Toilers of Darkness

In the following story that we have presented in its entirety below, an anonymous Globe reporter writes in a florid style that one no longer finds in the pages of today’s newspapers. The article demonstrates a style of journalism that no longer exists as editors now demand clarity and conciseness, not flowery run-on sentences. One rarely thinks of the people who work the night shift, but as this article shows, little has changed since the turn of the century. We still rely upon the police, the fire department, security guards, janitors, and twenty-four hour fast food restaurants to look after us in the wee hours of the morning. And, as the reporter neglected to mention, far more women may have worked the night shift than he realized, only as soiled doves in Joplin’s red light district.

“In the hours of darkness, while thousands of Joplin people are wrapped tightly in the arms of Morpheus, hundreds of others are toiling for those who are unconscious of what is going on around them at that hour, keeping the big mill of life in one continuous grind.

It is not often that the average person gives a thought to those who are laboring during the hours of the night, after their daily toil is completed.  Some hurry home to a hearty supper and a pleasant evening with the family, while others remain to enjoy a good production at the local theater or visit with a friend, but few of those think of others, who are at that very hour preparing to take their places and keep the great machinery of life well lubricated, so that it will run again the next day without a hitch.

It will be of extreme interest and will, no doubt, cause great surprise to thousands of Joplin people to know that more than 1,000 inhabitants of this city work throughout the entire night, besides there are hundreds of others who devote half the night to labor.

In its slumber the city must still be supplied with heat, light and water, its homes must be protected from fire, its streets and stores must be guarded and food for thirty-five thousand mouths must be prepared before the dawn.  And all of this work and much more must fall to the lot of the toilers of darkness.  Year in and year out, the city as a great workshop never rests period.  While the day working people of Joplin are seeking relaxation, and while later hundreds of homes are quiet in slumber, a small army of tireless men and boys, and some cases women, is swaying back and forth in the nightly routine of their work, keeping up the great gind.

While thousands of Joplin people are sleeping, hundreds of miners are at work, bakers make bread for the slumberers to consume the next day; messengers boys hurry in every direction, firemen jump from their cots at the sound of the gong, ready to protect the sleepers from the ravages of fire; officers pace the streets in an effort to keep order; telephone girls are always on the alert to answer midnight call and hundreds of others stop only long enough to eat their midnight luncheon and then continue until dawn gives them the signal to retire.

Janitors and porters spend the weary hour of the night with their brushes and mops, preparing the hotel lobbies and business blocks for the next day’s work.  Often times, these creatures are overworked, and they are helped in some cases by their wives, sisters and friends.

Night scenes among the railway employees are filled with variety.  The hours of these night workmen are long, most of them coming on duty at 6:30 o’clock in the evening and working until that time in the morning.  In the switching yards, the night visitor may see the most interesting side of railroading.  In stations along the line, there are yard clerks, watchmen, roundhouse employees, car checkers and night operators.  The Missouri Pacific employs a force of 15 men during the night.  This includes a baggage man and operator at the passenger depot, yardmen and roundhouse employees, who are kept busy with the engines, keeping them clean and in repair.  The Frisco employs 16 and the Kansas City Southern nearly as many.

In Joplin there are at least a half dozen restaurants kept open throughout the entire night.  Waiters, cashiers, cooks and dishwashers have little time during these long hours for idleness.  In the saloons, which are never closed until the lid smothers the lights early Sunday morning, there are at least two men – the bartender and the porter.  Some places employ three men, and even four men during the night.

A large number of private watchmen work during the night.  Almost every person knows of the 14 patrolmen who guard the city by night, few stop to think of the many, who, in factories and stores, tramp ceaseless, only stopping at intervals to rest.  Some firms have old men for the work of watchmen, and others only employ young men.  The work is lonely and the hours are long, and in many firms the watchmen are on a constant tramp.  Next is the squad of regular officers, whose work is just as tiresome – but with much more variety perhaps, than that of the private watchmen.  Some are patrolling gloomy alleys, while others are watching the stores and residences, always ready to defend the lives and possessions of their sleeping brothers.

