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Henry Perry

 (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

2. ExperienceKansasCity.com/barbeque

3. Statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Henry Perry








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