Progress

From the city’s founding in 1873, a spirit of progress seemed to buoy Joplin.  This illustration from the Joplin Globe exemplifies that spirit of a city that believed that growth and industry was ever in its future.

Joplin Progress

Progress in the future!

Source: Joplin Globe

A Hotel Pool at 4th and Main

Several youngsters who rode past the place on bicycles deliberately rode down the long board incline that leads into the pit and plunged, wheel, clothes, and all, into the murky pool.

No trace of the old Joplin Hotel remained by late July, 1906.  Excavation was well underway for the new hotel when a summer torrential downpour occurred on July 20.  Over the hours as the rain fell the great pit, from which the Connor Hotel would eventually rise, filled with water.  When the sun rose the next day, to the delight of Joplin’s urchins, a veritable swimming hole at the corner of the city’s economic district reflected the morning light.  Encouraged by the July heat, boys quickly took advantage of the “hotel pool.”

A Joplin Globe article described the enthusiasm of the boys to partake in its cool, wet relief, “The youngsters did not disrobe before entering; such a move would have brought down upon them the wrath of the law.  They simply plunged in, clothes and all, a very few of them removing their outer shirts before the plunge.”  In addition to the swimming and diving, the boys soon discovered wooden boards that were quickly plied into use as rafts.  Envious youthful onlookers, who had failed to secure such craft when the opportunity allowed, willingly paid several cents, upward to a dime, to purchase either a ride on a raft or a raft itself.

Swimming pool at the old Joplin Hotel

A quick sketch of the swimming festivities at 4th and Main

The fun and games did not last forever, at least for a boy named Robert.  His aquatic fun ended upon the discovery of his mother of finding her son, fully clothed, splashing about the rain-filled pit.  The last that was seen of poor Robert was his mother leading him away with a firm grip on his ear.

Source: Joplin Globe

A Snapshot of Race Relations in Joplin

African Americans played an important role in Joplin’s history.  Although segregation prevailed in the local mining industry, African Americans worked backbreaking labor intensive jobs as hod carriers, day laborers, carpenters, washerwomen, and other less desirable occupations.

Joplin newspapers often echoed the narrow minded racial beliefs of the time by perpetuating common stereotypes of African Americans as criminal, subhuman individuals.  In comparison to some local papers, such as the Stotts City Sunbeam and the Springfield Leader (which was founded by fire-breathing former Confederate Daniel Curran Kennedy), the Joplin papers were fairly tame.  While African Americans were most often portrayed in a negative light by the papers, sometimes a positive story would appear.

It’s often easy to look back over the last century, even two centuries, of American history and fall prey to dangerous generalizations.  This story illustrates that while racism certainly did exist in Joplin, it was not pervasive.

In the early fall of 1906, a crippled black man drove his blind mule along the streets of Joplin.  He was a well known figure as he drove a wagon that carried advertising signs to drum up business for local merchants.  The old man was, “old, feeble, and helpless, and few would take advantage of the poor old man’s infirmities to make him the object of a stinging jest.”

As the man and his mule approached Sixth Street and Moffet Avenue, a group of three white boys in a delivery wagon spied them.  One of the boys shouted, “Whoa there, mule.  Ha ha ha, look at the blind mule.  Look at the nigger.” The other two began laughing which a Globe reporter said, “sound as near like the braying of an ass as anything else.”

The elderly black man sat quietly but onlookers could see that “his feelings were deeply hurt.”

One of the boys called out, “Why don’t you get an automobile?” The other two began to yell when a white miner named Fred Winchel came upon the scene.  Winchel, incensed at the abuse the boys were heaping on the old man, jumped into the delivery wagon and grabbed one of the delivery boys.  He jerked the boy out of his seat and out onto the street.

Winchel growled, “Do you want to fight?” The boy, frightened by the miner, stammered, “N-n-n-no.” Winchel, still angry, snarled, “Then take that you cowardly whelp!” before he slapped the boy viciously on the ear.  The boy’s two companions tried to drive away but Winchel ordered them to stop.  The two boys complied.

