Pinkerton Detective / Charlie Siringo

Trips Into History explores the old west and in particular a Pinkerton operative of the late 1800’s. A name that may not come up as often as it should is that of Charlie Siringo.Charlie Siringo was involved in old west law enforcement as much or maybe more than familiar names such as Pat Garrett, Wyatt Earp and Bill Tilghman.

Charlie Siringo while Charlie Siringo gained much of his fame, and spent twenty-two years at it, as a detective for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. This was the detective agency started in the mid 1800’s by Allan Pinkerton, a one time bodyguard for Abraham Lincoln, that some called “America’s Scotland Yard“. It has been written that Pinkerton had as many as 2,000 detectives on the payroll and some 30,000 in reserve. This was a total larger than the U.S. standing army during the era.

pinkerton detective agencyCharlie Siringo was a onetime Texas cowboy, a Pinkerton detective and the author of some thirty books. Many would say that Charlie Siringo molded the cowboy image as it applied to private detective work. He worked largely in the era where a Pinkerton operative acted as a sort of quasi-lawman.

From Cowboy to Detective

Charlie Siringo who was born in south Texas was looking for adventure. He moved to Chicago and because he could furnish several good references, one reportedly being from none other than Pat Garrett, Charlie Siringo was able to get a job with the Pinkertons in 1886.  His hiring was also brought along by the fact that the Pinkertons were in the market for a “cowboy detective“. Western cattle ranches were in their heyday and the Pinkertons were busy. This was fine with Siringo since he had little interest in working in the east. He was destined to be assigned to Pinkertons Denver office.

charlie siringo

Charlie Siringo, circa 1890

Before that occurred however, Siringo would find himself involved with the Haymarket Riots in Chicago. What is referred to as the Haymarket Riots was a lethal labor altercation with anarchist overtones. It ignited with a bombiing that killed Chicago policeman. This was one of Chicago’s largest labor disputes only to be eclipsed by the violent Pullman Strike during the 1890’s financial depression.

Eventually Charlie Siringo did make his way west with the Pinkertons working out of their Denver office as an “operative“. That was the term used to describe the Pinkerton detectives. Back again in the west, Siringo was put to work in a variety of the things.

Chasing Rustlers, Thieves  and Outlaws

Siringo was said to have worked for the Pinkertons as far south as Mexico and as far north as Alaska. This must have worked well for the man that disliked desk jobs. It’s also been noted that Charlie Siringo worked undercover a good deal which was something fairly unique for the late 1800’s.

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Wild Bunch Gang photo. Kid Curry (Harvey Logan) is standing on the right.

Siringo was present in Dodge City Kansas when Wyatt Earp allegedly had his confrontation with Clay Allison. Charlie Siringo also provided the information for the capture of the wanted outlaw Kid Curry whose real name was Harvey Logan and was a member of the infamous “Wild Bunch Gang“.

Siringo also did work for the Pinkertons on behalf of the railroads. The railroads were big customers of the Pinkertons. One case involved theft from a railroad in Texas. Siringo’s work on this case covered both Texas and across the border into Mexico. The case was solved when Charlie Siringo found the guilty culprits to be the railroad’s own general manager along with some of the passenger conductors. This most likely was another undercover operation that Siringo proved so good at.

The Bloody and Violent Coeur d’ Alene Strike

Probably because of his experience with the Haymarket Riots in Chicago, Charlie Siringo was trying hard not to get involved with his company’s assignments in Idaho on behalf of  mine owners. He had been working in Denver at the time doing what he referred to as ” city work“. His preference was to work out in the open. Away from the office. City work was much more confining. Working out in the open let Siringo escape the heavy oversight of the Pinkerton office. The labor unrest in Idaho would eventually allow Siringo get out of the office. Charlie Siringo probably thought this was both good and bad.

During the national financial downturn of the early 1890’s, Idaho miners wages were cut and strikes and violence soon erupted. It’s important to note that just about every labor dispute in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s had to do with cut wages and hours. Unionizing was in full swing. The Pinkertons were hired by the mine owners to try to infiltrate the union and learn of their plans.

