On January 12, 2012, the Lowe and Campbell Sporting Goods Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This company located at 15th and Baltimore manufactured and sold sports equipment, and was in this building until 1932. Wilson Sporting Goods acquired it. The building has also been known as Hoover Brothers Building and Hanna Rubber Company Building.
The foundation of the building is concrete and the walls are brick. The architectural design is Classic Revival. The building is six stories tall and it's located south of the central business district. The building was constructed in 1925. The Lowe and Campbell Building is in a commercial area.
The first floor carried the retail operation. The offices were on the second floor. From the third floor through the sixth floor, there was manufacturing and warehousing. The shipping was performed in the basement.
The Lowe and Campbell building at 15th and Baltimore was its third location. It merged with Wilson Sporting Goods in 1931. In 1961, the company moved out of the building.
There weren't a lot of sporting events occurring in the United States before the Civil War. Two primary outdoor activities were fishing and hunting. Events like horse racing and fox hunting were brought over from England.
After the Civil War, the era of industrialization and urbanization was on the rise. In time, there was an interest in recreation and sports. Sporting goods manufacturers made all types of balls and other sporting equipment including clothing and shoes.
In 1888 the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) was organized to set standards in amateur competitive sports. The AAU was also the training ground for America’s Olympic athletes. By 1900, sports were gaining attention, especially baseball.
The byproducts of meatpacking companies that used to be thrown out were being turned into products like glue, fertilizer, glycerin, ammonia, and gelatin. Hides could be used to make balls. The entrails were used to make strong thread and fibers for items like tennis rackets.
When the Wilson Sporting Goods Company began in 1913, it was called the Ashland Manufacturing Company. This company was an outlet for meat-packing byproducts. In 1914, the president of the company, Tomas E. Wilson, started focusing on the production of sporting goods. The name of the company was then changed to Wilson Sporting Goods Company. There were other companies using hides for balls too like Spalding and Rawlings.
By the early 1900s, there were various sporting goods manufacturers. In 1906, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) was formed by six sporting goods manufacturers in New York City. During the same year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was founded.
In 1929, East Coast distributors formed the Athletic Goods Wholesalers Association while Midwestern and southern sporting goods dealers formed the Sporting Goods Distributors Association. The two merged in 1929 and settled on the name National Sporting Goods Association in 1936. (Source.)
As sporting progressed, large companies like Wilson Sporting Goods and others started merging with smaller stores. The companies had their own line of products. Advancements with better equipment were made that helped an athlete's performance. One way for companies to get the public's attention was to sponsor contests. After World War II, the industry took off. With technological advances and synthetic materials, the need for meatpacking plants byproducts was reduced.
In 1895, the category of “Sporting Goods” was first seen in the city directory in Kansas City. By 1900, Kansas City had six sporting goods companies. In 1912, Lowe and Campbell opened, and sporting goods companies increased to 12 and of those, there were eight in the Central Business District.
In the 1930s, the number of sporting goods companies jumped to 17. Sporting goods were also available in department stores like the Jones Store Company and Montgomery Ward and Company. In 1935, after Lowe and Campbell merged with Wilson Sporting Goods, Lowe and Campbell was listed as a wholesale operation. The number of companies increased again after World War II.
In 1950, about 30 companies were listed in the city directory. Most were retail establishments. By 1960, the number of companies went down. Lowe and Campbell appears to be one of the companies in Kansas City to have the longest stay. From 1912 to 1961, this company operated under the name of Wilson Sporting Goods until the 1980s.
Lowe and Campbell Sporting Goods
George C. Lowe and D. Keedy Campbell founded Lowe and Campbell Sporting Goods Company in 1912. Their first location was on Grand in a building that no longer exists. In 1921, the company relocated to a three-story building still on Grand where they stayed for four years. Next, they moved to the six-story building at 1509 Baltimore. The company stayed there for 35 years until 1961, at which time they moved south to 66th and Troost Avenue into a new one-story building that had parking.
When Lowe and Campbell went into the market for sporting goods, it was almost near the same time the culture in America was becoming interested in sports and recreation. In their early years, they were selling athletic goods to academic institutions. They sponsored basketball teams in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), which was a non-profit volunteer multi-sport organization.
According to a Lowe and Campbell catalog, it expanded to Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis. Interestingly, Lowe and Campbell is listed in the city directory (and Wilson is not) until 1945, and in 1946, it's listed as a retailer, and Wilson is listed as a wholesaler. A 1946 catalog indicates Lowe and Campbell expanded with operations in sixteen cities. In the 1946 catalog, there were so many sports categories.
By the 1950s the Kansas City Wilson operation was one of four plants that made garments, out of their fifteen total manufacturing facilities. The Kansas City Cloon Avenue location made uniforms for almost every sport and supplied the majority of the uniforms for the major league baseball teams. (Source.)
By the time Wilson and Lowe and Campbell left the Baltimore location, the Wilson Sporting Goods organization had 34 sales branches and 14 factories in the "United States, Europe, Canada, and Asia."
George C. Lowe
George Lowe was born in Germany in 1880. He was employed as a sales associate for J.F. Schmelzer and Sons Arms Company, which was one of the first sporting goods companies in Kansas City. Lowe worked there from 1901 until 1910. In 1910, he was a clothing manager at Gordon & Koppel. He also became manager of the Gordon & Koppel Athletic Field. The Gordon & Koppel Field was home to Kansas City’s Federal League baseball team, the Kansas City Packers, in 1914 and 1915.
Lowe remained with Lowe and Campbell for the rest of his career. He was listed in the city directory as the president of Lowe and Campbell until 1939 when he was 59 and it's unknown where he went after that.
D. Keedy Campbell
Before Campbell was associated with Lowe and Campbell Sporting Goods, he was a clerk and cashier for Mutual Life Insurance of New York. Campbell was born in Kansas.
D. Keedy Campbell was inducted to USTA Heart of America Hall of Fame in 1999. Campbell served as the first president of USTA Missouri Valley from 1946-1955. Also, he served as chairman and corresponding secretary of the Rockhill Tennis Club. Campbell organized and ran many prominent events such as the Western Championship and Western Sectional Doubles Championship at Rockhill Tennis Club. (Source.)
In 1945, he and his family lived in Mission Hills. He was affiliated with local sports organizations. In the 1940s, Campbell served as an officer of the Missouri Valley AAU (Amateur Athletic Union). Until 1949, he was listed in the city directory as the vice president and general manager of Lowe and Campbell Sporting Goods.
Click here to see information about Lowe & Campbell Athletic Goods Baseball Bats, a website associated with collectibles.
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