Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This thesis examines the history of Joplin, Missouri in its development from a mining camp to a boomtown. The solace miners found for their anxieties within Joplin’s saloons demonstrates the community’s willingness to profit from the afflictions of its citizens. City leaders remained indifferent to the circumstances of intemperance because of the revenue generated by liquor license fees and fines for liquor law violations. Prostitution, an activity associated with drinking, provided revenue as women paid fines and returned to work to face fines once again. Madams paid fines for selling liquor from brothels and then continued to serve their clients. The vices of Joplin’s working class created lawlessness, yet it financially supported the boomtown. This support led to the city officials’ apathy toward the fruits of intemperance, and it inspired a resistance to the status quo. This thesis demonstrates the temperance movement’s attempts to change these conditions through pledges of abstinence, education campaigns in churches and schools, and local option elections. However, the cultural and economic significance of alcohol made a formidable foe for Joplin’s temperance crusaders. Their efforts proved to be in vain, as Joplin voted to keep its saloons while surrounding communities went dry. Residents of the boomtown were reluctant to give up the refuge they found inside the saloons that lined Main Street. The failure of the temperance movement to change the hearts of citizens demonstrates that intemperance was not merely a passing circumstance in the community; instead, alcohol consumption created and shaped Joplin’s culture. This thesis also demonstrates how education can change behavior, but is not as successful in changing culture. The educational campaigns to better the health of miners may have brought about better sanitation and hygienic practices at the mines, but the improved conditions did not result in temperance amongst miners. Alcohol was the mining and working class culture, thus, it was the culture of the boomtown.

Included in

History Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.