Charlie Siringo, probably as a result of his Haymarket Riots experience, developed a hatred for anarchists but at the same time he was sympathetic toward miner’s grievances. In many respects he was a man in the middle. Although this was work away from the office, Siringo didn’t want this Idaho assignment. After coaxing and pressure from Pinkerton and the Mine Owners Association, he agreed to accept the assignment. His job would be to pose as a mine worker at the Gem Mine in Wallace Idaho, work alongside the miners, and try to gain as much information about union activities as he could.

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Wallace Idaho after the Great Fire of 1910. This was the location of much violence during the 1890's miners strike.

The mine owners were trying to bring scab labor in by train. The workers and union organizers became aware and were determined to stop it by any means necessary. In one instance a trainload of scab workers was on the way and the miners in Wallace Idaho were preparing for the confrontation. Siringo learned of this and was able to tip off the mine owners who then ordered the train to proceed straight through Wallace without stopping.

Charlie Siringo eventually lost his cover and was a prime target of the union. Fortunately for the mine owners and for Siringo, the U.S. military was sent in to restore order. Charlie Siringo, by request of the military, pointed out the union leaders and they were rounded up by Siringo and others. They were placed in what was called at the time the “bull pen”. It’s important to note that Siringo pointed out the union leaders who in his judgement were the troublemakers. The ones inciting the workers. Not all of the union men fit that category. By the same token he pointed out mine managers who in his judgement aggravated the situation and in some cases incited the violence. This again was an example of Siringo’s sympathy for the plight of many workingmen even though he served at the behest of the Pinkertons and the owners.

1904 Cripple Creek Colorado, the scene of early 1900's miner strikes

The outcome of the Couer d’ Alene Strike was the 1893 formation of the Western Federation of Miners which was considered a radical union operating in the Western mining states. It would be nice to think that things settled down but trouble again flared in the late 1890’s and once again U.S. troops were brought into Idaho to restore order. The federal troops didn’t leave the area until 1901. Labor unrest was still a big issue. Violent miner strikes cropped up later in Colorado during the early 1900′s and, there too, the Western Federation of Miners were the unionizing force.

See our additional Trips Into History articles on the Pinkertons and Jesse James and the early 1900’s miners strike and Mass Deportation in Bisbee Arizona.

Charlie Siringo the Author

Charlei Siringo left the employ of the Pinkertons in 1907. Just like Allan Pinkerton he decided to write about his experiences. The Pinkertons however felt that Siringo was violating their confidentiality agreement and court hearings held things up for a few years.Eventually, Charlie Siringo agreed to delete the use of the Pinkerton name in the book titles and that settled the matter.

There were basically four themes that Siringo wrote about. These were,  his youth and life as a cowboy, Billy the Kid who he had both known and chased, his twenty-two years as a Pinkerton operative, and the outlaws with whom he had come in contact with. In addition to the above, Siringo worked as an advisor in Hollywood and even had a few bit parts.

Siringo’s writings about his many years with the Pinkertons caused a bit of a stir. The Pinkerton Agency initially blocked Siringo’s writings citing the confidentiality agreement all Pinkerton operatives signed. After a few years  the two sides reached an agreement and Siringo kept the “Pinkerton” name out of his book titles.

Charlie Siringo happened to live in an era of great change. It was the last years of the frontier, the industrializing of America, and the start of a new century. Other notables that lived through this era were Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, Theodore Roosevelt, Wyatt Earp and of course many others. What I find interesting is how these memoirs, written later in life, seem describe a time that is fascinatingly different than the twentieth century. The change during the years of about 1880 to 1915 was dramatic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the frontier officially ended in 1890. By the year 1910 people were starting to drive automobiles obtaining their horsepower from internal combustion engines fueled by gasoline. How times changed.

Books About and By Charlie Siringo

Among the books I’d recommend to explore more about the life of Charlie Siringo include…Charlie Siringo’s West: An Interpretive Biography by author Howard R. Lamar. Also, A Texas Cowboy by Charles A. Siringo and A Cowboy Detective: A True Story of Twenty-Two Years With A World Famous Detective Agency by Charles A. Siringo.