Once again Winchel jumped into the wagon and drug the remaining two boys out.  He asked, “Do you want to fight?” The boys, like their companion, replied that they did not.  Winchel boxed their ears and sent them on their way.  He was overheard to say, “I ought to be kicked for not cleanin’ every one of them.”

Source: Joplin Globe

Federal Grant Money to Fund Efforts to Get More Buildings on Historic Register

Reported here in the Joplin Globe, Joplin has received $6,500 in federal grant money from the National Historic Preservation Fund.  The purpose of the grant will be to assist in getting the 800 and 900 blocks of Main Street listed as a historic commercial district.  A quick drive down Main Street will quickly bring attention to the fact that this stretch of downtown has the most complete section of historic buildings after the 400 to 700 blocks.

Such funding is essential in helping to preserve and restore Joplin’s architectual heritage.

The Demolition of the Joplin Hotel

Demolition of the Joplin Hotel

The demolition of the Joplin Hotel

Wooden sluice-like conduits extended from the windows of the storied Joplin Hotel like slides and ended on the packed dirt surface of the streets below. Considered one of the most popular hostelries in the city, it had been the home to many cigar smoke laden conversations and political planning. One corner of the hotel building had been dedicated for use by the Miners’ Bank, but it had recently relocated down Fourth Street to the intersection of Fourth and Joplin, several blocks away. Instead, the Joplin Hotel was fated for demolition. It was to be wiped away to make room for a new Joplin Hotel, one that would rise an additional five to six stories above Main Street to become the tallest structure in Joplin.

The demolition of the hotel which proceeded in June, 1906, attracted onlookers who made quick bets as to how fast the workmen could dismantle the venerable institution. The speed of which surprised many and likely cost a few unfortunate bettors their gambled money. For as quickly as the hotel was torn apart, care was not sacrificed during the process. The owners of the hotel, likely with the cost of the expensive new hotel in mind, did what could be done to salvage the bits and pieces of the hotel. Door and window lintels, fire escapes and iron railings, all were carefully lowered to the ground. The worth of which, the Joplin Globe speculated, was valued in the thousands. Everything else, torn from the structure with hammers, hatchets, and picks, was sent down the wooden sluices. The piles that accumulated were quickly lifted onto wagons by teamsters who drove the debris away to be dumped.

By the end of the summer, all traces of the Joplin Hotel were gone. In its stead, was the foundation of the hotel that was to become the Connor, an institution whose reputation and luxury outshone the building it replaced.

Source: The Joplin Globe

The Joplin Carnegie Library and the Origins of Joplin Public Library: Part One

One of the major institutions of modern day downtown Joplin is the Joplin Public Library located in the 300 block between the Third and Fourth streets.  The prior occupant of this site was the Connor Hotel.  Plans to purchase the block, demolish the Connor, and to erect a new library building began in the 1970’s.  The Connor collapsed a day before its scheduled demolition in 1978, and all but a few minuscule pieces of the grand hotel remained on opening day of the new library building in April, 1981.  Up until that spring day twenty-nine years ago, the Joplin Public Library had been housed in a Romanesque building, a columned temple of knowledge, a few blocks to the southwest.  The origin of it and Joplin’s library system began more than a century ago.

Undoubtedly, the idea to establish a city library came into being not long after Joplin began to establish its schools and a professional class.  The dust of the lead and zinc mines was shaken off by a city that pulsed with a passionate desire for progress.  In April 1893, a gathering was held at the Young Men’s Christian Association building.  It was the first formal meeting of the Joplin Public Library Association.  Hamilton S. Wilks was elected president, along with Christopher Guengerich as treasurer, the Reverend E.E. Wilkey as secretary, and C.W. Squire as vice-president.  In addition, an executive committee was established with the following women: Mrs. W.H. Picher, Mrs. Clark Craycroft, Ms. Henry Weymen, Lola Spear and Mrs. W.C. Weatherill.

The initial funds to assist in the creation of a library came from a charity event hosted by the Century Club.  The club, established only three years previously, was a women’s literary society. Its members embarked on a campaign to create a city library through education and outreach.  While a public reading room had been the original idea for the city’s library, it became obvious that an independent library building was needed.  The Century Club, and other Joplin literary clubs, claimed victory in the city election of 1901.  The months before the vote had been spent campaigning for an annual tax of ten cents for every one hundred dollars appraised for the care and maintenance of a library building.  The measure was overwhelmingly approved.

