Newsboys from Joplin’s Past

In Joplin’s early history, at any one time there were at least two city newspapers, if not more, fighting for the attention of Joplin’s residents.  Crucial to this battle for attention spans, were the foot soldiers of the papers, the newsboys.  We have previously covered Joplin’s oldest newsboy, and today we bring you three photographs of newboys who belonged to the Joplin News Herald at the turn of the century.  The three boys photographed below were the top three winners in a contest to sell the most newspapers in a two week period.  The winner was ten year old Allen Harris, who lived at 411 Pennsylvannia Ave and was described as “the happiest boy in Joplin.”  Reportedly, there was no ill will against Harris, who was the youngest contestant, and had loss two fingers to a dynamite cap explosion the previous fall.  Harris sold 580 papers to win.  Second place went to ‘newsie’ Shiloh Patton, who sold 579 papers, and third place went to Harry Bacon, who sold 561.  For his victory, Harris won a brand new watch and his photo in the paper.

Allen Harrison, the winner of the contest.

2nd place winner, Shiloh Patton.

Third place winner, Harry Bacon.




In Anticipation of Thanksgiving

In 1902, the eighteen newsboys of the Joplin News-Herald arrived at Turner’s Café at noon in anticipation of a free Thanksgiving Day meal. Mr. I.S. Vaughn, head of city circulation, his assistant, William S. Moss, and Mrs. Moss, escorted the boys from the News-Herald office to Turner’s Café where they found a lavish spread set for them. The boys dined on the following fare:
Cream of Fowl soup
Oyster soup
Roast sirloin of beef with brown gravy
Leg of mutton
Stuffed young turkey
Cranberry sauce
Baked lake trout au gratin
Black bass fried
Hollandaise potatoes
French peas in cream
Baked sweet potatoes
Hot corn bread
Steamed fruit pudding
Hot mine and pumpkin pie
Tea, coffee, sweet milk, or buttermilk
If that doesn’t get you in the Thanksgiving mood, then nothing will.

Source: Joplin News Herald

The 59 Year Old Newsboy They Called Dad.

On a March day in 1919, a white-haired mustached old man strode into the offices of the Joplin Globe and inquired about a position as a newsboy.  In addition to his age, the right sleeve of his jacket hung limp, his arm had been amputated many years ago.  His name was John Connell and he got the job.

John "Dad" Connell, 59 year old newspaper boy for the Joplin Globe

John "Dad" Connell, pictured here after his return to Joplin in 1919.

Life had not been kind to John Connell.  The son of Irish immigrants, he fell from a tree and broke his arm when he was eight. His father, a wealthy man, hired a physician but money was not enough to save John’s arm. It became infected, the flesh of his arm died, and had to be amputated.  When his parents passed away, Connell received an inheritance of $10,000.  Flush with cash, he operated his own business and soon married.  Life might have been a happy one, but it was not long after that his wife fell ill.  Physicians said an operation would save her, but she died in a hospital after complications from surgery.

Widowed and with his business in shambles, he moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Cleveland, but fared no better there.  His savings were soon depleted. John sought work but few businesses would hire a one-armed man. A position as a restaurant cashier was the best he could find, and such positions he held until he was hired by a Chicago portrait company to hit the road as a canvasser. And so, Fate, which had long been cruel to John Connell directed his path to Joplin.  There, Connell realized he could make more money selling the Joplin Globe than as a canvasser, and convinced the newspaper to hire a one-armed 46 year old man to join the ranks of “newsies.”

Success came quickly.  Not only did Connell excel at selling newspapers; he earned the admiration and love of his fellow newspaper boys.  Such was his success in what he called “the game,” that Connell believed he could make even more money in a big city like San Francisco. Connell departed for bigger cities and hopefully bigger fortunes.  In the larger cities and more competitive markets, he soon discovered that money was not as easily made and he bounced around the West and South, from places like Los Angeles, Denver, and New Orleans.

For thirteen years, Connell traveled the country, but never found a city like Joplin.  He returned to the city and promptly applied for the position he had left so many years ago.  Perhaps wary at first of the grandfatherly figure that joined their ranks, the newsboys soon extended affection to Connell.  He became their mediator in disputes over who had a right to a certain “corner.” Connell also dispensed advice that only a fifty-nine year old man had to young boys who grew up on the streets hawking papers. Every night at 1 a.m., Connell awoke and collected the Globe’s 2 a.m. edition to sell to workers coming off the night shift, and then later sold a later edition at 11 am.  The 1920 Federal Census found him a year older and his profession described as “newspaper distributor.”  He may have been a 60 year old one-armed newspaper boy, but Connell earned the respect of the young men he worked with and upon him they bestowed the fond sobriquet, “Dad.”

Sources: The Joplin Globe, 1920 Federal Census