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article number 636
article date 02-14-2017
copyright 2017 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Our 4th Largest City, St. Louis, from Frontier Settlement, to Civil War, to Modern Showpiece, 1904
by Walter Williams

From the 1904 book, The State of Missouri, an Autobiography.

* * *

TO MINDS not given to an indolent acceptance of the merely superficial aspect of recorded facts, the history of St. Louis, culminating in the World’s Fair period, resolves itself consistently into seven great illuminative epochs.

Each of these is significant and typical of the city’s distinctive life and especial destiny, yet, singly, each has many points in common with certain phases of the history of other American cities. As a historical whole, however, in which character alone may they be contemplated as furnishing a genuinely enlightening story of St. Louis, they are without a parallel in American annals.

These seven great epochs in the history of St. Louis may be set down as follows:

• The foundation, settlement, and occupation of St. Louis by the French colonists under Laclede and Chouteau, extending from 1764 to 1803.

• The Americanizing of St. Louis, dating from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and accomplished by the influx of Virginia, Tennessee, Carolina, and New England blood, and later by an additional incoming from Kentucky. This was the work of the generation from 1803 to 1836.

• The development of the growing town of St. Louis into one of the most important Mississippi valley commercial points of that day. This was due to the amazing growth of steamboat traffic on the Mississippi river and its tributaries, which first secured and then maintained St. Louis’ control of the trade of the Mississippi valley, a period extending from 1836 to 1860.

• The Civil War period in St. Louis, a time of feverish commercial conditions and bitter political animosities. During this period St. Louis took its place in history as the American city that kept its State in the Union against the will of a majority of the State’s people. This epoch extends from 1861 to 1865.

• The reaction period following the close of the Civil War, the only era of apparent stagnation or retrogression in the history of St. Louis. This lasted from 1865 to 1878.

• The renewal of St. Louis’ progress along the lines of its true destiny, a period sometimes mistakenly alluded to as “the birth of the new St. Louis.” Within this period the city made notable gains in trade and industry, in population and area, and took its rightful place among the great cities of the Union. 1878 to 1898.

• The World’s Fair Period in St. Louis. This epoch constitutes the crowning glory of the city’s history to date and has a tremendous significance as bearing upon its future. The commanding position occupied by St. Louis, the entire adequateness of its preparation for the Fair, the vast extent of its municipal improvements, the consequent prestige gained in the world’s eye, render this period singularly vital with meaning of St. Louis’ future greatness as based upon results already attained. 1898 to 1904.


With these seven logical divisions of the history of St. Louis kept in mind, the story of the city’s 140 years of existence assumes a coherent completeness as convincing in its teaching of destiny as a Greek drama.

The city was preordained to good fortune from the very day when Pierre Ligueste Laclede founded it as a trading post and predicted the greatness which it was to attain. There has been no permanent or inherent obstruction to the fulfillment of this prophetic utterance.

The little band of Frenchmen who, under Laclede and Chouteau, built the primitive cabins that constituted the material St. Louis of 1764, were adventurous and enterprising souls. They represented, indeed, the stanchest blood that France has ever sent out for colonizing achievement. The genuine pioneer spirit animated them, a spirit vital with the instinct for exploration, steadfast to overcome difficulties and endure hardships, keen to benefit from the results of their labors and sufferings in a new country.

Laclede and Chouteau were not only venturesome pathfinders in this virgin land, but shrewd traders as well, driving close bargains and possessed of a distinct and superior talent for commerce. Thrifty and industrious, these Frenchmen and their families laid a sound foundation for the St. Louis of to-day.


This foundation finds its bed-rock substance in the fur trade then so profitably followed along the western frontiers of the white man’s progress across the continent.

The early fur trade of the American west offered powerful inducements to enterprising souls. The skins taken from the wild animals of prairie, mountain and river valley were more easily convertible into money than was any other commodity.

◦ They were almost the sole article of export, the tobacco of the older settlements alone, perhaps, equaling them in commercial importance from this point of view.

◦ They furnished the material for the clothing worn by a large proportion of the population, so that there was a strong domestic demand.

◦ They could be purchased of the Indian hunters of the west at figures insuring a great profit, or plentifully gained by individual skill and proficiency with trap and rifle.

To men with money at command and with executive and organizing genius, the returns from this trade were large and exceptionally sure. Therefore it was that the western fur trade of those days furnished the commercial basis upon which the S t. Louis of the latter half of the eighteenth century stood and prospered.

