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James Philip Murray. The largest institution of its kind in Kansas City, Kansas, is the Murray Baking Company. As a business it is one of the considerable assets of the community. Its product is known and appreciated by thousands of customers. The business affords employment, and on other grounds could hardly be left out of any list of leading enterprises.
The business also had a human interest, since the plant is the outgrowth and product of the technical ability and the energy of one man, James P. Murray. Mr. Murray came to America some thirty-five years ago, poor in worldly goods but with a remarkable vitality and an eagerness and resolution to make something of himself. There is a heightened interest in his success because of the fact that he is a baker by accident rather than by deliberate choice.
However, before taking up his experiences and activities in this country something should be said of his birth and family connections. He was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, near the Town of Dungannon, May 16, 1864, youngest of the eleven children of Philip and Margaret (Irwin) Murray. His father was both a farmer and a freighter, and in the days before railroads were built in Ireland he hauled a great amount of freight in wagons. He and his wife spent all their lives in the old country, where he died in 1871 and his wife in 1896.
The privileges of education in Ireland were chiefly limited to families of means. James P. Murray did the best he could with his schooling, and after arriving at years of discretion he determined to seek his opportunities in the New World to which his brothers, William and Owen, had already gone. Thus he came to America, ambitious but poor in purse, and in 1883 he arrived at Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He had gone to that city from Philadelphia for the purpose of securing a position as a machinist. He found the job already filled, and he accepted the next best opportunity, which was to enter a bake shop and learn the baker’s trade. He served his apprenticeship under John Donnelly.
In 1885 Mr. Murray left Pennsylvania and began working as a journeyman in various eastern states. In 1888 he came to Kansas City, Missouri. He worked at his trade a couple of years and from there went to Durango, Colorado, where he operated a bakery of his own for two years. He also continued traveling, gaining new experiences and an insight into better methods, and the year 1897 found him back in Kansas City, where he again resumed work at his trade. In 1902 he had advanced to the point where he felt justified in opening a bakeshop of his own, and for three years he conducted what was known as the Murray Bread Bakery in Kansas City, Missouri.
At that time Kansas City, Kansas, had no bakery of consequence and Mr. Murray determined to give it one. Thus in 1905 he moved to the Kansas side and rented a small store room at the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Eleventh Street. His trade was not large, the quantity of his daily bake was very limited, but the important fact was the quality of his goods and the excellent business methods that he put into practice. Success and growth followed almost as a matter of course, and in 1910 Mr. Murray erected a modern plant at 904-908 North Seventeenth Street. He had since doubled the size of this plant and the yearly increase in business makes new facilities almost constantly necessary. His ovens now have a capacity of 15,000 loaves every day and his business is practically up to the capacity.
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Mr. Murray had also been active in organizations of his trade and about 1897 he and six other bakers organized the first successful union in Missouri. It is now a large organization and draws its membership from Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, and Rosedale. Mr. Murray had always been a leading spirit in this movement, but had felt a matter of diffidence in accepting office and had felt that he could exert a more beneficial influence from the ranks. He is also a member of the State Bakers’ Association of Kansas.
Mr. Murray owned a forty-acre farm four miles from the city limits, and had recently established there a dairy herd of fifteen cattle and had the business on a successful basis. Mr. Murray is a member of the Knights of Columbus, with his family worships in the Catholic Church, is a democrat in national politics though independent in local affairs, and had always been ready to align himself actively and positively with any movement for the welfare of his home city.
Mr. Murray was married June 2, 1902, to Mrs. Catherine (Barry) Hoffman. Mrs. Murray is a daughter of John and Adeline (Kelly) Barry, the former a native of Kentucky and the latter of Waterford, Ireland, a daughter of Michael Kelly. Mrs. Murray’s father was a veteran of the Civil war and died January 21, 1888. Mrs. Murray’s first husband was Albert Hoffman, and by that union there is a daughter, Alberta. Mr. and Mrs. Murray have one child, James P., Jr., born in 1914.