Electricians may be summoned to fix broken wires.  Often times they have to climb roofs and fire escapes [while the] working world is asleep, is an experience of unusual interest.

For a spectacular sight, one should visit a foundry.  During the day it may be interesting, but at night when in dark and dangerous places, where only great care makes the feat possible.

To visit the industrial places of Joplin night, when a weird quietness hangs over the city, and the day-darkness settles over the city, the scene is one of splendor.  At present, however, there are few foundries working night shifts.

Among the unceasing of the night are the dozen or more cab and baggage drivers of Joplin.  It matters not whether the weather be warm or cold, rain or snow, these fellows go just the same.

As near as can be estimate, there are thirty restaurant employees laboring during the entire night and about the same number at the hotels.  The hotels employ a night clerk, one or two porters, as many bell boys, an engineer and sometimes a helper for the latter.  From 20 to 25 saloon employees are at work, and in more than 100 concentrating mills, that operate at night, about 500 men tramp to and fro to their work as the sun rises and sets.  Engineers, electricians and watchmen are kept busy at the lighting plants, there being about 12 in all.  One postal clerk operates at the post office between the hours of six o’clock in the evening and four in the morning, when he is relieved.  About six telephone girls remain at the boards from 10 o’clock at night until 6 in the following morning.

Three of the bakeries work night shifts, there being a score or more of breadmakers all told.  14 firemen stay ready to respond to their calls, and three telegraph operators at are at work in the Western Union and postal companies’ offices.  Three or four messenger boys work throughout the entire night, and often times others are summoned to help the boys with their messages.

The Globe a force of 26 men, who all work until the grey hours of the morning.  From 2 to 4 nurses are on the alert at St. John’s hospital.  The Wells Fargo Express company employs two men during the night, and many others grind out their work night after night.

To give complete details about Joplin’s toilers of darkness would be almost an impossibility, but there is one other fact highly worthy of notice.  While women have, to some extent, usurped the places of men in many occupations and callings of the day, the sterner sex has yet a monopoly on night work.  Except for the telephone operators, there are few women night workers.  It is estimated not more than 5% of the night workers are women.”

 

Source: Joplin Daily Globe

The Newberry Law

In 1889, a law commonly known as the “Newberry Law” was passed by the Missouri General Assembly and was signed into law by Governor David Francis. The man behind the law, Dr. Frank R. Newberry, was a physician and Democratic legislator from Fredericktown, Missouri. Concerned by the “moral status” of the liquor trade, Newberry came up with a law that he felt would clean up the saloons of Missouri.
 
The text of the law is as follows:
 
An ACT to prevent any dramshop-keeper from keeping or permitting to be kept in or about his dramshop certain musical instruments, any billiard, pool, or other gaming table, bowling or ten-pin alley, cards, dice, or other device for gaming or amusement.
 
A dramshop-keeper shall not keep, exhibit, use, or suffer to be kept, exhibited, or used, in his dramshop, any piano, organ or other musical instrument whatever, for the purpose of performing upon or having the same performed upon in such dramshop, nor shall he permit any sparring, boxing, wrestling or other exhibition or contest or cock fight in his dram shop; and it shall be unlawful for any dramshop-keeper to set up, keep, use, or permit to be kept or used in or about the premises of his dramshop by any other person, or run or to be run in connection with such dramshop, in any manner, or form whatever, any billiard table, pool table or other gaming table, bowling or ten-pin aley, cards, dice, or other device for gaming or playing any game of chance;

and the keeper of such dramshop shall not permit any person in or about his dramshop to play upon any such table or alley, or with cards, dice, or any gaming device of any kind. Every person violating the provisions of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine not less than ten nor more than fifty dollars, and in addition to such fine shall forfeit his license, and shall not again be allowed to obtain a license to keep a dramshop for the term of two years next thereafter.
 
Approved June 17, 1889.

 
Legal jargon aside, the Newberry Law prohibited saloon keepers from operating pool and billiard tables, card and dice games, or any other device that might be used to gamble. Even musical instruments were prohibited and the only furniture a dram shop could have were “bar fixtures and chairs.”
 
