Joseph Francis Joy was born September 13, 1883, in the small mining town of Cumberland, Maryland. This was a time when hard work, practical intelligence and thrift were needed to exist. At the early age of 12, as his father and brother before him, Joe Joy went to work at the nearby coal mine. He started as a slate picker, and by age 15 he was working underground as a face-miner using a pick and shovel. He would drill the face with a hand-held auger, charge the holes with dynamite to "shoot down" the coal and then hand-load it into small rail-mounted cars pulled by mules or ponies.
This was hard, dangerous work for strong men, let alone a young boy. While lying on his side soaked in mine water, for long hours as he labored, this bright young man visualized a "better way" to do the work.
Determined to learn and blessed with a precocious ability to persuade others, Joy won the favor of his sisters. They gathered and sold chestnuts to assist his struggling family in their efforts to finance a correspondence course for him in mechanical engineering. On his 20th birthday, the rare combination of his working knowledge, fortitude and specialized education, Joy produced his first sketch of a unique digging and loading device. He proudly shared his idea with a close friend who later provided convincing evidence of Joy’s invention of a mechanical loader.
His work in the mines continued where he held every job from pumper to general superintendent. All during this time, Joe Joy attempted to convince others of his mechanical loading device invention. He circulated his drawing trying to persuade various mining companies to help him build his gathering arm loading machine. This marked the beginning of an uphill struggle to win his first of a total of 190 patents in his name.