Centennial medal marks Joplin anniversary

Nov. 6—A limited edition medal designed to observe Joplin's sesquicentennial, or 150th birthday, has been issued by the Joplin Celebrations Commission.

Patrick Tuttle, one of the advisers to the commission, said issuance of the coin follows suit with similar coins issued in conjunction with the city's centennial observance in 1973 and the 125th anniversary in 1998.

Members of the commission identified symbols that were to be used in the coin. The front side bears a "Celebrate Joplin" message with images of four significant observances that were the chief celebrations assigned to the commission. Those are Joplin's 150th birthday; the Missouri bicentennial last year; the U.S. sestercentennial (250th anniversary) on July 4, 2026; and the Route 66 centennial (100th anniversary) on Nov. 11, 2026.

Joplin was chartered March 23, 1873, which is the anniversary date but a number of events tied to the occasion are scheduled through next fall.

Tuttle said the medal, limited to an issue of 1,000, is available for $20 at the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau at City Hall, 602 Main St., or at Southwest Missouri Bank locations around the city.

Funds raised by sale of the coin will be used toward the costs of some of the events scheduled or sanctioned by the celebrations commission, he said.

Striking of the medal or coin was commissioned from a company in Massachusetts that also created medals that were given out for the former Mother Road Marathon when it was being held. Artwork for it was designed by The Joplin Globe and artist Courtney Adams, Tuttle said.

Some events sanctioned by the commission have already been held such as the Arts Fest and the Reflections of Local Color Exhibit.

Some events and exhibits will involve work by Thomas Art Benton, famed regionalist painter whose last signed mural was created for the 1973 centennial in Joplin. Benton was from the Neosho area and his first artworks were drawings for a Joplin newspaper.

The 1973 mural, entitled "Joplin at the Turn of the Century," hangs in City Hall where there also is an exhibit of his working papers and drawings and documents pertaining to his commission for the centennial artwork are displayed on the building's mezzanine.

Tuttle said Joplin's sesquicentennial also will be the 50th anniversary of Benton's mural and that will be recognized at some events being planned.

Among next year's events are "A Ragtime Salute to Percy Wenrich" to be presented April 23 to celebrate the Joplin-born music composer. Wenrich wrote a number of ragtime hits and ballads, including "Sail Along Silv'ry Moon," "Moonlight Bay" and "Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet." He was born here Jan. 23, 1887, and is buried at Fairview Cemetery, 13th Street and Maiden Lane. The salute is to be presented by the Stanley family and Connect2Culture.

The "Great Race," a controlled-speed race rally in vintage or classic cars that has visited Joplin several times in recent years, will return June 28, in tribute to Joplin's transportation heritage.

Tuttle said there also will be art history exhibits through the year by organizations including the Joplin Post Library, Spiva Center for the Arts, Connect2Culture, Missouri Southern Missouri State University and the Joplin School District.

Other events also are in the planning stages, including a May driving tour of iris flower gardens.