Four forward-thinking friends believed electricity was more than a novelty. They built the power company that would become KCP&L.
In 1876, electricity was a big, new idea. In New Jersey, Thomas Edison was still experimenting to develop a reliable and long-lasting light bulb. In Kansas City, Edwin R. Weeks was looking forward, inspired by an electric arc light demonstration he saw at a Philadelphia exposition. Believing in a future where electricity was more than a novelty, he persuaded three friends—Joseph S. Chick, Lysander R. Moore and the Honorable Judge William Holmes—to invest in the new technology.
Together, they created what is today known as KCP&L. In 1881 the group pooled $4,000 to buy an exclusive contract to provide power to two counties. In 1882 they incorporated as the Kawsmouth Electric Light Company, serving 13 commercial customers in downtown Kansas City. The company’s plant at the corner of 8th and Santa Fe in the West Bottoms became one of the first to use automatic regulators, which maintained the voltage level and allowed service to multiple customers. By year end, 48 local businesses were customers. It cost $30 a month for all-night service but only half that if the lights went off at 9 p.m.
In 1885 the company reincorporated as the Kansas City Electric Light Company to better reflect its mission. The commercial operation continued to grow and the system was at capacity by 1887. Residential customers began to clamor for incandescent lights, so Weeks founded the Edison Electric Light & Power Company to meet the need.