Sedalia's Carnegie Library

The Library Committee traveled to visit Sedalia's Carnegie Library, pictured here.

This tax was connected to a requirement to form a non-partisan board to oversee the construction and operation of the library.  Ten individuals were appointed to the board: William N. Carter, H. H. Gregg, J. D. Elliff, Henry Kost, E. L. Anderson, Reverend Paul Brown, O. H. Picher, Mrs. Ada Goss Briggs, Mrs. Emma Lichliter and Mrs. Hattie Ruddy Rice.  Elliff, the superintendent of Joplin’s public schools, was elected president by the board, while the position of board secretary was given to Rice.  Shortly after, the board created a committee tasked with overseeing the building and grounds of the future library.

Around May, 1901, that committee explored the possibility of contacting the capitalist Andrew Carnegie.  For just under twenty years, the Scotsman offered funds to cities for the construction of libraries.  Generally, these donations came upon the promise that the cities guarantee a specific amount of upkeep and continue funding of the institutions.  Not long after the president of the board, J.D. Eliff sent off a letter to Carnegie, a reply was received from James Bertram, Carnegie’s personal secretary. Addressed from Skibo Castle, Ardgar, Bertram wrote:

Dear Sir – Responding to your letter of May 6th—If the city of Joplin will furnish a suitable site and pledge Itself to maintain the library at a cost of not less than $4,000 a year. Mr. Carnegie will be glad to provide $40,000 for a suitable building.

Very Respectfully.

James Bertram. Private Sec’y.

The promised sum of $40,000 delighted the board.  The question then turned to what the library should look like and where that building should be located.

The discussion of location and design carried on through the months of 1901 and into the first quarter of 1902.  It was not until October, 1901, that the board finally came to a decision on the placement of the new library.  Proposed locations included the intersection of Eighth and Pearl streets, Cox Park (advocated by the people of South Joplin), and the intersection of Joplin and Ninth streets.  The two most popular sites, however, were the intersections of Fourth and Pearl and Ninth and Wall streets.  The former were owned by a man named Renfrow and the latter by Christopher Guengerich.  According to coverage by the Globe, the board’s primary concern was a location which benefited the entire population of the city.

The board came to a decision on the location on October 21, 1901, when by a vote of 5 to 4, the Ninth and Wall location barely beat out the Fourth and Pearl site. Prior to the vote, attorney and amateur historian Joel T. Livingston offered a presentation, complete with a special map of the city that how the population of Joplin was concentrated.  Incidentally, while Livingston claimed to favor no specific site, his analysis of the city’s population placed the epicenter around Eighth and Wall streets.  If this swayed the votes toward the Ninth and Wall location, the site was further helped by the testimony of J.W. Freeman, who claimed the location would satisfy the people of South Joplin.  It was future Missouri State Senator Hugh McIndoe, as well as Freeman Foundry owner J.W. Freeman, Oscar and C.M. DeGraff, as well as Clay Gregory, who introduced the successful proposition.  Thus, the chosen site had strong and influential supporters.  As to what type of building would be built at the corner of Ninth and Wall, the discussion continued into the next year.

Cheyenne Carnegie Library

The Cheyenne Carengie Library design that William Carter favored and became the basis for Joplin's library.

The committee in charge of selecting the design of the library took their task seriously.  Initially, a question of whether the city would offer the local Joplin architects was debated.  One of the chief proponents against hiring local talent was William Carter, who when asked about the successful architect August Michaelis, sneered, “He learned his business in Joplin.”  Carter went on to point out that Joplin had no libraries or similar buildings, and as such, Michaelis had no experience in designing a library.  Another supporter of seeking a non-local architect was Ada Briggs, who read a letter written by the president of the Sedalia Library board.  Prior to this meeting, members of Joplin’s committee had visited the city to their north to view their Carnegie library.  In the letter, the president warned against allowing local architects to use Joplin’s library as an opportunity to learn how to design such a building.

