It’s time to set the record straight. A drawing of a seated, slightly slumped and rather – shall we say – out of shape-looking cleric was once identified as John Hogan by a Kansas City newspaper in the first quarter of the 20th century.
We contend that early typesetter/caption-writer got it WRONG. BUT the image and its egregious mis-attribution has persisted for a century. This slumped and tired image has shown up in books and in magazine articles about the Irish Wilderness, the Irish experience in Kansas City and histories of the “churching” of Missouri. It’s time to clear that up.
Every description we’ve read describes him as tall and trim, an athletic, vigorous and fit man even late in life. His official portraits show him sitting erect, trim and formally posed.
Photogravure portrait of Hogan from the 1889 "Illustrated History of The Catholic Church in the United States." Bishop Hogan remained a tall, slender, erect figure throughout his life. There is no mention of horseback riding in his later years (as he did during his missionary years), but his frequent five and six mile walks were duly noted by reporters.(page 112, Mystery of the Irish Wilderness)
Bishop Hogan was a favorite of reporters looking for comment on the news of the day, or just a feature story in a slow news cycle. In a 1906 profile of Hogan, The Kansas City Star noted:
In spite of his age, his tall form is erect and his eye flashes as it did fifty years ago. … Every afternoon he walks from four to six miles. He rides to the end of the car line or to some point upon it and walks back. … The bishop’s tall figure is a familiar one upon the streets. He wears always upon his walks a low-crowned, broad brimmed black felt hat, a long black coat… He walks slowly, deliberately, generally with his hands clasped in front and a meditative look upon his face.
(emphasis - underlining - added by me)
Silver anniversary cabinet card of Bishop Hogan, 1893. (Mystery of the Irish Wilderness, page 123)
When Hogan returned to Kansas City from his yearlong sabbatical in Ireland in 1895 a newspaper reporter described him at his arrival at Union Station:
Finally a man well advanced in years but with erect figure and eyes that flashed with pleasure as he saw the assembled host, stepped from the train.
Kansas City Journal, Feb. 21, 1913, included this in the much longer account of the bishop on the occasion of his death:
Never was there a man more willing to give audience to the griefs of others than was Bishop Hogan. A moment after a visitor had been ushered into the big parlor of the episcopal home, with its old fashioned furniture, the large oil painting of the bishop on one wall of the room, the old books in the bookcases—the bishop would appear in the doorway and with that earnest look on his face that was so characteristic he would inquire:
Well, my good friend?
Then he would listen to the story there was to tell or give his advice upon the many little troubles—or big ones—as the case might have been. In spite of his age, there was always that earnest expression, that tall, erect form and those eyes, flashing as they did fifty years ago.
. . . the bishop never let business interfere with his regular afternoon walk. Then he would ride to the end of a car line and walk back—sometimes five or six miles.
With such reports and with the evidence of his official portraits, it seems most likely that the sketch so often identified as Hogan is not the Bishop himself. So what would John Joseph Hogan himself think of this mix up? Given his self-effacing sense of humor, he would probably be amused!