THE NEWSBOYS FRIEND
JOHN ELSTNER GUNCKEL
1846 – 1915
“THERE WAS A MAN SENT FROM GOD WHOSE NAME WAS JOHN”
A CITIZEN WITHOUT REPROACH
A FRIEND WITHOUT PRETENCE
A PHILANTHROPOST WITH OUT DISPLAY
A CHRISTIAN WITHOUT HYPOCRISY
THIS MONUMENT WAS RECTED BY THE CITIZENS OF TOLEDO, IN A MOVEMENT INAUGURATED BY THE TOLEDO EX-NEWSBOYS, FROM STONES CONTRIBUTED BY THE SCHOOL CHILDREN OF THE CITY.
The copper plaque on the front of the pyramid, commends John Gunkel with high praise from the citizens of Toledo. His work all began after a seemingly kindly woman offered to help the city’s bootblacks and newspaper boys save and invest their money emptied their bank account and absconded with the money. The boys’ lifesavings were gone—she had cheated them.
Gunkel who was motivated to do right by the boys, had to re-establish a sense of trust with the boys who were rightly leery of adults making promises. He set up an organization that would treat them with respect and garner their trust while at the same time, investing their money safely. The bootblacks and the newspaper boys were rivals. So, Gunkel focused on creating an organization for the newspaper boys—the National Newsboys Association. On August 16, 1904, at the St. Louis World’s Fair, the organization was founded with Gunkel as the president. Any boy between the ages of 9 and 17 could join without cost. Each member wore an acorn-shaped badge.
In 1905, Gunkel published his book, Boyville, which helped him raise money to build a home for the Toledo Newsboys Association. The organization established, eventually offering classes in carpentry; drawing; shoe repair; typing; printing; and journalism, and career counseling.
As it turned out, John E. Gunkel passed away on the eleventh anniversary of the day, August 16, 1915, the National Newsboys Association. His memorial service was held at the Newsboys Association building. Over 1,600 people came to pay final respects.
The newsboys mobilized to raise money for the construction of a memorial for Gunkel in Toledo’s Woodlawn cemetery which was dedicated on August 11, 1917. To honor him over 30,000 stones were collected and contributed by newsboys and Toledo-area school children to construct a soaring pyramid.
The obelisk and the pyramid were part of the Egyptian Revival which became popular after the French and British occupations of Egypt. That caused a renewed interest in Egyptian architecture and symbolism. The Egyptian symbol that is commonly found in American cemeteries is the obelisk. And the most famous obelisk in America is the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. But nothing is more monumental than the pyramid and is by far the epitome of Egyptian funerary architecture—the tomb of the pharaohs. The pyramid was a fitting memorial to Gunkel, who was a monumental figure to the Newsboys, especially one build with stones donated by the very boys he served and dedicated the later part of his career to.
coincidentally, I recently visited the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond VA and photo’d a similar monument honoring the confederate soldiers buried there…
Here’s a pic!
Ron Romano Curious Gravestones in Northern New England (2022) Billboard Monuments of Maine (2020) Portland’s Historic Eastern Cemetery (2017) Early Gravestones in Southern Maine (2016)