1893 World’s Fair: Joplin By the Numbers

In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition (commonly referred to as the World’s Fair) was held in Chicago, Illinois. As was common at the time, the state of Missouri sent exhibits to demonstrate its agricultural and geological wealth for the masses. An official catalogue, Missouri at the World’s Fair, was distributed to fairgoers.

One of the entries in the catalogue was sent by the Joplin Club in an effort to promote the city to new audience outside of what was then commonly referred to as the “The history of the lead and zinc mining industry of Southwest Missouri is the history of Joplin,” the entry declared, noting that although the city had once been a “straggling mining camp” it was now “a well-built city of 18,000 souls.” Joplin, it boasted, would not only remain the “commercial metropolis of the ore fields, but become the great gateway…of the regions lying south and southwest.”

Should one be interested in relocating to Joplin, the club bragged that, “Joplin is essentially a mining town, but it has none of the disagreeable characteristics which Western mining camps possess, nor is it cursed with pauper labor. The people are Americans.”

The Joplin Club provided the following statistics:
Population of the city of Joplin, 1891: 17, 389
Corporate area of the city in square miles: 12.5
Number of miles of macadamized streets in city: 45
Number of miles of sidewalks: 35
Number of miles of electric street railway: 8
Number of water mains: 26
Number of gas mains: 13
Number of miles of electric light wire: 135
Number of telephone subscribers: 153
Number of wholesale houses (businesses): 14
Number of retail houses (businesses): 314
Number of manufactories: 22
Number of flour mills (475 barrels per day): 2
Number of high schools (cost $40,000): 2
Number of ward schools: 11
Number of school children in city: 5,263
Number of churches: 12 – 3 Methodist, 3 Presbyterian, 2 Baptist, 1 Congregational, 1 Episcopal, 1 Christian, 1 German Lutheran, 1 Catholic.
Number of opera houses: 2
Number of daily papers: 3
Number of railways: 6 — 2 divisions of the St. Louis & San Francisco, the Joplin division of the Missouri Pacific, the Joplin division of the Kansas City, Fort Scott, & Memphis, and the Kansas City, Pittsburg, and Gulf.
Number of rail cars unloaded at Joplin in 1891 (15 tons each): 17,159