Under the healthful stimulus of the fur trade, the little settlement of French folk—French always, and leaving the impress of their nationality upon St. Louis in stubborn disregard of the one-time fact of Spanish sovereignty over the entire territory—grew steadily in numbers and consequence.

French hunters and trappers pushed farther and farther into the west and northwest, returning to St. Louis once each year with the furs of their own securing, or those obtained from the Indians in barter.

French boatmen voyaged the Mississippi river with shipments of furs consigned by the Chouteaus and other great traders to New Orleans.

Within the settlement itself there was a steady improvement of conditions. Bigger warehouses were built, stores became more numerous, more pretentious residences took the place of the rude cabins of earlier days, the life of the little community widened and assumed an attractiveness impossible to the virgin colony that had followed Laclede and Chouteau to the founding of St. Louis.

This growth of the town as a French settlement was so continuous and healthful as to contain proof, even at that early stage of St. Louis’ history, of the natural advantages operating for the future greatness of the city.


But there was to be little more than a generation of what may be called the distinctively French shaping of St. Louis’ destiny.

With the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France by the United States in 1803, began the Americanization of St. Louis. It is true that the influence of the original French settlers was potent for some years thereafter, but it is equally true that by sure degrees the Anglo-Saxon element grew stronger and stronger until finally it became the dominant force, and St. Louis was French in name only.

Exactly as France had contributed her sturdiest pioneer blood to the founding of St. Louis, so did this encroaching element represent the best Anglo-Saxon stock that the world has ever seen. From Virginia, from Tennessee and from the two Carolinas came the Americans who succeeded the French as the dominant factor in shaping local history.

A little later they were followed by stanch men and women from New England, and the combination militated to produce a singularly masterful force.

In almost every instance the new citizens of St. Louis stood for the best of the older communities whence they came. In many instances they were people of exceptional education and gentle breeding.

They had shared to the full the advantages of that republican freedom which their immediate ancestors had won from England as the result of the American revolution.

They were vital with the splendid stimulus of popular liberty and democratic institutions and form of government.

As had been their French predecessors, they were alert in commerce, and they possessed superior constructive and administrative talent.

When the era of the Americanization of St. Louis dawned in 1803, the town had a population of something less than 1,000 souls.

When it reached its noonday of completed achievement in 1835, allowing one generation of time for this achievement, St. Louis had a population of over 8,000, and five years later this was doubled. The first public school had been established, the first waterworks put in operation, the first banking institution incorporated; and St. Louis itself became a corporate city during this period.


During the greater part of the distinctively French era the city limits never extended beyond Biddle street on the north, Seventh street on the west, and Cerre street on the south, the Mississippi river, of course, being the eastern boundary. In 1822, when American influence was making itself felt, the city limits were extended to Ashley street on the north and to Convent and Labbadie streets on the south. In 1839 and in 1841 the limits were again extended, the latter increase of territory giving the little city a total area of 2,630 acres.

It was during the transition period, when St. Louis was slowly changing from French to American, that the early French names of the streets were abandoned and English substituted. By 1835, at the latest, the change was superficially complete, though the French still remained important factors in the city’s development. But the subordination of French to American influence had been in marked evidence since the city’s incorporation and the election, in 1822, of William Carr Lane, as the first mayor of St. Louis.

The early French settlers and their sons had performed their part in fulfilling the city’s destiny. It had been a most worthy and beneficent performance of pioneer duty. It had been followed by a singularly aggressive and forceful American administration, thus making the history of St. Louis during its first half-century or more a fine Illustration of the best results possible to the best endeavor of two of the most vigorous breeds of men the world has ever known.

When the steamboat “Pike,” commanded by Captain Jacob Reed, made a landing at the foot of Market street on August 2, 1815, being the first steamboat to reach St. Louis, a prophetic vision would have caused the people of the city to indulge in general rejoicing and especial thanksgiving. For in reality the “Pike” was the herald of a traffic that secured and long maintained for St. Louis that control of the trade of the Mississippi valley which first placed the city in the front rank of American municipalities.

It is true that the development of steamboating was not at first notable, it being four years after the “Pike’s” arrival that the first steamboat to ascend the Missouri, the “Independence,” left her St. Louis landing, but it was a steady growth and, finally, the steamboat traffic to and from St. Louis assumed vast proportions.

