“Adult" coloring books are hot right now. Some 12 million coloring books sold in 2015, up from just 1 million the year before, according to the Nielsen Bookscan.
Some claim coloring is therapeutic. It’s undeniably nostalgic, but no matter the reason, The First Kansas City Coloring Book resurfacing now is certainly an example of good timing.
"Kansas City is loaded with fabulous buildings and history. We wanted to open people's eyes and get them there," said Virginia Moffett, who co-authored the book with Ann Wornall in 1976.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Lauren Manning at Historic Kansas City, an organization dedicated to preserving KC’s landmarks, found a stack of them laying around. They had been donated by a community member a few years ago after finding them in her basement.
Manning posted to Historic Kansas City’s social media pages that the coloring books were available for $5, and put a small sign on their front window. Interested customers began trickling in.
The First Kansas City Coloring Book features 36 locations in the area including the stockyards in the West Bottoms, St. Mary’s Church, the Folly Theater and the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex.
Each illustration, drawn by then Kansas City Art Institute student Agnes Carbrey, is accompanied by a short paragraph on the history of that location.
Much of the history is straightforward, but there are some peculiar notes, such as the George Bent-Seth Ward Residence.
“In 1858, Mr. Bent purchased 212 acres from the estate of Edmund Price and built a small home in the Greek Revival style," the book reads. "His third wife, a Blackfoot Indian, preferred to sleep outside and put up her tepee in front of the house.”
Co-author Virginia Moffett says she and Wornall decided to create the coloring book in 1976 after a tiresome series of lectures around town on the history of Kansas City.
“We needed a vehicle to share all of this important history," Moffett says. "Some way to teach people both young and old.”
Moffett says sales were so-so in the '70s, so she's ecstatic that the coloring book and the history contained within it are in the public eye again.
“I think there is more interest now in Kansas City’s history than there was then,” Moffett says.
Moffett seems very pleased in the direction Kansas City is headed, citing the renovation of Union Station and a few other historical preservations around town as proof that the community is finally appreciating Kansas City’s rich history and what it has to offer.
The First Kansas City Coloring Book is available at Historic Kansas City’s downtown office at 10th and Central.
When you're done coloring, take a picture of your masterpiece and Tweet it to us @kcur or tag us on Instagram @kcur893.
Kyle J Smith is a digital intern at KCUR. You can find him on Twitter @kjs_37.