As one of Kansas City’s early merchants, Edward William Biggs was involved in everything social during his 40 year stay. According to his obituary, “E. W.” was a member of Kansas City’s First Baptist Church for 20 years and a life member of the Westport Masonic lodge and the Wyandotte chapter of the Royal Arch Masons. He was a Knight Templar, Shriner, a member of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Kansas City Club.
Since 1880, E. W. Biggs and Company operated as a wholesale fur trader in offices all over Kansas City, as well as branches throughout Kansas and Missouri. In the early 1900’s, his direct marketing campaigns in sports and hunting trade publications were state of the art at the time, and the state of the art direct mail advertising campaigns have changed little today.
E. W. Biggs & Company, 1912
Transcribed from Salina, Kansas - past and present, progress and prosperity - Souvenir,
Kansas City, Mo., Freeman Publishing Company.
“The firm of E. W. Biggs & Company located at Fourth and Iron Avenue, has been established many years but has been under the present management but one year. The business conducted is the buying and selling of hides, pelts, furs, etc. From three to five courteous clerks are required to promptly attend to the wants of trade. This firm has its headquarters located in Kansas City, Missouri. The branch here has built up a large trade as well as a wide reputation through courteous treatment and top prices paid. Mr. F. F. Challis, the manager, was born in Kansas and received his education in this state. He has been engaged in this line of business during his entire business career. Mr. Challis is also a member of the firm of Challis & Matthews, agents for the Day's Resilient Automobile Tire Filler. This firm is located at 129 North Fifth and make a specialty of filling tires with this compound which makes a solid tire, impossible to puncture, and requiring no air. Two assistants are required, and a floor space of 2500 square feet is occupied by this establishment. Mr. Challis is highly esteemed in this community and is a valued member of the M. W. A.”
As he neared retirement, E. W. turned over the reigns of the business to his son, Edward Arthur Biggs. With his business partner, Arthur E. Turner, Edward A. Biggs relocated the headquarters of the fur, hide and wool wholesaler to 136 Main Street The C. A. Burton building was home to E. W. Biggs and Company between 1915 and 1934.
The three story building cost $30,000 to build in 1905, and first housed the C. A. Burton Machine Company, and its blacksmithing facilities. After 1915, two floors were dedicated to the fur and hide wholesaling business, and the third was referred to on site plans as the Automobile Showroom.
Thomas Smart was the first merchant in this river front area in 1839, and Burton was another important figure. In 2005, Kansas City applied for preservation status for the original Old Town Historic District, placing the 100 year old building on the Nation Register of Historic Places. The status of earlier Biggs headquarters is not known.
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