ARCHIVE OF A DEPRESSION-ERA KANSAS CITY CONSUMERS COOPERATIVE SOCIETY
Founded in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1936, the Westport Consumers’ Cooperative Society was a self-described “association of neighbors and friends who have joined together for the purpose of supplying their needs more efficiently and economically than they otherwise could do.” Through wholesale purchasing, the Society offered its members better prices on a range of goods, including groceries, furniture, clothing, paint, tires, and appliances. Its operations were guided by a set of ideals known as the Rochdale Principles of Co-Operation, which included open membership; democratic control (one member, one vote); political, religious, and racial neutrality; dividends in proportion to patronage; and continuing education.
This interesting archive documents the formation and early years of the Society. It includes 21 member newsletters, including the very first (July 1, 1937), which recounts how and why the Society (originally called the Westport Cooperative Buying Club) was founded and what it had achieved in its first 11 months of operation. The following newsletters (each a single legal-sized sheet folded for mailing) report on new products at the Co-Op Store, finances, staffing, member benefits (e.g. a library, lectures, social events), membership campaigns (in the first year, membership grew from 7 to 100), educational opportunities, and notable achievements. They also offer remarks on the social and economic value of co-ops generally and reports on the activities of other co-ops and related organizations, both national and international.
In addition to the newsletters, the archive includes the following (all on 8 ½” x 11” sheets, with dates from 1937 to 1939): invitation to the Cooperative Society’s one-year anniversary Open House; draft of what appears to be a press release about the one-year anniversary; advertising circular from the Co-Op Store giving prices on soap and canned goods; three-page, single-spaced draft of a speech discussing cooperatives in the context of an American tradition of self-reliance; three financial statements; nine items of correspondence (some original, others retained copies) between the North Kansas City Consumers Cooperative Association and the Westport Society; and a 1939 letter from the Chairman of the Board of the Westport Society to inactive members urging them to reignite their interest and enthusiasm for the organization. Materials show varying degrees of wear and some marginal chipping, but overall the archive is in very good condition. Item #74718