Steamboating’s golden age may, perhaps, be stated as extending from 1845 to 1875, a period of thirty years, during which time it accomplished marvelous things for St. Louis. The commerce of the city flourished and its trade territory widened to an amazing extent. The river front was one of the famous American scenes of the times, the St. Louis levee being lined with steamboats, three or four deep, receiving and discharging cargoes.

The commission houses doing a southern supply business became great and wealthy. The up-river trade was also tremendously profitable and enriched many St. Louis concerns.

The influence of St. Louis as a great supply and distributing point, as well as the chief market of the sale of Mississippi valley products, was then fully recognized and her prestige permanently established. During this period the Merchants’ Exchange of St. Louis was organized, in 1836, and came to be recognized as one of the most important American commercial bodies.


But it was while the river traffic was at its height, and with twenty-five prosperous years still ahead of it, that ground was broken for the Pacific railroad, the first railway system extending west of St. Louis. From that year, 1851, until the present time, the development of St. Louis as a railway center was so steady, consistent and healthy that the city now stands among the first in the Union in the extent of its shipping and passenger traffic facilities.

The river trade took a secondary place about 1875, but there is little doubt that its revival will constitute one of the inevitable developments of the not remote future. It exerted a powerful influence over the upbuilding of St. Louis, and the great figures of its history should be held in appreciative remembrance by the city which they served with signal distinction.

In 1860, when the Civil War became imminent, the steamboat traffic of St. Louis probably had attained its fullest volume, and the city’s population had reached a total of 160,773. At the very close of the steamboat era, the Eads Bridge across the river was finished and opened for traffic, and the original St. Louis union depot was established.

These two events graphically indicated the truth that the railway had supplanted the steamboat for the further development of St. Louis as the greatest inland commercial city of the United States.

The Civil War benefited St. Louis trade in a sense, but those business houses employed in supplying the south with needed products suffered severely.

The trade stimulus of the war period came from government contracts for army supplies, and was of a feverish character, experiencing a reaction after the Civil War closed, which caused a marked depression until the city once more renewed its legitimate trade connections and again moved forward in the paths of its logical destiny. Then, too, the naturally disturbed state of the popular mind had its inevitable effect in checking trade progress.

The situation in St. Louis at the outbreak of the Civil War was remarkable. The city boasted a blended population, potent for commercial and civic development, but differing radically on the issues of the Civil War. In the course of years, Kentucky had joined Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas in contributing to the influx of strong blood for the city’s upbuilding.

There had been a heavy accession of Germans, due to national discontent culminating in the revolution of 1848 in Germany, and resulting in the emigration of Germans by thousands. These people were thrifty, home-making people, commercially acute to a marked degree, and of admirable citizenship material.

The increase of Irish citizens was also notable, constituting an element that has lent its best effort to the service of St. Louis. The New England contingent had been materially strengthened, an enterprising, resolute and valuable component part of the local population.


Widely speaking, the alignment of the several elements on Civil War issues placed the Southerners, the French and the Irish in the category of Confederate sympathizers, with the New Englanders and the Germans as Unionists in opposition to them.

Missouri itself was southern in sentiment, but the federal government was so quick to recognize the crucial importance of the situation in St. Louis, and so prompt to support the New England and German local effort against the movement to carry Missouri out of the Union, that it was successful in holding this great border State in line, although the Missouri contribution to the Confederacy was notable in extent and quality.

The best blood of the State so divided, however, was enlisted under both flags, brother against brother, and it took years to allay the resultant bitterness of spirit. During the Civil War period, St. Louis was a very hotbed of political intrigue, with Unionists and Confederate sympathizers in daily antagonism at close range, and its intimate history is peculiarly colorful and romantic in consequence. St. Louis lives in the larger annals of the time as the American city which held its State in the Union against the will of the majority of the people in that State.

The same feverish commercial activity that had prevailed in St. Louis under the stimulus of war contracts, marked the first few years following the close of the war. It was followed, however, by the inevitable reaction, and this period of reaction is notable as constituting the only era of non-progression known in the history of St. Louis. It was as if the city, torn and bleeding from war’s rude grasp, had sunk breathless into a temporary stupor, too wearied to resume the normal activities necessary to its advancement in the avocations of peace.

But this was only temporary, as stated, and in 1878 St. Louis once more began to assert its influence as the leading interior city of the Union.

This revival of energy and commercial enterprise has been mistakenly described as “the birth of the New St. Louis.” Such a characterization is a grievous error. The “New St. Louis” had but one birthday, and that was in 1764, when Auguste Chouteau, with thirty Frenchmen at his back, landed at the foot of what is now Walnut street and, acting under Laclede’s orders, founded the new settlement which Laclede christened St. Louis.

