American Chemical Society
  Kansas City
Section


Officers Past Meetings Committees Spencer Award Archived Files Bylaws History Multimedia

The First 25 Years
As early as 1899, "every thing was up to date in Kansas City" in more ways than social style. Kansas City had more high school scholars in proportion to its population than any city in the federal union. Several chemists from industry, University of Missouri, and the University of Kansas met in 1899 to discuss current problems and issues. Some of the industries in Kansas City at the time were Meat Packing Plants generating 3.5 million carcasses a year, Flour Mills producing 2 million barrels of flour a year (second only to Buffalo), Bolt and Nut Company, the largest Smelter and Refinery plant in the world for gold, silver, lead and zinc, Oil Refineries, and the Cook Paint Company.

A common topic was a decision to join the national organization of the American Chemical Society (ACS,1876). In November 1899, a group of 20 chemists signed and sent a letter to National ACS requesting to be a local section. In January 1900, the Kansas City Section was officially accepted as the 13th local section in the organization. In 1901 in the Kansas City Star and Times, an article was published in the social column. The announcement stated that

"a charter was recently granted to the chemists for the Kansas City Section of the American Chemical Society, Americaís national organization of chemists. The territory of the Kansas City section (was to) include those portions of the states of Missouri and Kansas between the 93rd and 98th meridians."

Essentially, the Kansas City Section included most of Missouri and half of Kansas, and was the first section of the national organization west of the Mississippi River.

Beginning in 1900, the local section met once a month on a Saturday for a day of technical sharing. The atmosphere of the original meetings was joint problem solving. Each meeting consisted of three or four presentations of current problems followed by "lively discussions", usually brainstorming of possible solutions by all the attendees.

"The loose organization of the Society at the time, Kansas Cityís location on the edge of the prairie, far from the centers of scientific culture, and the state of transportation and communication int he 1900s, which now seems primitive, necessitated a great deal of self-dependence. Through the first decade and most of the second, the section remained a Society-in-miniature, held together by mutual interests of the members. Meetings centered around the presentation of papers by one or more members of the section and the discussion of these papers by the others. Both academic and industrial members shared an interest in the chemistry related to the development of this areaís natural resources and problems in the community with which chemists could be concerned. Although the academic group would from time to time present papers on philosophical and scientific matters, these topics were discussed on the basis of mutual interests and did not create a town-and-gown separation. Each member simply offered to the others knowledge that stemmed from his special interests." (Excerpted from The Kansas City Section: A Society of Chemists, 1900-1925, published in 1976, Larry Breed (ed.))

The meetings alternated between Kansas City and Lawrence. At that time the train ran between the two cities twice a day. Because of the limited transportation, the meetings tended to be at hotels across from the train station. At that time, Union Avenue was described as a great "honky-tonk" with "rows of saloons and businesses in knickknacks" and the Blossom House (usual place for the meeting) as the "scene of many political intrigues." In fact, the minutes for one of the meetings observed that "the train being late, the social part of the program was much longer than usual".

One of the original signers of the Kansas City Section Charter was Dr. Edward C. Franklin. Dr. Franklin performed research on ammonium system of compounds. He is not so famous for his research, but for the student who studied under him at the time of the formation of the section. A young gentleman by the name of Hamilton P. Cady studied under Dr. Franklin, and continued Dr. Franklinís research. It was the innovative, new Dr. Cady who discovered helium which was present in the natural gas. Dr. Cady continued teaching and was one of the first to introduce physical-chemical principles into the general science courses.

The first national ACS meeting held in Kansas City was in 1917. The records show the 382 attendees were registered for the meeting. The budget for the meeting was $1500-$2000. At the end of the meeting, there was $1000 surplus which was used to sponsor a French war orphan. The war orphan was a young girl whom the Kansas City section sponsored until 1926.

The Second 25 Years
The major event in the second 25 years was the formation of Linda Hall Library. Prior to the establishment of this technical library, most researchers had to write to the east coast, and have the references shipped to Kansas City. The references, if on loan, would have to be returned within the week. Of course, this posed a hindrance to the researchers in the area. Therefore, the local section together with the industries of Kansas City joined and formed the technical library. In addition, the Pittsburg, Manhattan, and Wichita sections were carved from Kansas Cityís territory during this period. The atmosphere changed from an early vitality to a rapid growth with the influence of a rapidly growing industrial base.

The Third 25 Years
The third 25 years are best characterized by the establishment of the large research laboratories-- Midwest Research Institute, the Spencer Chemical Company (later Gulf), and the Chemagro Corporation (later Baychem, Mobay, Bayer) and Marion Labs (Hoechst Marion Roussel).

The Fourth 25 Years
The Kansas City Section has grown to be classified as a medium large section with a large portion of active members. The active members participate in a number of specialty organizations along with the ACS. In the last 10 years, the Kansas City Section has been runner-up or winner of the best section within itís size category. The many activities include

Awards for members, students, and teachers (over 25 annually),
Demonstrations for schools and general public,
A nationally recognized award (Spencer Award) for accomplishments in agricultural and food chemistry,
Funding for high school student science projects,
Informative monthly meetings,
Sponsorship of teachers to regional and national ACS meetings, and much, much more!
Footnote:
Many thanks are given to Mr. Larry Breed, who researched the first 25 years of the section in great detail. Currently, all the Kansas City Section Records are archived at the Missouri Historical Society based at UMKC.

We have reached our 100th birthday! We would like help in developing the details for the last 75 years. We currently have sketchy information about the industries in Kansas City, but we have very little about our famous and not-so-famous members. If you or a friend have information about key members of the Kansas City Section, please contact us with information at our e-mail address or directly with Margie St. Germain, (816)737-3286 evenings or "stgermain.margie@epamail.epa.gov.". Thank you for your help!

We hope you enjoy this abbreviated history of our 100 year old section.