 

People of the Civil War

Union Soldiers and the Draft

One of the most interesting facts about the American Civil War, and there are many, was the composition of the troops involved on both sides. Who were the soldiers? Who were the volunteers? Why did they join the fight? Who were some of the famous immigrants from the Civil War? There were large divisions in the country and sides were being taken. Often times families themselves were split in their loyalties.

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Civil War Sword Bayonet

In the book, The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts, author Burke Davis states that the White House itself was an example of the divisions in the country. President Abraham Lincoln’s brothers-in-law wore Confederate uniforms. One was even charged with brutality to Union prisoners in Richmond Virginia.

The Union instituted a draft. The Enrollment Act, passed by the Thirty-seventh Congress in response to the need to increase the ranks of the Union army, made all  males between the ages of twenty and forty-five subject to the draft. There were exceptions of course. If you were the only son of a widow, physically impaired or mentally ill, you could avoid the draft. The biggest issue in this bill, different from drafts during the twentieth century, was the allowing of draftees to pay $300 to a substitute who served for them. It’s been written that some of the wealthier draftees paid up to $1,100 for a substitute which in that day was an enormous sum. Three familiar names who all qualified for the draft but never served were the former president, Grover Cleveland, the Cleveland merchant John D. Rockefeller and the New York lawyer George Templeton Strong.

Immigrants in the Civil War

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Union Gunboat USS Cairo on Mississippi River, 1862

Civil War statistics  show the people born outside the United States played a larger role in the war than many may realize. The vast majority of the immigrants resided in the north. The figures were about 4 million in the north compared to about 230,000 in the south. To give you an idea of the number of Civil War immigrants  in the Civil War, regiments serving the north during the war, a partial list of the regiments were as follows…

In regards to Germans, they comprised ten regiments from New York, six in Ohio, six in Missouri, five from Pennsylvania, four from Wisconsin and three in Illinois. There were more spread around the country.

The Irish had two pure regiments from Massachusetts, three others in New England and four from New York. There were also two in Pennsylvania and Indiana. In regards to immigrant participation, among the famous people of the Civil War were Colonel Franz Spigel shown in the photo below.

The south had Civil War immigrants dressed in gray as well. The south had five Generals who were born in Ireland. The south had companies composed of Germans, Poles, Frenchmen, Mexican and Spaniards. Foreign nationals served in the Confederate Army as well. A claim was made by one Canadian that some 40,000 of his countrymen fought for the south although that figure might have been largely exaggerated. One Louisiana regiment reportedly was comprised of fighters of thirty-seven nationalities.

The German Immigrants of Missouri

missouri governor jackson

Claiborne Fox Jackson, 15th Governor of Missouri

It’s very interesting to explore many of the regiments put together on the Union side. Missouri is an interesting example look at. The Missouri example highlights just how important immigrants were for the Union cause. According to the Missouri Civil War Museum, the governor of Missouri did not wish to answer Lincoln’s call for troops. In fact, Missouri Gov. Jackson preferred the State to join the Confederacy but he didn’t have the votes to back it up. What he did do however was appoint a southern sympathizer as head of the Missouri Militia.

As history notes, Missouri was the site of some of the worse atrocities to occur during the war. These included raids by the likes of Jesse James and Quantrills Raiders. Missouri had many of it’s citizens join up on both sides of the conflict. The state sympathies were heavily divided and this fact explains why some of the most violent encounters took place there.

The German community in St. Louis understood the political situation. They knew what Governor Jackson’s feelings were and watched the situation carefully. The Germans were pro Union. Eventually, German immigrants formed their own militia regiments and drilled them in secret. What they were waiting for was word from Washington to act and of course arms. They were ready, willing and able to act against the state if Jackson went ahead with plans to secede. President Lincoln through a St. Louis Congressman knew quite well what the situation was. As a result, Lincoln did give the okay for the German armed militias and sent an army captain named Nathaniel Lyons from Kansas to St. Louis.