Joplin, like many cities during this time period, had more than its fair share of saloons. A bold News-Herald reporter set off to interview some of the bar owners and saloon keepers about their opinion of the new law (and no doubt imbibe a few drinks).
 
At Chester Parker’s saloon, the reporter found that Chester was out, but his employee was of the opinion that the law “would not cut any great figure” of business. Ol Boucher, who was standing outside his saloon at 518 Main Street when the reporter ambled up, felt that “the enforcement of the law would make no material difference to the saloon difference.”
 
Major John D. Mefford of the Mefford and Klotz Saloon, however, was fighting mad. He declared the law “was a gross disregard of the rights of property.” Mefford allegedly had a $1,000 invested in new billiard tables and moaned that they would be a “total loss.” To him, the law was “unjust and a further prosecution of saloon keepers.” John Ferguson of the J. Ferguson & Co. Saloon agreed he would lose money on billard tables, but was happy to see craps and other dice games go, as they “did not belong to the saloon business.” William Teets, of Teets and Company Saloon at 318 Main Street, proclaimed he had always obeyed the law and would not grumble, but noted he would have replace many of the fixtures and furniture in his business in order to be in compliance.
 
Henry Sapp, whose business was located at 214 Main Street, was furious at Newberry and the new law. The reporter had to use multiple dashes to indicate the numerous expletives that Sapp hurled at Newberry. Sapp then said of Missouri Govenor David Francis, “Dave, he promised he wouldn’t sign that —— —— bill. He slaughters the rest of us to get revenge on the —– —– —— St. Louis saloon men. Dave is trying to cater to the —- —– country element. He wants to be United States Senator, but he is a dead rabbit now, henceforth and forever.” Sapp continued on his tirade, but the reporter must have felt it unnecessary to record the rest of his statement, due to the numer of unprintable words Sapp used.
 
Incidentally, Governor Francis became the US Secretary of the Interior shortly after he left office as governor, and then later served as US Ambassador to Russia, but he never served as a U.S. Senator.
 
Sources: p. 104 Laws of Missouri, passed at the Session of the 35th General Assembly, 1889; History of Southeast Missouri by Douglass; Joplin News Herald; 1889-1890 Missouri State Gazeteer.
 
For more on Sapp, see our blog article on Honest John McCloskey.

Pay Day

Joplin zinc miners

Undoubtedly, not a few miners dreamed of pay day while in the mines.

In Joplin, miners lined up for their weekly wages on Saturday. At the turn of the century, one paper reported that many of the leading mining companies were reluctant to pay workers on Saturday, but “the average miner will quit his job unless he is paid on Saturday and miners are scarce in this district.”

Paychecks were the primary method of payment. The ground boss kept track of his men’s hours and then the mine superintendent approved the final time statement. The statement was then delivered to the bookkeeper who then wrote out the checks. The mine superintendent then handed out the checks. Most mining companies reportedly employed fifteen to thirty men and their checks averaged $10 to $13 with each company shelling out anywhere between $300 to $700 for labor. As soon as they were paid, most miners went to the nearest bank to cash their checks, so Joplin bankers had to be sure to have enough money on hand on Saturdays, with many miners preferring to be paid in silver. Miners who had cashed their check were said to have “busted up.”

Banks were not the only ones who cashed checks. The saloon keepers of Chitwood and Smelter Hill may have cashed more checks than the banks. The paper observed, “The saloon man is accommodating; he always is.” One bank teller stated, “It used to be that we were obliged to keep open until 9 o’clock every Saturday night to transact the run of business, but now we finish and close by 8 o’clock. We do not cash near as many checks over the bank counter as a few years ago. The saloons and business houses are doing that part.”

The Joplin chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) tried to convince local mine superintendents to refrain from “settling their men in saloons” but failed to sway a majority, thus leaving the saloons an inviting place for miners to cash their checks and have a drink. Thus the streets of Joplin remained a lively, bustling place to be on a hot Saturday night.

Source: Joplin newspaper