The Kansas City, Kansan, February 2, 1986: p 3B
Several names for dry goods
(Editor's note: This is the 43rd in a series of "then Pyser-Mudge Dry Goods Co's Building,
and now" articles on places and things of interest in Kansas City, Kansas.
Post card from the collection of Robert
Kansas City, Kan., compiled by area historian R. Hosch.
Margaret Landis in observance of the 100th birthday
of KCK in 1986. Much of the information has appeared in past editions of The
(Transcriptions are presented without changes except to improve readability.)
This week we will study the history of an early-day dry goods store.
The 1897 Kansas City, Kan., City Directory listed R. Weinberg in the dry goods business
at 528 Minnesota Avenue. By 1900, the business was known as "The temple of
Economy" with Darwin A. Poyser as manager. A year later, Albert G. Ferguson, Melville
R. Mudge and D.A. Poyser were the proprietors of "The Temple of Economy." In 1904,
the business became known as "The Poyser-Mudge Dry Goods Company."
The Poyser-Mudge Dry Goods Company was active in civic affairs. It was an exhibitor in
the Merchant's and Business Men's Exposition and Carnival in 1906. In the fire that
destroyed so many of the booths (told in an earlier "then and now" article) the company's
loss was placed at $1,000 of which $750 was covered by insurance.
Darwin A. Poyser was involved in the building of Carnival Park at 14th and Armstrong.
He served as a director and later as president of the Carnival Park Company.
The building at 524 Minnesota Avenue was occupied by Alexander Collins, baker,
confectioner and caterer. His business consisted of a fine restaurant, an ice cream parlor,
a large bakery and a candy factory. He had four delivery wagons and employed 25 hands.
The Poyser-Mudge Dry Goods Company location later became Young's Dry Goods
Store. The buildings in the 500 block of Minnesota Avenue were taken in the Urban
Renewal Program in the 1960s.
A post card of The Poyser-Mudge Dry Goods Store Company is reminiscent of the days
before "store bought" and "ready-to-wear" clothes. It was a time when you "made your
own clothes" or had them made. Dressmakers, milliners and tailors were popular
professions at that time.
Dry goods stores mainly sold yard goods, thread, ribbons, buttons, handkerchiefs,
stockings, various notions (findings) like needles, pins, snaps and hook-and-eyes.
The stores had long shelves that were filled with bolts of all kinds of materials. Dress
material included: ginghams, calicoes, percale, lawns, batiste, sateen, nainsook, bleached
and unbleached muslin and India linen. Many of the wash materials had to be "shrunk"
before making them up.
The long counters had round-headed nails on the edge of the counter spaced for
measuring the yardage (today we have a meter measuring machine.) The counters also
had small round stools, fastened to the floor, for the customers to sit on while selecting
patterns or materials.
Dry goods Stores carried "fancy work" supplies for women who were handy with a
needle. if women weren't sewing on clothing, they usually had a piece of embroidery,
some crocheting, knitting, tatting or even quilting to work on. The stores generally
stocked embroidery patterns, floss and hoops' crochet thread and needles; yarn and
knitting needles and batting for quilt.
Tea towels were home-made and were usually made of unbleached muslin. Some dry
goods stores carried flour and sugar sack...this was when flour and sugar were packed in
50- or 100- pound bags made of muslin and mostly came from bakeries. After shrinking
the towels, they were hemmed. if they were finished "for fancy" or "company," they were
embroidered with different designs such as: flowers, vegetables, "Sunbonnet" girls with
the days of the week and various other patterns. If they were not embroidered, at least
they were "cat-stitched" around the hem in "turkey-red" thread.
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
Darning needles and darning thread were a "must." A mending aid also called mending
"egg" was used in darning. The thread came in six colors: black, brown, navy, white, grey
and tan. Mending and repairing clothing was a necessity. "My mother believed and
practiced the old saying: 'Patch it up...use it up...wear it out...make it do...or do without'
("also, eat it up")," said Margaret Landis, KCK area historian.
At this time, everybody carried a handkerchief. Everyday ones were usually plain or
colored. The fancy ones were finished with lace, initialed or embroidered. They were a
popular item for gift-giving. The fancy ones were worn in a coat or dress pocket or
carried as an accessory. The fancy handkerchiefs were "for show and not for blow"
(today we have the boxed paper products).
The ready availability of ready-made clothing is not the only reason for dry goods stores
going out of business. Probably, the main reason is found in the U.S. Census report in the
percentage of wives working outside the home. In 1890, about 7.5 worked; in 1980, 50
Today, we have the department stores that carry everything from ready-to-wear for all the
family to televisions, stereos, refrigerators and some even do automobile repair.
But for yard goods you have to get that at a fabric shop.