A Toast To Olde Tymes – Louis Edward Holland
Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport is located on Lou Holland Drive. Dr. Wheeler, physician, lawyer, and former mayor, is well-known to residents of Our Town – but who was Lou Holland? He is the man who was largely responsible for the creation of the Municipal Airport in the 1920s.
Nothing about Louis Edward Holland’s childhood set the stage for his adult life, except for his abilities to make connections and organize projects. Lou was born in 1878. He was the son of Capitola and Edward Holland. Lou had at least four siblings, including three sisters and a brother. The family lived in Rochester, New York, where Edward worked as a miller.
In his youth, Lou repaired a bicycle for a relative, who promptly got him a job as an engraver with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. It goes almost without saying that this is a specialized field that requires a fair amount of training. Lou didn’t have any of that, but he persevered. In some situations, he invented his own tools, one of which became widely used.
Lou married Adelia Garratt Holland, who was originally from Ontario, Canada, in 1901. The following year, the couple and their dog, a pointer, moved to Kansas City. Why? A homesick colleague had told Lou all about it. He worked first as a photo engraver for Thompson and Slaughter and then was superintendent for Teachenour-Bartberger from 1905 until 1916, when he and his brother, William, founded the Holland Engraving Company.
Lou was a hard worker, and he didn’t confine that tendency to his business. “His inner urge has come out in a lifetime of doing big jobs for free,” a scribe for the Kansas City Star wrote in 1950, adding, “On the surface people see the self-made man with the blunt, practical approach. His uncanny sense of human relations and common sense have made him a prodigious organizer. But deep inside he burns with a passion for objectives.”
Lou became involved with the Advertising Club, which had the motto “Truth in Advertising.” He despised false advertising so much that he actually helped bring down a group of swindlers in Fort Worth, Texas. His actions caused him to be known to important government officials in Washington, D.C., who paid attention when he brought up solutions to issues in Kansas City. He served as the president of the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World during the 1920s. In that capacity, Lou organized a convention in London, England, in 1924. While there, he dined with the Prince of Wales. He also was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the president of France.
As soon as he completed his third term as president with that organization, he stepped down – and promptly accepted the responsibility of being the president of the National Better Business Bureau. Later in his career, he focused on traffic safety as the president of the American Automobile Association (AAA).
Of all his civic commitments, however, it is his service as the president and executive manager of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce that had the greatest impact on Our Town. Lou was instrumental in selecting the site for Municipal Airport and ensuring that it was built. The first commercial airport in Kansas City was Richards Field, which was named for John F. Richards II, an aviator killed in World War I. Small airports were springing up all over the country in the postwar era. Only a few people understood how vital they would become, and even fewer recognized both the necessity of making accommodations for larger aircraft and the importance of prioritizing safety – Lou was one of them. Charles Lindbergh spoke at the dedication in August 1927, just three months after he made history by flying nonstop from New York to Paris.
While he was in Kansas City, Charles made a speech that was recorded by a sound engineer from WOQ, the radio station operated by Unity. (The Unity movement was founded by Myrtle and Charles Fillmore in 1889. Its first publication was based on prayers and affirmations. Today, Unity World Headquarters is located in Unity Village, Missouri.) Not long after that, Charles was in charge of a committee to select sites for T. A.T. (Transcontinental Air Transport), a predecessor to TWA (Trans World Airlines). As the legend goes, Lou convinced Charles to champion Kansas City as an airline hub by playing the recording of his own words back to him. (Pause for a moment to think about the fact that only 25 years earlier “radio stations,” “recordings,” and “airplanes” weren’t part of the general lexicon.)
Adelia died in December 1929 at the age of 52. She was survived by Lou and four of their children, three daughters and a son. The couple had also had a pair of twin daughters, who both died of whooping cough at the age of seven months in February 1908.
Back in 1920, the Kansas City Star had published an article about the fact that Lou kept a phonograph and a collection of 200 records at his office. He loved jazz, and he felt it encouraged productivity. His secretary, Edna Peterson, was in charge of selecting what went on the turntable. In September 1933, Edna became Mrs. Lou Holland. Alas, they would be married for less than a year before Edna died in August 1934. She was only 45 years old.
Lou hosted a reception for his parents’ 60th wedding anniversary in January 1936. Perhaps spurred by their example, he wed Lorance McKiddy in April of that year. She had previously been the advertising manager of the Kansas City Power and Light Company.
Lou died at his longtime home at Lake Lotawana on May 25, 1960. He was then 81 years old and the chairman of the board of the Holland Engraving Company. His brother, William, was then the president, and Lou’s son, L. Garratt Holland, was the vice president. Following William’s death in November 1960, Garratt, who had been with the firm since 1935, became the president.
In June 1961, a portrait of Lou by Daniel MacMorris was unveiled in the north terminal of the airport. The presentation was made by Joseph F. Porter, Jr. of the Aero Club, who lauded Lou as “the father of aviation in Kansas City.”
Featured in the November 26, 2022 issue of The Independent.
By Heather N. Paxton
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