Socialists in Joplin

At the turn of the century, a sizable number of Americans believed that Socialism might prove a viable alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties. Joplin was home to a small community of Socialists who banded together to form an organized body that passed the following resolution:

Whereas, The whole world of so-called civilization, has run mad after political lust and the gain of filthy lucre;

Whereas, The machinery of government in our own beloved land and country, by the cupidity of government officials, the connivance of the emissaries of kings and monarchs and financial filibusters, is given over to the enemies of humane government, thus blighting the homes and fortunes of labor in our land of boasted liberty;

Whereas, All government that is not purely national and co-operative, tends to the final destruction of the interests of the laboring and producing masses, and to the degredation of the intellect and morals of the same; and

Whereas, The Appeal to Reason, published at Girard, Kansas, by one Wayland, ‘The One Hoss Philosopher,’ is an able and efficient exponent of the only true principles of government upon the earth on which we live.


Resolve, First – That each one of us who hereunto attach our names, shall thereby agree and promise to procure at least one annual subscriber per month to the Appeal to Reason, at 25 cents each in advance.

Resolved, Second – That we earnestly request our friends and comrades in every locality, to organize in this way for the purpose of universal diffusion of socialistic literature.

Resolved, Third – That we as a body of individuals agree to meet at such times and places as we may hereafter determine upon, for the deliberation and mutual assistance in carrying out these and other measures that may seem advantageous, from time to time.”

Signed: Hugh J. Raible, M.W. Clark,J. Ristine, Raymond Ristine, E.J. Stiles, S.J. Daily, G.A. Wadleigh, A.H. Adams, D.F. Wood

In any history course on American political parties during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, one will undoubtedly hear the names Appeal to Reason and Eugene V. Debs. First published in Kansas City, the Appeal to Reason was the country’s leading socialist newspaper. Its publisher, Julius Wayland, later moved the paper to Girard, Kansas, where it flourished until Wayland’s death.

Eugene Debs via Library of Congress

During the election of 1900, Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs received 6,139 votes in the state of Missouri. In 1904 he received 13,000 votes and in 1908 garnered over 15,000 votes in Missouri. The perennial presidential candidate, originally from Terra Haute, Indiana, spent the majority of his life working to bolster labor unions and the working class.

Debs was no stranger to southwest Missouri. He spoke throughout the region and all over the country and appeared in Joplin on several different occasions. On one such occasion he spoke to a large audience at the Club Theatre on labor unions and business trusts. Debs was described by one reporter as “very tall, slightly stoop shouldered man, with smooth shaven face and pierce eyes. His speaking is distinguished by his earnestness rather than any oratorical polish. He spoke rapidly and without effort, but does not present a very easy bearing on the platform.”

He proclaimed, “Labor must organize for this is an age of organization. Let the labor union be preeminently educational. Banish strife, discontent, jealousy, and self-interest from your chambers. Let each member remember that his interests are identical with the interests of all.” As his speech continued, Debs observed that, “All progress is the result of strikes and agitation. It was a strike at Bunker Hill and Concord, Washington, Adams, Greene, Warren, all our revolutionary heroes and patriots, were strikers. It was a strike when our patriot forefathers declared a boycott one England’s tea and disguised as Indians went on board the British vessels and converted Boston harbor into a tea pot.” He voiced his belief that many modern evils were the result of the use of machinery because mechanization displaced men from their jobs.

Debs said of Joplin, “I have often heard of this mining district, but the reality indeed surprises me. It is so busy, so bustling, and so active. Why, the only thing like it I have ever seen were silver mining towns of the old days in the west.” He then remarked, “I am pleased with the labor unions of Joplin; they seem enthusiastic and well organized. I think they will do a great deal of good. I have been surprised at the strength and good will displayed by the various organizations. Labor unionism has a great future in this district.”

After Debs finished, he left for a speaking engagements at Galena and Pittsburg, Kansas. From 1900 until 1920, he ran as the Socialist candidate in every presidential election. In 1920, he campaigned from his federal jail cell after he angered President Woodrow Wilson for speaking out against Wilson and America’s involvement in World War One. He was later released by order of Wilson’s Republican successor, President Warren G. Harding.

Source: Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent by Ernest Freeberg. Various Joplin newspapers. Library of Congress

Dining in the House of Lords

Made dinner plans yet?  If you happened to be strolling along Main Street north of Fourth and Main one hundred and twelve years ago, you might decide to find a bite to eat inside one of Joplin’s most famous (or infamous) dining places, the House of Lords.  Below are two menus from August, 1899, which undoubtedly satisfied some Joplinite’s hungry stomach. At the time, the House of Lords was operated by Louis N. Rahn, hence, “Rahn’s House of Lords.”


Joplin Live Wire: A.F. Adams

In 1910, the Joplin Daily Globe began a series of short features on the “live wires” of Southwest Missouri, men whom the paper decided were the up and coming members of the community.  The short articles featured a caricature of the individual (usually in a work related setting), plus some biographical information.  Below, we offer A.F. Adams, the first of a number of these “live wires” we’ll be sharing to offer a glimpse of what Joplin once considered her leading members of community.

