Ernest Hemingway lived and worked in Kansas City for more than a year, if all his trips here are added together. The longest, a six-month stay, was while a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star from October 1917 to April 1918. His experiences during that period were recast and presented in at least five of his novels, four of his published sketches and half a dozen of his short stories. He later called The Star’s famous style sheet "the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing." See our Hemingway page.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
President Harry S. Truman worked two weeks in 1902 in The Star’s mailroom, making $7 the first week and $5.40 the second. Supported in politics by infamous big-city Democratic boss Tom Pendergast, Truman feuded continuously with Star Editor Roy Roberts, a rock-ribbed Republican. In the final days of his presidency his administration filed antitrust charges against The Star over its ownership of WDAF TV (a case the newspaper eventually lost). In 1950 Truman boasted in an unmailed letter to Roberts: "If The Star is at all mentioned in history, it will be because the President of the U.S. worked there for a few weeks…."
After leaving the presidency, Teddy Roosevelt remained active in politics and concerned about America’s slow preparation entering World War I. A close friend of Star founder William Rockhill Nelson, Roosevelt was convinced to share his thoughts in a series of regular columns that the newspaper sent out over the wires. Dubbing himself The Star’s newest "cub reporter," Roosevelt typed his first column in The Star’s newsroom during a September 1917 visit to Kansas City. In a press release, the newspaper crowed: "The Star would be guilty of false modesty if it did not frankly confess its happiness in the acquisition of Colonel Roosevelt to its organization in the capacity of a regular contributor." Roosevelt dictated his last column to The Star on Friday, Jan. 3, 1919, and died the following Monday.
For six years as a boy, Walt Disney delivered copies of The Kansas City Star and (morning) Kansas City Times with his father, who was a newspaper carrier. He applied for a permanent job with The Star as a cartoonist, clerk and even truck driver – but the newspaper turned him down each time. Disney based Mickey Mouse on a little rodent he befriended while working in his small animation studio in Kansas City. After his studio failed, he left nearly penniless on a train for Hollywood. He told fellow passengers he was going to make animated cartoons. The reaction, Disney recalled, "was like saying I swept out latrines." His "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the world's first feature-length animated film, proved a stunning financial success.
Hicks was Life Magazine’s first photo editor, developing the photo essay for which the magazine became famous and coining the term "photojournalist." He was born in Sedalia, Mo., and started as a copy editor and picture editor at The Star, working alongside Ernest Hemingway. He moved to New York City in 1928, where he became executive editor of The Associated Press. He ended his career as a professor at the University of Miami, which named a major photojournalism conference in his honor.
EUGENE C. PULLIAM
Pulliam was the founder and longtime president of Central Newspapers Inc., a multibillion-dollar media corporation that included The Indianapolis Star, the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Gazette and newspapers and radio stations in nine states. Born in a sod dugout house in Ulysses, Kan., Pulliam later moved to Kansas City to become a reporter for The Star. At DePauw University, Pulliam helped found a journalism fraternity that later became the Society of Professional Journalists.
Probably the newspaper's most recognized name for three decades, Vaughan wrote the Starbeams column from 1946 until his death in 1977 – more than 100,000 items and 3,500 full-length columns. He was regularly published in Reader's Digest, Better Homes and Gardens (under the pseudonym Burton Hillis) and other newspapers nationwide. A short-term pessimist and long-term optimist, Vaughan was described by an associate as "kind enough to help us endure pomposities. He is not about to change the world. He only helps us endure what cannot be changed – the absurdity of being a human being."
WILLIAM ROCKHILL NELSON
Star founder Nelson was an Indianan who had run a construction business, gambled and lost in commodities and, before heading west, owned the Fort Wayne Sentinel. Big in body and grand in vision, Nelson looked at the muddy streets of Kansas City and saw possibilities to make money and make a difference. His associates called him "Colonel" – "Not that he was ever a colonel of anything," explained William Allen White. "He was just coloneliferous." Nelson's legacies to the city are its parks and boulevard system, its art gallery and its largest newspaper. Thirty-nine when he founded The Star, he died in 1915 at 74.
WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE
One of the most popular and widely quoted small-town editors in American history, White became famous as the owner and editor of the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette. Before he became a noted author and newspaper owner, White worked as a reporter for The Star, joining the paper in 1892. In a celebrated newsroom incident, White came to the rescue of William Rockhill Nelson after Nelson was attacked in his office by an angry mayor. White and The Star’s managing editor grabbed the mayor, threw him down the stairs and then worked to put out an extra edition about the incident.