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Brooke, Charles, 4208 Campbell Street

Kansas City, Missouri Its History and Its People 1800-1908, Vol. III by Carrie Westlake Whitney

Charles Brooke, proprietor of the Brooke’s Sign Works of Kansas City, was born at Ann Arbor, Michigan, December 29, 1854. His father, Charles Brooke, was a native of London, England, born in 1828 and in the year 1845 he came to America. Six years were passed in this country, after which he returned to London in 1851 and was there married to Miss Mary A. Hawkins, an own cousin of Chief Justice Hawkins. With his bride he returned to the new world, settling at Detroit, Michigan, but later removing to Ann Arbor, where he conducted business as a sign painter and decorator. He did all of the work in that line for the University of Michigan and continued actively in business until after the outbreak of the Civil war in 1861, when he joined the army and served for three years with Custer in the Army of the Potomac. When his regiment went west to fight the Indians in 1865, his time having expired he left that command and located in Kansas City. Here he at once established himself in the business which is now conducted under the name of the Brooke’s Sign Works—the oldest establishment of this character in Kansas City. In 1876 he left the business to his son Charles and removed to California. In 1880, however, he returned to Kansas City, serving for two years as alderman, after which he went back to California and engaged in the sign business in San Francisco until his death in 1893. His wife passed away in 1906 at the age of seventy-seven years.

Charles Brookes was a youth of ten years when he accompanied his parents on their removal to Kansas City. He was educated in the ward schools at Ann Arbor and on coming to Kansas City attended Professor Drury’s private school (then the largest in the city) in the basement of the old Baptist church located at Eighth and May streets. He was next a student at Spalding’s Commercial College at Second and Main streets, and on the opening of the public schools in 1867 was one of the first scholars admitted to the high school, Eleven and Locust streets, of which Professor J. B. Bradley was both superintendent and teacher. The location has been continuous and the school is now known as the Central high.

Leaving high school at the age of fifteen years, after two years’ attendance, he entered his father’s business to learn the trade and three years later became a partner. In 1876, upon his father’s removal to California, the son became sole proprietor and he conducted the business since that time with the exception of a few months spent in California in 1885. He has established a large trade and an enviable reputation for high class work. He does commercial work of all kinds, including pictorial work and has done nearly all of the railroad sign work in Kansas City. He also makes a specialty of office lettering. George R. Barse, Jr., the noted New York artist, did his first work in painting in his shop when a boy and was a close friend of Mr. Brookes, since which time their friendship has continued uninterruptedly. The Brooke’s Sign Works is not only the oldest but is also one of the leading establishments of this character in Kansas City and the business has long since reached extensive and profitably proportions.

On the 19h of December 1877, Mr. Brooke was married to Miss Jennie Spurgin, daughter of Joseph Spurgin, a pioneer business man of Kansas City. They have four children, three of whom are living. James Frank, a graduate physician, married Aileen Irwin, of Kansas City, and has one daughter, Dorothy, now in her second year. Marienne, a vocalist and musician of ability, is at home. Jennie Lillian died in 1896 at the age of eight years, and Richard, eight years of age, completes the family. James F. and Marienne are graduates of the Central high school and the daughter attended the Kansas University at Lawrence, while Dr. Brooke is a graduate of the Hahnemann Institute of Kansas City.

The parents are members of the Central Presbyterian church and are well known socially, while the hospitality of their own home is one of its most attractive features. Until recently they occupied a residence at No. 1108 Tracy avenue, which Mr. Brooke erected just after his marriage and which was their home for twenty-nine years. Now residing at No. 4208 Campbell street, this residence they recently built and he is also the owner of some other Kansas City realty. Prominent in Masonry, he belongs to the lodge, chapter, commandery and shrine. He is a past master and a past eminent commander and is a member of the Blue Lodge of which his father was also a past master and in which Mr. Brooke of this review conferred the three degrees upon his son, Dr James F. Brooke. He was for years an active member of the Knights of Pythias and in the Good Templars society and has long been an earnest worker in the local ranks of the republican party. He is very fond of athletics and has always been a frequenter of gymnasiums. There are no unusual chapters in his life history. His record is that of a man who has recognized and met his obligations and faithfully performed his duties, making steady progress not only in his business career but also as a cooperant factor in many movements in which the public is a direct beneficiary.