Note the "Hello Girls" in the background.

A.F. Adams began his career in the telephone business in Wisconsin as a constructing engineer with a telephone company.  From there he successfully managed independent telephone properties in both Wisconsin and Illinois.  Adams arrived in Joplin in August, 1905, presumably to work with the Home Telephone Company.  The Globe noted that since his connection with the company, subscribers had jumped from 2,500 to nearly 7,000. In addition to being a successful member of Joplin’s business community, Adams also had time to join the International Order of Odd Fellows and the Elks.  The paper also offered Adams home address at the time, a common element to articles in the time period, as being 1615 Pearl Street.

The Home Telephone Company was incorporated in 1902, and Adams was at least still an officer of the company five years later in 1915.  Adam’s success, however, led to his move to Kansas City to oversee a larger telephone conglomeration in 1912.  Further success led to Adams sharing his time between Kansas City and New York City.

What If: Main Street Looking North

We engaged in another “What if….” this time looking up Main Street from the south.

What if...

This Building Matters: Louis Curtiss’ Joplin Legacy

In the past we have written posts about the construction of Joplin’s Union Depot. Now we would like to celebrate the life and work of its architect, Louis Curtiss. Sadly, his legacy is in peril. Of the over 200 buildings and projects that Curtiss designed, only 34 remained in existence by 1991. Of the 34 buildings, 21 were in Kansas City. Joplin is incredibly fortunate to have the Union Depot among its built landscape. If you care about history, if you care about cultural memory, and if you care about historic preservation you can appreciate Curtiss and Joplin’s Union Depot.

A native of Belleville, Ontario, Canada, Curtiss arrived in Kansas City, Missouri in 1887 at the age of twenty-two. Throughout his career, Curtiss was an enigma. He never discussed his life, never married, never had children, and ordered that his personal papers be burned upon his death. Curtiss was an incredibly colorful character. He loved fast automobiles: he would often roar around the city in a Winton runabout which, at the time, reportedly topped out at an amazing 30 mph. He loved women; he cut his own hair; and claimed to have studied architecture at University of Toronto and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, although historians have been unable to confirm this due to spotty recordkeeping.

Curtiss behind the wheel.

Curtiss briefly worked as a draftsman in the architectural firm of Adriance Van Brunt. He then left to form a partnership with Frederick C. Gunn. Together Curtiss and Gunn designed a large number of courthouses across the Midwest and South. The current courthouse for Henry County, Missouri, is a Curtiss and Gunn creation. Regrettably, the original tower on the courthouse was removed in 1969. The Curtiss and Gunn designed courthouse in Gage County, Nebraska, still has its original tower. The partners also designed courthouses in Tarrant County, Texas; Cabell County, West Virginia; and Rock Island County, Illinois (its roof dome was removed). Even more interesting, they designed St. Patrick’s Parish Catholic Church in Emerald, Kansas.

After ten years, Curtiss and Gunn went their separate ways. Curtiss traveled abroad and studied architecture, but eventually returned to Kansas City. He designed a private residence dubbed “Mineral Hall” which survives today on the campus of the Kansas City Art Institute. Curtiss designed other private residences and commercial buildings at this  time. Mineral Hall Link: Note that the doorway is Art Nouveau in style.

Curtiss’ Folly Theater (now the Standard) still stands in Kansas City after construction finished in 1900. You can read about its colorful history here.

While living in Kansas City, the young architect had the good fortune of meeting Bernard Corrigan, a fellow Canadian who was a partner in Corrigan Brothers Realty Company, and for fifteen years the two worked together on a variety of projects.

Curtiss’ first large project, the Baltimore Hotel, was commissioned by the Corrigan Brothers. The hotel was located in downtown Kansas City at the corner of 11th and Baltimore. It was later demolished in 1939. Curtiss’ next major commission was the Willis Wood Theater. Located next to the Baltimore Hotel, the two were connected by a tunnel that was nicknamed “highball alley.” The theater was destroyed by fire in 1917. One of Curtiss’ residential masterpieces, the Bernard Corrigan House, still stands today. The house is a mesmerizing blend of Prairie, Arts and Craft, and Art Nouveau features. You can view pictures here and also here, too.

Curtiss established another fruitful partnership, although it was not with an individual, but with a company: The Santa Fe Railroad. Curtiss designed depots and office buildings for the railroad company all over the United States. He subsequently began designing buildings for the Fred Harvey restaurant system. During this time, he designed the Clay County State Bank, which is now the Excelsior Springs City Museum.

As years passed, he continued to design railroad depots, hotels, and private residences. In 1910, work began on Joplin’s Union Depot, a Curtiss creation. He also designed Union Station in Wichita, Kansas, which had survived the years since its completion in 1913. Interestingly, he designed the “Studio Building” to serve as his studio. Curtiss lived in an apartment in the building which coincidentally adjoined a burlesque theater. According to one individual who was interviewed years later about Curtiss, there was a balcony entry into the theater accessible only through Curtiss’ apartment, through which he could attend performances.