Plans based on the designs of numerous libraries were pushed in an attempt to avoid hiring area architects.  One such architectural rendering was the Sedalia, Missouri, public library, which was quickly dismissed for a variety of reasons.  It was too big for the lot picked out previously; it failed to include a basement or a separate women’s assembly room; and it cost an additional $10,000 more than Joplin had budgeted.  Nevertheless, Ada Briggs described the building as, “beautiful simplicity.”

In lieu of the Sedalia design, Carter suggested the design of the Carnegie library in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Apparently, the news of Joplin’s library design search had spread, as the architect of the Cheyenne library visited Carter the week before to sell him on the design of that building.  Carter went so far as to suggest a trip to Cheyenne, similar to that which had gone to Sedalia, but the expense and length of the trip resulted in no support for such an adventure.

In the end, the committee opted to allow local architects to submit plans, based on the fact that a majority of the committee believed that they had already proven themselves with many beautiful buildings about the city.  It was even remarked that this was a difference between Joplin and Sedalia.  One city had remarkable architecture and the other did not.  The committee then reasoned that the advice of the Sedalia library board’s president to seek elsewhere for an architect could be ignored simply because Sedalia did not have any local architects of considerable skill. The plans of three firms were accepted to be voted upon.  The three were Garstang & Rea, I.A. Hunter, and August C. Michaelis.

August C. Michaelis, Joplin Architect

August C. Michaelis, one of Joplin's preeminent architects.

At 2’o clock in the afternoon on February 3, 1902, the committee selected the plan presented by Michaelis.  By specification, the design was similar to that of the Cheyenne Library, but not an identical copy.  This requirement was probably added to soothe those members, like Carter, who did not want to trust the design to local architects.  It featured three floors, a basement, first floor, and second.  Located in the basement was to be the men’s reading room, advertised as a place men could visit in or out of work clothes, as well go so far as to enjoy a smoke while perusing book or newspaper.  Filling out the basement was a coal room, toilets, and the boiler.  Upon rising to the next floor, the visitor found a main hallway of 33 square foot of marble flooring.

On one side of the floor the general reading room was placed connected by doorway to a reference room.  Opposite the general reading room was a reading room expressly for children.  In addition to a reference room, a room was set aside for librarians and contained a fire proof vault.  At the rear of the floor was located a circular stacks, which at the time was supposed to be filled with steel fire proof shelving.  The shelves were to be arranged in a circular fashion with the librarian seated in the center and thus with a 360 degree view of the room.  The stacks were expected to hold approximately 30,000 books.

August Michaelis' winning design for Joplin's Carnegie Library

August Michaelis' winning design for Joplin's Carnegie Library

Also located on the first floor was a wide double staircase that rose to the second floor.  On this uppermost floor was located a room for the women’s club with attached rooms and bathroom.  A statuary hall mirrored the hallway below and at the time was thought to be an ideal display area for mineral examples. Separate rooms were set aside for art and for trustees, as well a private reading room.  The rooftop was shingled in zinc, though a brief controversy arose when someone claimed architect Michaelis had said otherwise.  Michaelis confirmed that the library would indeed have zinc roof tiles. The library was heated indirectly with steam.  The library was filled with oak furniture and countertops.

A plan in hand, all that remained was for construction to begin.  Part Two will continue the history of the Joplin Carnegie library.

Sources: Joplin News Herald, Joplin Globe, “A History of Jasper County, Missouri and its People,” by Joel Livingston, and Missouri Digital History.

Life as a Hello Girl

In 1910, the Joplin News-Herald ran a story about the advantages of working as a “Hello Girl.” The News-Herald remarked that while it might not be fun to “sit up to a switchboard and come in contact with the varying dispositions of several hundred people each day” there were “some things about the work of the central girl at the Home Telephone company’s office in this city that probably come to no other working girls in town.”