At that time Laclede himself foresaw and predicted the greatness of St. Louis and the city moved straight onward to its destiny. Its progress was checked by the Civil War, but when, in 1878, its masterful business men once more regained their aggressive and compelling spirit, the city again moved forward along its appointed course. It was the Old St. Louis reasserting itself and advancing to its preordained greatness. - At this time the population of the city was close to 350,000.


But this resumption of St. Louis’ progress in the path of destiny was equivalent to a new birth. It began about 1878. In 1876 the scheme and charter were adopted, making St. Louis an independent city without either county government or
taxation. In 1878 the first Veiled Prophet’s pageant was held, to be repeated annually thereafter drawing vast crowds to St. Louis.

In 1881 the Mercantile and Commercial clubs were organized, each intended to further the city’s business interests.

In 1882 the Cotton Exchange building was opened, the Exposition building was begun, the first extensive street illuminations, as a feature of the fall festivities, were seen, and the successful movement for the paving of the down-town streets with granite was begun.

In 1884 the first Exposition was held, being the beginning of the most successful permanent exposition known in American history. In this year also the local movement for rapid transit street railway facilities was inaugurated, culminating ultimately in securing for St. Louis what is confessedly the most perfect, complete and comprehensive electric street railway service in this country.

Indeed, the record of the period from 1878 to the present time in St. Louis is a marvelous record of the modernizing of a city. It is a record made by young men, the indomitable generation that has come to the front since the Civil War period. They were the inheritors of splendid opportunities and they have rendered a splendid accounting of their inheritance.


Mention has just been made of some of their achievements, bringing the record up to 1884. Here are other notable instances of the progress accomplished:

In 1885, with the breaking of ground for the first great fire-proof office building in St. Louis, began the “sky-scraper” era of architectural construction which has transformed the physical appearance of the business section of St. Louis. Lofty buildings succeeded one another with an almost bewildering rapidity.

Local capital, reinforced by outside investments attracted equally to the industrial and commercial fields in St. Louis, found that these fire-proof “sky-scraper” office buildings made most profitable returns on an exceptionally safe employment of money. They were filled with occupants as soon as completed, and there was still a demand for more.

Coincidently, there was a marked increase in the number of large industrial plants established in St. Louis. There was also a vast increase in the capitalization and influence of local banks, and the organization of trust companies was an accompanying feature of the time.

In addition, and as a singularly helpful force, the development of St. Louis as a great railway center went forward with giant strides.

In 1886 the first cable street railway was put in operation, the Union Depot Company was formed and a memorable period of activity in building associations was begun.

In 1887 the city streets were first sprinkled by municipal contract, a charter was obtained for a second bridge, the Merchants, across the Mississippi, . . .

. . . an St. Louis was made a central reserve city for the national banks of other cities.


In 1888 work was begun on the new waterworks, having a capacity of 100 million gallons daily, and a movement was begun to build freight depots on this side of the river for eastern roads.

In 1889 the Merchants bridge across the Mississippi was constructed, the first electric street cars were operated and the largest electric arc-light works in the world were constructed in St. Louis.

In 1890 the Merchants bridge was opened for traffic, the foundation-stone of the new city hall was laid, and the city streets and alleys were lighted by electricity.

In 1891 the first county electric road was built, the new Mercantile Club building was commenced, the St. Louis Traffic Commission was organized, work was commenced on the new union station (photograph in chapter heading), and the Autumnal Festivities Association was formed, with more than $500,000 subscribed to its support in advancing the interests of St. Louis.


In 1892 work was begun on the new Planters’ Hotel, to cost $2 million, Congress was induced to appropriate $16 million for the improvement of the Mississippi river, the first postal street railroad car to be run in the United States was operated over a St. Louis electric road, new buildings with a total frontage of 39 miles were erected, the grand Columbian street illumination took place and the Smoke Abatement Association was formed.

In 1893 the electric street car system was completed, prosecutions under the smoke-abatement ordinance were instituted, St. Louis gained the title of the “solid city” because none of its banks or business houses failed in the panic of this year, St. Louis city four-per-cent renewal bonds were placed in London at par, and the St. Louis union station, the largest in the world, was completed.