Beginning in 1914, Curtiss fell upon hard times. Many of his major clients began to pass away and the demands of World War One upon American society made new construction grind to a halt. Curtiss’ architectural style fell out of favor as new and reinvigorated styles became popular. He did achieve success with his work in the Westheight Manor subdivision of Kansas City, but he never regained his pre-war popularity. One of the residences he built in Westheight Manor is the stunning Jesse Hoel home:  Historical Survey of the Westheight Manor Subdivision and  Flickr Photo of the Hoel residence.

Another Westheight Manor home Curtiss designed was that of Norman Tromanhauser.

By 1921, Curtiss ceased to produce new architectural designs. Within a few years, on June 24, 1924, he died in his studio at his drawing board at the age of fifty-four. He was buried alone in Mount Washington Cemetery

Louis Curtiss, creator of the Joplin Union Depot


The Joplin Union Depot matters.

This Place Matters.


Sources: Stalking Louis Curtiss by Wilda Sandy and Larry K. Hancks, Kansas City Public Library, Others.

The Missouri Mule

By 1911, the Missouri Mule was uniquely identified with mining as much as a miner, as seen in this illustration from a Joplin paper.


One of the most valuable sources of labor in the early days of the Tri-State Mining District was provided by mules. University of Missouri Professor Dr. Melvin Bradley partnered with the Missouri Mule Skinners Society to produce the Missouri Mule History Project. The project itself was a multi-volume collection of transcribed oral histories regarding the history of Missouri mules. Bradley sought individuals who had experience raising, selling, trading, and working with Missouri mules. One of the individuals he found was Lee Dagley, a native of Joplin, Missouri. The interview is illuminating for several reasons. First, it provides a look at how mules were used in the Tri-State Mining District, but it also allows one to understand life in early Joplin as seen through the eyes of one who lived it.

Lee Dagley was born in Joplin on July 23, 1888, in a small house on what is now today 1817 Michigan Avenue. He was one of thirteen children. Dagley’s parents came to Joplin in the early 1870s and soon found that the “best thing they had was a pick and a shovel and a wheel barrow.”  His father bought an acre of land near Sixth and Pearl where the First Presbyterian Church stands. But Dagley’s mother protested and they moved near a large spring on what is today Campbell Boulevard. Growing up, Dagley recalled that Joplin was “all prairie…I herded cattle all over this country.”

According to Dagley, folks in Joplin did not eat much beef when he was growing up. He said, “There’d always be some man in the neighborhood that’d kill a beef and he’d take it around and we’d have beef for a little while. But pork was the main thing.” The family owned one milk cow which provided their milk. Dagley said he pretty much existed on “good milk and bread and butter.” To supplement their income, his family raised and sold chickens and turkeys. Turkeys brought fifteen cents. One turkey that they kept grew to weigh 65 pounds. It was so big and aggressive that Dagley would have to carry a stick to fend it off because of its propensity to attack anyone who came in through their front gate.

At first his father did not know how to mine, but quickly learned, and gained a reputation as “one of the best miners in the country.” But his father was not successful at mining. Still, Dagley recalled that in the early days of mining, miners could only dig 16-18 feet down into the ground before they hit limestone, and water would flood the shaft. Dagley’s father created a sluice trough that washed the lead ore that miners dug out of shallow mines. After washing the ore, someone would pick up the ore and deliver it to the smelter at Granby. Dagley’s father charged miners by the piece and usually made $1 a day. To make additional money, Dagley’s father rented out horses and worked as a “powder monkey.”

Dagley attended school, but quit when he was a sophomore because his father was ill. Dagley took a job at Junge’s Bakery for $3 a week and later $6 a week. He later worked a brickyard, but when the Thomas Mine Royalty Company came to town and offered $1.50 per day to drive a wagon, Dagley left the bakery and began driving a team.

Mining methods in the Tri-State region slowly advanced. Mules would pull cars full of lead ore on the surface, but they also worked below ground. Mules were lowered into the mines, sometimes in a sitting position. According to Dagley, the mines did not use big mules: “They were not big mules. They used small mules. The biggest one would probably weigh 900 lbs.” One particular mule barn that he remembered was “about 60 feet wide and 200 feet long.” The mine operators put “hundreds of tons of hay” in the barn. Dagley boasted, “Oh, this whole country out here was prairie hay, and the best prairie hay that ever was.”

At work, a muleskinner sat “on the front of the car and drive the mule. They’d pull ‘em in and they had a track down there…up towards the mill.”

After the turn of the century, however, mines became less reliant on mules. Mines began using steam engines and motors. Mules were relegated to surface work, mainly pulling cars full of ore. The heyday of the mule in the mines of the Tri-State Mining District was over. Mechanization and advancements in mining methods had made them obsolete, but to the men who worked with them in the mines, there would always be fond memories.

* It is worth noting that although this fact was not mentioned in the oral history, Lee Dagley, according to contemporary press reports, was one of the few white men in 1903 who attempted to save Thomas Gilyard’s life from a lynch mob in Joplin.