Hello Girls operating the telephone board

Hello Girls operating the telephone board

Despite hearing about “heartless corporations” the News-Herald assured readers that this was not the case with the Home Telephone Company located in a building on Joplin Street.  Since 1906, girls were treated to an on-site “culinary department and lunch rooms.” The News-Herald reporter, unable to curb their enthusiasm, gushed, “A lunch room and a kitchen in the telephone plant!” On “pleasant days” a light lunch was served, but when the weather turned bad, regular dinners were served that were, “equal to those of the best restaurants in town.” Girls were guaranteed a free lunch twice a day.

When the operators were at work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays, the company served large dinners in the company dining room so that the girls could at least have a hot dinner during the holiday.  Empty stomachs and “improper food”, the company believed, could affect an employee’s disposition.  Lunches and holiday meals meant, “congenial employment, pleasant surroundings, and the saving of considerable money in the course of a year.”

Even more astonishing, at least at this time in history, was the fact that the company also had “baths, individual lockers, and a rest room, or sitting room” that was overseen by a “regularly employed matron.” Should a girl seem exhausted or ill, she would be sent to the rest room or home.  Mrs. R.L.Whitsel, the company’s matron, was hailed as, “experienced and efficient.”

A telephone operator circa 1911.

This unnamed telephone operator from 1911 is representative of telephone operators of the time.

If the weather was nasty, the company paid for closed carriages to pick up girls at their homes to bring them to the office.  Once their shift was over, a carriage would transport the girl safely back to her home.  The company’s management realized that “healthy, happy, and well cared for girls are more likely to be cheerful and pleasant to their patrons and more prompt in service than girls who are overworked and neglected.” Wet clothes were considered “hard on the disposition and health of the girls and the telephone company prefers to have its employees happy and cheerful, even if that means occasional bills for carriages.”

Given the number and types of jobs available in Joplin at the time, it appeared that if a young woman could secure a job as a Hello Girl, she found herself with a relatively comfortable means of income.  It also represented a time period when society felt that young women deserved an extra amount of protection from the theoretical evils of the business world, where vicious characters lurked to take advantage of young, innocent women.  Never the less, this legacy of care from the Victorian world seemed to offer some of the women of Joplin a safe and inviting place to work.

Source: Joplin News Herald, 1910

Joplin’s First Organized Baseball Team – The Colts Who Became the Miners

By the turn of the century, baseball had an established presence in Joplin in the form of amateur teams, both black and white.  However, what Joplin did not have was a professional team and the Joplin Base Ball Association was created to change this fact and to “promote the great national game in this city.”  The lead men behind the club was Arthur C. Cox, treasurer, Don W. Stuart, secretary and a manager of the Club Theater, and John A. Campbell, president.  Joplin was to play in a six team league called the Missouri Valley League, the other teams involved were from Jefferson City, Springfield, Sedalia, Coffeyville, and Iola.

The Joplin Miners

The Joplin Miners of 1902

The Colts, as they were initially named, had their first home at Cox Park and were watched by cheering fans in a brand new grandstand that seated 1,500.  The grandstand featured special boxes for the scorekeeper and the press, plus 12 private boxes for those willing to pay for the privilege of a good seat.  A good seat was needed as apparently for the first time in Joplin baseball history, only the players and umpires were allowed on the field.  Under the grandstand, locker rooms complete with showers awaited the teams before and after the games.

The team was managed by Claud A. Marcum, considered locally as a seasoned baseball veteran who oversaw a “galaxy of stars.”  Outfitted in uniforms ordered from Rawlings Sporting Goods of St. Louis, the team won their season opener against Springfield at Springfield, 11 to 6.  Unfortunately, the Colts promptly loss their home opener against Springfield a few days later.  By the end of the season, two notable events had happened.  Joplin had failed to win the league pennant or even place in the upper half of the league and the Colts had changed their name to the Miners.  From the end of 1902 and for many decades to come, the Miners provided Joplin with a team to cheer for and a pastime to enjoy.