The Breaking Point in Missouri

immigrants of the civil war

German immigrant Colonel Franz Sigel, 3rd Missouri Infantry

The tipping point with the Missouri situation occurred in May of 1861. This is when the Missouri Volunteer State Militia gathered at Camp Jackson, just north of St. Louis at the behest of Governor Jackson. Here Gov. Jackson’s forces received arms and ammunition from the Confederate Government. Many of these war supplies were stolen from the Federal Arsenal at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Lyons rallied his forces composed of ten regiments of primarily German American, an artillery battery and two companies of U.S. Infantry (regular Army). This massive force, approximately 10,000 men was set in motion to capture the 700 man Missouri State forces at Camp Jackson situated on ground now occupied by St. Louis University. The Union forces were able to stop the secession movement in Missouri. The U.S. Infantry and the German regiments were instrumental in keeping the Unions western gateway open. Civil War immigrants, particularly German immigrants, were the key to saving Missouri from secession.

Three additional photo articles we’ve published that you’ll find interesting are The Confederate Navy and the Civil War Submarines. On our Western Trips site see the Civil War Infantry photo article.

Planned Missouri Civil War Museum

There were many interesting and diverse groups of people of the Civil War. There are also many venues to explore on the subject. Below are two sites in Missouri which will make excellent additions to your Missouri road trip planner.

The Missouri Civil War Museum is located within the Jefferson Barracks Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri. The museum facility is located at the west side of the Jefferson Barrack’s historic grass parade grounds. This site is recognized as the oldest active military installation west of the Mississippi River. This museum is focused on Missouri during the Civil War. It is the fourth largest Civil War Museum in the nation and one of the largest Civil War research libraries in the nation. The museum’s stated purpose is to educate the public of the true aspects and history of the American Civil War and its relevance to the state of Missouri. At this museum,  Missouri’s unique Civil War story is brought to light with artifacts and exhibits. As of this writing, the museum is still being worked on.

The museum hopes to open in late 2012 .For the latest information on the museum’s opening you may want to refer to the museum website.

www.mcwm.org

Another must stop for Civil War buffs is the Carthage Civil War Museum in Carthage Missouri. The Carthage museum showcases artifacts and information about the Battle of Carthage and the Civil War in southwest Missouri. Also on display is information  on one of Carthage’s famous residents, “Belle Starr“. Carthage is about 272 miles southwest of St. Louis in the southwestern corner of the state near Joplin.

Two good books to explore the subject further are The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts by author Burke Davis and Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border by Donald L. Gilmore.

(Photo of Civil War Sword from author’s collection. Remaining photos from the public domain)

 

 

The Dalles Oregon

The Dalles Oregon is in one of the most beautiful parts of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area. History tells is the The Dalles received it’s name from the early French trappers working for the North West Company. The trappers named the area “Les Dalles‘ which translates to “The Sluice” or “The Flagstone“. This may refer to the basalt rock found in and around the Columbia River.

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The Columbia River with Washington State on far side

The Settlement of the Missionaries

Before the massive emigration along the Oregon Trail, the area which today is the city of The Dalles was inhabited by missionaries who were sent west to Christianize the native Americans of the region. The original missionary party comprised seventy people.The newly organized Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society sent Rev Jason Lee, along with his nephew Rev. Daniel Lee, lay missionary Cyrus Shepard and two assistants, P.L. Edwards and C.M. Walker and others, to Oregon to build the mission. The group set up their mission in the Willamette Valley but the area was considered to be “malarial” and Daniel Lee and others became sick. Daniel Lee ended up journeying to Hawaii to try to restore his health and the leadership of the group fell to Rev. Jason Lee.

Eventually, Jason Lee and others traveled back up the Columbia in March 1838 with the help of Indian guides to the area of The Dalles. There they were greeted by a group of Wascopam Indians. That summer the group constructed the Wascopam Mission.

the dalles dam

The Dalles Dam located 2 miles east of the city

Rev. Jason Lee made a return trip to the east and was very active in urging migration to the Oregon region. He may very well been the very earliest of pioneers touting the area as ideal for settlement. There is no doubt that he was successful in urging a good number of people to make the long journey.

