Thomas Hart Benton painted “Joplin at the Turn of the Century – 1896 – 1906” 50 years ago for Joplin’s 100th birthday celebration. 

Joplin's 150th birthday celebration begins Thursday

Everyone’s invited to Joplin’s 150th birthday party Thursday at Joplin City Hall, 602 S. Main St.

The celebration will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers on the fifth floor.

It was 50 years ago, in 1973, when the 100th birthday celebration was highlighted by Thomas Hart Benton’s homecoming for the dedication of his mural, “Joplin at the Turn of the Century – 1896 – 1906.”

Local historian Brad Belk will outline Benton’s teenage days as a sketch artist for the Joplin American newspaper. He’ll also reveal the fascinating story of how his everlasting contribution to the City of Joplin came about.

Belk’s presentation will conclude at 4 p.m. on the first floor beneath the mural.

At the same time, Joplin Area Town and Country Quilters will present the Sesquicentennial Quilt to the City of Joplin.

Birthday cookies and punch will be served in celebration of Joplin’s 150th.

And a local barbershop quartet will close the program with a taste of what the Percy Wenrich Tribute will be like April 14 – 15 at Missouri Southern State University’s Taylor Performing Arts Center.

Joplin was named after the Rev. Harris G. Joplin, so it will be appropriate for the Joplin Ministerial Alliance to continue the celebration. “Honoring Joplin’s Journey of Faith” will be presented at 6:30 p.m. at Central Christian Center, 410 S. Virginia Avenue. The program will feature inspiring music selections and congregation singing.

Other Joplin Sesquicentennial events will be held through July. 

A photograph of Thomas Hart Benton as he was finishing the Joplin mural is among the items relating to the artist and his work on display on the mezzanine of Joplin’s City Hall. 

Considered Missouri’s greatest 20th-century painter, Benton, began his career as a professional artist in Joplin. Nearly seven decades later, in his 80s, he returned to present his mural in 1973.