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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Henry Perry - Father of Kansas City Barbecue

Henry Perry's newspaper advertisement, The Kansas City Sun, December 22, 1917

According to the biography written by Daniel Coleman, Henry Perry, The Barbecue King, was born in 1875 in Shelby County, TN. When Perry was 15 years of age he got a job working in steamboat kitchens sailing on the Mississippi river. By 1907, Perry had moved on to Kansas City and found work as a porter in a Quality Hill saloon. In 1908, Perry began serving barbecue to workers in the Garment District from a barbecue stand. His labors paid off and soon he moved to a better location at 17th and Lydia and finally settling a few years later at 1514 E. 19th Street.

Perry was selling barbecue cooked over oak and hickory wrapped in newspaper for  25 cents. The sauce was harsh and peppery not sweet and tomato based. After Perry died at the age of 66 in 1940, Charlie Bryant, one of Perry's employees, inherited the business. He sold the restaurant to his brother, Arthur, who toned down the harshness of the sauce with tomato and moved to a location near the old Municipal Stadium. Today, the restaurant is known as Arthur Bryant's BBQ.

Besides the meats we think of like beef, pork, chicken, etc. when talking about Kansas City barbecue, the original Kansas City barbecue menu, as seen in the above advertisement, also included meats such as ground hog, raccoon, mutton, and opossum. When is the KCBS going to include those as categories in their sanctioned competitions?

You also may not have known, but Henry Perry was a very generous man. The Kansas City Sun, July 3, 1920 reported that Perry served a free barbecue dinner to 1000 "old men, women, and children" on the vacant lot behind his 19th and Vine street restaurant. When asked to comment about the barbecue Perry is reported to have replied "God has been so good to me" indicating that he was glad to share his blessings with others. According to the July 24, 1920 The Kansas City Sun, Perry's guests were served free of charge all the barbecue beef, pork, and mutton they could eat along with watermelon, lemonade, and soda pop.

1 comment:

  1. Great post.Little pieces of barbecue history like this one, are absolute gems! Thanks.