These postcard images show the development of Joplin from a scattering of rough mining camps through the mid-point of 20th Century. They provide an indelible image of a city that grew virtually overnight to become the world’s premier supplier of lead and zinc ore. Because of these raw materials, the city also became a transportation hub and still retains the title of The Crossroads of America. In addition to pictures of mines and miners, there are images of Joplin’s extravagantly landscaped parks and public recreation areas as well as souvenir postcards of the little motels and motor courts that sprang up along the path of America’s most famous highway, Route 66. Joplin’s place as the social mecca for the soldiers training at Camp Crowder during World War II (Beetle Bailey’s literal home) is documented in postcards showing the U.S.O. club and other social and recreational venues. Joplin’s grandiose hotels, theaters, and apartment buildings are shown in their glory days.
Without descriptions to give them substance, however, the images would exist in a vacuum, and the Library’s deepest gratitude goes to Leslie Simpson, the director of the Post Art Library. Leslie spent a year and a half researching and writing the narratives that accompany each postcard, and everyone who uses this site even casually will be impressed by the quality of Leslie’s work and the huge amount of information she has provided for all of us.
The postcards were selected primarily from the collections of the Joplin Public Library, with additional cards from the Joplin Museum Complex and the Post Art Library. After starting work on the project, the Library was given the digitization rights to two very large private collections belonging to Rodney Blaukat and Galen Augustus. Bettie Mueller, John Durbin, Jim Krudwig and Jack McMullen also contributed several cards. The generosity of these private collectors has made this project truly amazing in scope and we are most grateful to them. We hope you enjoy this trip through Joplin’s history as presented in postcard form.
This project has been made possible by a Library Services and Technology Grant administered by the Missouri State Library, a division of the office of the Missouri Secretary of State.