. She was the dream woman of men all over the world. She was a line in Madonna’s hit song Vogue. Jean Harlow was many things. She was also a Kansas City native, born here on March 3, 1911 and immortalized on the screen forever.
9. H&R Block Making April 15th Less Stressful
April 15th is probably the most stressful day of the year for many Americans. It’s the dreaded tax day, when being buried alive by stacks of forms, documents, and receipts seems like a very real possibility.
But H&R Block has taken the leg work out of the process for millions of people across the country since it began in Kansas City in 1955. We owe you so, so very much.
10. Boulevard Brewing Company
Source: Boulevard Brewing Company Facebook
People all over KCMO love a beer from Boulevard Brewing Company, which has become somewhat of a landmark of the city since it began hopping in 1988. People who don’t live in the Kansas City metro area might not yet have had the opportunity to try one yet, but chances are you have.
Boulevard Brewing Company is currently ranked as the 12th largest craft brewery and the 19th largest active brewery in the country. The company is no longer private, as it was acquired by Moortgat Brewery in 2013, but it is still headquartered in Kansas City.
11. The Musical Stylings Of Burt Bacharach
Contrary to popular belief, the world of music doesn’t thrive on pop music alone. There is a whole underbelly of artists, writers, and composers of music that has been selling millions and winning awards for decades. Burt Bacharach is one of the best, and he’s from right here in KCMO.
Bacharach is a six-time Grammy Award winner, known for writing 73 Top 40 hits in the United States and 52 Top 40 hits in the UK. The most well-known of those songs include “What’s New Pussycat,” “Promises, Promises,” and the classic “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” which is now undoubtedly playing in your head. You’re welcome.
12. Soaps Indi-Gone Wild
Source: Zum Bar Soap Facebook
If you’re one of the millions people who like to, you know, shower, there’s a pretty good possibility you’ve heard of Zum Bar Soaps. Along with many other all-natural products, Zum Bar Soaps are made by the hippie-strong Kansas City company, Indigo Wild.
Featured in magazines like Natural Health, Vegetarian, Every Day With Rachel Ray, Country Living, Shape, and Maxim among many more, Indigo Wild is committed to providing high quality, organic products from hand-poured soaps to all-natural cleaners.
13. The Talented Mr. Cheadle
Boogie Nights, Out of Sight, Traffic, The Rat Pack, Swordfish, Crash, Reign Over Me, and Iron Man 2 and 3. Not to mention Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen, Hotel Rwanda, and the new series House of Lies. All of these movies have one thing in common—they all star Kansas City boy Don Cheadle.
Cheadle was born right here in Kansas City on November 29, 1964 before moving on to make a pretty respectable name for himself in Hollywood.
14. Baked Goods… For Dogs
Source: Three Dog Bakery Facebook
What started off as an idea for helping a beloved family dog exploded into a sensation. Three Dog Bakery owners Mark and Dan baked their first batch of treats when their dog Gracie refused to eat any other food—and they not only were gobbled up by Gracie, but by every other dog in Kansas City.
Today, not only can these baked goods from Three Dog Bakery be found in more than 30 stores across various states throughout the country, they’re so popular they’ve even reached Canada and Hong Kong.
15. Giant Shuttlecocks
Source: Visit Kansas City Facebook
Perhaps the most memorable landmarks in Kansas City are also some of the most unlikely. Massive shuttlecocks rest in front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum, each one towering at 18 feet tall and weighing two and a half tons.
The shuttlecocks are for more than just novelty show, though. They’re considered by many in the art world to be one of the most important pop culture sculptures in the world. Some critics hate them, of course. But regardless, they highlight the fun, light-hearted nature of the city and rake in lots of attention.
What’s something you’re glad came from Kansas City? Tell us in the comments below!