220 – 1920, A Year of Change

1920 was a leap year. It was the 20th year of the century and the 1st year of the Roaring Twenties. A lot of things happened in 1920. But then, a lot of things happen every year.

Maybe 1920 wasn’t different from any other year. But for the Rileys, 1920 held some transformational changes.

For the first time since 1881, Will Riley had no occupation. His beer and liquor distribution business had become a victim of Prohibition. Will Riley had to reinvent his career at age 57. By the end of the year, the Rileys owned and ran a drug store, Sedalia Drug Company.

Riley had also divested of ownership of any saloon, a business that he had been in and out of for 25 years.

In St. Louis, Josie Riley’s brothers John, Andrew, and Steve Pensa had all quit the saloon business. They had worked in and owned saloons for four decades. In 1920, they were in their 50s and needed to find new careers.

In 1920, a young man named Tom Gallagher moved to Sedalia.

Cole’s Women’s Shop

On March 8, 1920, a new women’s clothing store opened in Sedalia. Cole’s Women’s Shop was the newest of nine Cole’s stores in Missouri and Kansas.

Cole’s Women’s Shop – 211 South Ohio Street – Sedalia – 1920

Cole’s was owned by several Cole brothers. Their stores featured ladies’ ready-to-wear of the latest fashion at value pricing.

The Sedalia Democrat – March 31, 1925

Tom Gallagher

Cole’s store manager was Tom Gallagher, who had been with the company for four years and most recently been with the store in Junction City, Kansas. He had grown up in Lamar, Missouri, moved to Junction City with Cole’s, and in 1920 moved to Sedalia to open the new store.

Tom was age 26, single, and a dashing young man. He was accomplished, having been a store manager since age 22.

Around town

Life goes on. As 1920 turned to 1921 and 1922, Riley life events continued. Sickness, health, jobs, and family visits. Even a burglary at Cole’s.

Tom Gallagher and Catherine Riley

Meeting and greeting the women of Sedalia was Tom Gallagher’s job. Besides managing the clothing store, Tom hosted occasional fashion shows and style luncheons.

It’s easy to believe that Tom met Catherine Rose Riley, 19, soon after he arrived in Sedalia. They did meet, and soon they were engaged to be married.

But before they marry…

Let’s meet Tom Gallagher’s family. We’ll learn about his early life in Lamar, Missouri, and find out about his parents and grandparents.

Then we’ll meet back here for the wedding.

Place cards from Catherine Riley shower – 1922



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