(1875 to March 22, 1940)
"The Father of Kansas City
April 16, 2010
All roads lead to Kansas City. Fortunately for the people of Kansas City,
and barbecue lovers around the world, in 1909, Henry Perry chose to take
one of those roads.
He was born in 1875 in Shelby County Tennessee, close to the banks
of the Mississippi River. As a young man he worked on steamboat
restaurants on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. A job that gave him
exposure to the restaurant business and enabled him to travel to places like Minneapolis, Chicago, and Kansas City.
Now some barbecue aficionados like to refer to it as Divine Providence
when Henry Perry came to Kansas City. Call it what you want, karma,
happenstance, serendipity, but Henry Perry got out of the steamboat
business and in 1907 made his way to Kansas
City and called it home. He landed a job working as a Porter at the Quality
Hill Saloon. He soon changed gears and in 1908 combined his skills he acquired
on the steamboat restaurants, and his knowledge of southern barbecue, and
started selling smoked meats in an alley stand to workers in the Kansas
City Garment District. The people of Kansas City did not know it at the
time, but it was this change in professions, that would put
Kansas City on the road to becoming the "Barbecue Capital of the World."
His barbecue must have been pretty good, because from there he moved his
stand to the inner city neighborhood of 18th Street & Vine. His business
grew and he moved a few blocks away near 19th and Highland
where he operated out of an old trolley barn. This neighborhood was famous
for it's contribution to Kansas City Jazz.
It was at this location that customers from all walks of life came
to pay 25 cents for the best slab of barbecue they had ever tasted, smoked
over oak and hickory, and wrapped in newsprint.
Perry was in his element. His menu consisted of beef, possum, woodchuck, and raccoon. He was the self proclaimed "King of Barbecue", and his court included none
other than people like Charlie Bryant and Arthur Pinkard.
Henry Perry passed away on March 22, 1940 at the age of 66. And not long
after he died, Kansas City's barbecue fortunes were about to drastically
change. Upon his passing, Charlie Bryant inherited the business. Charlie
sold the business to his brother Arthur who changed the name of the
restaurant to Arthur Bryant's. Arthur Pinkard joined forces with
George Gates who founded Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q. These would become two of
the most influential barbecue establishments in the world. Countless
other barbecue restaurants in Kansas City followed in their footsteps.
It's impossible to say what the full impact of Henry Perry's contribution
to barbecue is, but fortunately for the people of Kansas City, and
barbecue fans around the world, Henry Perry made the decision to become an
entrepreneur and sell barbecue in a alley in Kansas City.
He took the road to Kansas City and left a legacy in which all Kansas City
barbecue leads back to Henry Perry. .
1. Wikipedia.org/wiki/Kansas City Style barbecue
3. Statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Henry Perry