Featured left to right in the photograph above are: Top Row – Wright Wickizer, catcher; an unnamed pitcher; Bert Dunn, pitcher; Claud Marcum, manager; Arthur “Rip” Reagan, pitcher; Peck Harrington, catcher and outfielder; and Lefty Greer, pitcher.  Middle Row – Earl Taylor, pitcher, Don Stewart, secretary of the club; Arthur “Art” Cox, treasurer of the club; and William “Dolly” Gray, first baseman.  Bottom Row – Bert “Monk” Senter, shortstop; Jimmie Underwood, outfielder; Fred Tullar, third base; and Dick Bayless, outfielder.

Sources: The Joplin Globe, “Angling in the Archives” by Charles Gibbons.

A Plunge Down a Sixty-Foot Shaft

Every day hundreds, if not thousands, of automobiles rumble through downtown Joplin.  Most drivers  go about their business without a thought that there may be empty mine shafts below their wheels.  We here at Historic Joplin do – which is not to say we’re afraid of our vehicle plunging into a gaping chasm on Main Street, but in an area riddled with mine shafts, tunnels, and sinkholes, the ground giving way does happen from time to time.  Mine shafts even presented a threat to folks, who despite having a familiarity with the dangers of working in the mines, had the misfortune to make a misstep.  Or, in the case of James “Jim” T.  Bodine, the wrong way home.

In the summer of 1904, Jim Bodine was on horseback herding the family cow home for the night.  As he passed south of Twenty-Sixth Street, he had to ride through some brush when he and his horse unexpectedly encountered an abandoned mine shaft.  Bodine, who was a, “well known and very popular mine superintendent and operator,” undoubtedly knew about mine safety, but riding your horse into a mine shaft in the middle of the night was something he had thought little about up to this point.  Bodine’s horse pitched forward into the shaft.  It managed to dig its forelegs into the mine shaft so that it seemed as if it would be able to get both itself and Bodine out of the shaft.  Unfortunately, its legs buckled and the two plunged sixty feet into a water-filled mine shaft.

An abandoned mine shaft via Bureau of Land Management

Abandoned mines poise significant danger risk in any mining area, such as this one located in California.

Both man and horse surfaced with Bodine still in the saddle.  The horse struggled to keep its nose above the water.  Bodine tried to sit in the saddle as long as he could, but realized the horse could throw him at any time, so he slipped into the water.  His head throbbing from a bump to his head, Bodine managed to climb two or three feet onto the walls of the mine shaft.  As the strength began to leave his arms, he began to cry for help.  There he remained for over an hour yelling for help.  In the water below Bodine, his horse was “plunging and striking his feet right and left.” Gritting his teeth, he sank his fingers “into the sides of the shaft as far as possible.”

Fortunately for Bodine, a Mrs.  Carter was passing by when she heard his cries for help.  She “ran to the shaft, shouted a word of encouragement to Mr.  Bodine, and then ran for help.” Mrs.  Carter brought James Ingram, D.E.  Krokroski, and H.  Dillon back to the mine shaft.  There the three men lowered a rope to Bodine which he tied around his waist.  Together the men pulled Bodine up to the surface where he was rushed home.  Four doctors were summoned, but found that Bodine was in good shape despite his harrowing ordeal.

Bodine later told a Globe reporter, “There was a time when I thought I would have to give up and fall into the water.  After Mrs.  Carter looked into the shaft and then ran for assistance it seemed hours before assistance came.  I felt my strength gradually giving away, and it seemed that every minute would be my last.” Even as the rope was being lowered to him, Bodine confessed, “I thought I would not e able to keep my position until I could get it tied, but it is remarkable how a man’s strength will stay by him when his life is at stake.” As for his horse, several men tried to extricate it, but as of the newspaper’s deadline, they had not been able to pull it out of the shaft.

Source: The Joplin Globe

Easter in the Joplin Globe

The majority of Joplin’s residents were Christian and as a result, as Easter neared, ads reflecting the holy day appeared in the Joplin Globe.   Here are three examples for your viewing pleasure:

Easter Advertisement in the Joplin Globe

Easter Advertisement in the Joplin Globe utilizing the Easter Bunny and an Easter egg.

An illustration for Easter Services in the Joplin Globe

An illustration for Easter Services in the Joplin Globe

An Easter advertisement in the Joplin Globe

Easter Bunny with Easter eggs in advertisement.

Sources:  The Joplin Globe