Results of the Missionary Work

The success of the Wascopam missionaries was mixed. At first they had great attendance at their revivals and meetings with the Indians who came from a wide variety of tribes. The Dalles happened to be at a location where many different tribes gathered. After a few years the attendance decreased and eventually the church leaders in the east became dissatisfied with the number on converts versus their expenditures to support the mission. In a large way this was shortsightedness because the Native Americans had thousands of years of tradition not to mention a variety of different languages. To completely change this ingrained tradition in a matter of a few years was asking quite a lot. The missionaries working in Oregon felt largely that the eastern board really didn’t understand how particularly hard their task was.

the dalles downtown area

The Dalles downtown district

Rev. Jason Lee was recalled in 1843 and surprisingly his replacement resigned after a very short time. Yet another reverend was sent west to Oregon and the Wascopam Mission. Eventually, in 1846 an offer was received from a Dr. Marcus Whitman, a missionary outside Walla Walla, to purchase the Wascopam Mission on behalf of the Presbyterian American board. The deal was about to be consummated when Dr. Whitman, his wife and nine others were massacred at their mission by a band of Cayuse Indians. A large group of mostly women and children were also kidnapped during the massacre. The Whitman Massacre is an interesting and tragic story and reinforces just how dangerous missionary work in the far west could be in the 1840’s.

See our article on the Whitman Mission Tragedy.

Because of the Whitman Mission tragedy, the purchase by the Presbyterians never materialized. In 1848 the mission land was taken over by the city of The Dalles, as per the recently enacted U.S. Land Claim Act, and their takeover was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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A mural in The Dalles

Oregon Trail Days and The Dalles

When the Oregon Trail pioneers reached The Dalles it was decision time. The destination for most of the pioneers was the fertile Willamette Valley to the west. Specifically, many were headed to Oregon City on the Willamette River just a few miles south of present day Portland Oregon. There were two ways to journey there from The Dalles. One was to raft down the treacherous Columbia River. This was of course before the series of dams built on the river during the twentieth century. The river looked a lot different than it does today. The second option was to travel overland to Oregon City. This option involved a trail named the Barlow Road which ran southwest from The Dalles and around the southern slope of Mount Hood. The Barlow Road had been completed in 1846.

See our Trips Into History article on the Diaries of Oregon Trail Pioneers.

The Barlow Road was a private trail set up by Sam Barlow as a toll road. Pioneers paid $5 per wagon and 10 cents per head for livestock and cattle. The Barlow Road, even though it cost money to travel on was the preferred way by many, not all however, to make the final leg of the 2,000 mile Oregon Trail journey. While taking the Columbia River route didn’t mean sure disaster, there were enough accidents and fatalities to make the Barlow Road a solid alternative.

Visiting The Dalles

One of the best things about driving to The Dalles from Portland Oregon is that you have the opportunity to travel along the banks of the Columbia River on the Columbia River Scenic Highway. The Dalles is located about 85 miles east of Portland. On your way to The Dalles you’ll pass the Bonneville Dam which has a fantastic visitor center that showcases everything about the Columbia River including an underwater viewing of their Fish Ladder. Also along the way are several beautiful waterfall sites such as the Multnomah Falls and the Wahkeena Falls along the Columbia River Scenic Highway.

When you visit The Dalles, you also want to see The Dalles Dam which is one of the several dams now along the Columbia River.

(Photos from author’s private collection)

 

 

 

 

American Royal

The American Royal Livestock Show is all about the famous history of the Kansas City Stockyards. During it’s peak activity, the Kansas City Stockyards were second only to those in Chicago. Kansas City was known to be the gateway to the west. Centrally located and on the heavy traveled railroad lines, the stockyards in Kansas City was the hub of activity during the later 1800’s and was busy through he 1940’s.

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1922 American Royal poster

The last cattle went out the stockyard chutes in the 1990’s. Kansas City today, being a great metropolis with 2 million plus people with a diverse economy, has of course changed greatly and the history of it’s stockyards have largely faded into history.

The American Royal

The legacy of the stockyards is what the American Royal is all about. The American Royal is a non-profit organization that runs the country’s largest livestock show. The American Royal however is much more than simply a livestock show. The annual event which takes place from about September to Thanksgiving weekend also includes a rodeo and what many feel is the country’s largest barbecue competition. The annual event begins with a parade in downtown Kansas City.

There are about forty events in all showcased. The annual event that today is called the American Royal was started back in 1899 and first called the Hereford Show. In 1901 the Kansas City Drover’s Telegram paper suggested to call it The American Royal and the name stuck. While the American Royal started as a cattle show in 1899, horse shows were added in 1907. Today, it’s estimated that the American Royal adds about $70 million dollars per year to the Kansas City economy.

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Kansas City Stockyards was at the old site of the Overland Stage Company

The Kansas City Stockyards

The Kansas City Stockyards were founded in 1871 on at the time thirteen acres in the West Bottoms area of the Kansas City. By 1878 the stockyards grew to fifty-five acres. Where the stockyards was founded was a rather historic area. The West Bottoms, just west of downtown Kansas City was the home of the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. This was the company that supplied settlers heading west. It was also the same company that operated the famed Pony Express during 1861. The Pony Express, while being very successful on an operational level never made money. In fact, it lost a lot of money and the Central Overland Company went out of business in 1862. This was also the same time that the transcontinental telegraph was completed.

The Kansas City Stockyards remained busy for decades. From it’s very start in 1871, the stockyards stayed active through the 1940’s. The Great Flood of 1951 virtually destroyed the stockyard area and the business never really recovered after that. The last animal passed through it’s gates in 1991.

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Kansas City Stockyards, 1904

We have two additional Trips Into History photo articles you’ll find interesting. Cattle Drives and Cowboys and the Professional Rodeo Cowgirls.

Also, on our Western Trips site see the American Quarter Horse Museum in Amarillo Texas.

The American Royal and Agricultural Students

The American Royal is much more than a series of events. In 1926, the American Royal invited agriculture students to be a part of judging livestock. In 1928 a group of these students gathered and formed the Future Farmers of America. In 1988 the name was changed to the National FFA Organization. In addition to agriculture production, the organization includes science, business and technology. It’s an important distinction to note that the National Future Farmers of America is the largest career and technical student organization in US schools. The entire organization strives to build leadership qualities to nurture the students abilities and experience in a variety of agricultural fields. The organization also reaches Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Champion bronc Rider Bonnie McCarroll being thrown from horse

American Royal Events

Among the events you can enjoy in addition to the livestock shows is the PRCA Gold Tour Rodeo. This rodeo tour draws the top PRCA cowboys and WPRA cowgirls. The event usually takes place in Kansas City’s Sprint Center. Other events such as the Cutting Horse and the UPHA National Championships are typically held in the Hale Arena and Kemper Arena. Cowgirls made a name for themselves as early as 1900 when they first competed in local competitions. These included names such as Bonnie McCarroll, Connie Douglas Reeves, May Lillie, Annie oakley and Lucille Mulhall.

bronco busters

Bronco Buster

The United Professional Horsemen’s Association is an association of Professional Horsemen and Horsewomen who have joined together to improve the horse show industry and define and clarify their professionalism within the industry. Saddlebreds, Hackney Ponies, and Road Horses from UPHA chapters throughout the United States come to Kansas City to compete for more than $200,000 in prize money and the honor of being national champions.There are fourteen different classes where champions are crowned during the event.

The American Royal BBQ is one of the nation’s biggest barbeque competitions. Contestants come to Kansas City from all over the world. The event is held in the parking lots both inside and around the Kemper Arena. To give you an idea of the popularity of this barbecue competition, it’s estimated that about 70,000 people attend each year. A popular part of the barbecue competition and one that has been going on for twenty-five years is the Barbecue Sauce Competition. Categories for judging are Tomato Hot, Tomato Mild, Vinegar, Mustard, and Specialty. The Barbecue Sauce Contest is open to anyone with a sauce that is available commercially. Contestants may enter as many sauces as they wish as long as all of them conform to the competitions rules. Rules can be found at the American Royal Barbecue Rules site.

Visit Kansas City

There are a great many fun things to do in Kansas City. Planning a visit to Kkansas City during the fall when The American Royal is going on just adds to the many things to enjoy in this very diverse city. Some additional sites to add to your Kansas City trip planner are the National World War I Museum, the very popular and historic Steamboat Arabia Museum, the Harley-Davidson Factory Tour, the Hallmark Visitors Center and Missouri Town 1855.

(Photos and images from the public domain)