Thus, approaching now the World’s Fair period in St. Louis’ history, the city swiftly and steadily progressed, distancing all competitors and, under its destiny, plainly preparing itself adequately to meet the international expectation in 1904. The five years intervening between 1893 and 1898, when the movement for the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Celebration began, were years of marked progress, bringing the, city to the most important stage of its history.

But, before entering upon a consideration of the World’s Fair period, it will he well to make a brief study of other than the material aspect of the city. The character of a community is more accurately to be estimated by the character of its people than by the mere extent of its commercial and industrial enterprise and the totals of its wealth in dollars and cents.

This character is best revealed by the community’s development along the higher levels of life.

The religious phase of St. Louis’ history is found in a record of steady growth in the number of churches which places St. Louis in the foremost rank of American cities in this essential requirement. There are more than 300 churches in St. Louis, many of them among the most imposing in the United States.

The congregations and parishes are large, zealous and potently helpful in general as well as special fields of good work. Catholics and Protestants stand shoulder to shoulder in many movements for the public welfare. Some of the most distinguished divines in this country are members of the local clergy and the average of ability is exceptionally high.

Among the more famous churches are:
◦ the old Catholic Cathedral, on Walnut street, between Second and Third streets;
◦ the Episcopal Cathedral (Christ church) on Thirteenth and Locust streets;
◦ the Pilgrim Congregational, Washington and Ewing;
◦ the First Presbyterian church, on Washington avenue and Sarah street;
◦ the Centenary Methodist church, on Sixteenth and Pine;
◦ the Second Presbyterian church, Taylor avenue and Westminster Place;
◦ the Second Baptist church, on Locust and Beaumont;
◦ the Rock church (St. Aiphonsus), on Grand and Finney avenues;
◦ the Episcopal church of St. Mark’s;
◦ the Jewish congregation of the United Hebrew,
◦ the Jewish congregation Temple Israel,
◦ the Jewish congregation Shaare Emeth, and
◦ the Church of the Messiah (Unitarian).

This is but a brief mention, however, and is not intended to ignore the claims of other local churches to deserved distinction. Of late years the trend of the churches has been to the westward section of the city, but the old northern and southern religious landmarks still stand in active service and the central and down-town sections are provided for by missions and chapels.

Among the local charitable organizations the St. Louis Provident Association, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Associated Hebrew Charities are the most prominent.

St. Louis is exceptionally well supplied with hospitals, both public and private, and the new city hospital, built on the approved modern separate pavilion plan, is now almost completed.

Of the educational institutions of St. Louis it is impossible to treat in such detail as they deserve. The local public school system is confessedly one of the best in the Union, and a non-partisan school board admirably administers its affairs along the most advanced educational lines.

The Washington University, one of the leading institutions of learning in this country, is now admirably equipped for its high work. Its new buildings, used by the World’s Fair Company as administration headquarters, but now reverting to the University, are singularly beautiful, commodious and correct in their adaptation to University needs.


Among the effective branches of Washington University are the St. Louis Medical School, the St. Louis Law School, the School of Botany, the Manual Training School, the Mary Institute, for girls, t h e School of Fine Arts and the Washington Observatory.

The St. Louis University (Catholic) has been identified with local history for more than seventy years and has done teaching of the highest order.

The Christian Brothers College was established in St. Louis over fifty years ago and has been a potent educational factor.

The Catholic parochial schools are numerous and excellent and there are many private schools admirably equipped and managed.


The leading libraries in St. Louis are the Mercantile, now over fifty years old, the public library, made a free library in 1894, and with a history covering thirty-five years, the St. Louis Law Library, an old and well sustained institution, and the Book-Lovers’ Library, but recently established. The local libraries are famous for efficiency and completeness and compare favorably with those of eastern cities.

Mr. Carnegie has been so impressed with the public library system of St. Louis that he has given one million dollars to the purpose of bringing the advantages of this library nearer the people. Half of this amount is to be spent in erecting a building on a site covering half a block, which has been obtained by the library through the city, and the other half is to be spent in establishing branch libraries in different parts of the city.


The parks of St. Louis are beautiful, spacious and well-maintained. The largest, Forest Park, contains 1,371 acres, and furnishes a large part of the World’s Fair site.

Tower Grove Park, comprising 266 acres, is renowned for its beauty and for the magnificent statues adorning it. It adjoins the Missouri Botanical Gardens. the most famous of their kind in this country, which were presented to the city by the late Henry Shaw.

Among the remaining city parks are the Lafayette, the O’Fallon and the Carondelet Parks, but there are many smaller public playgrounds of much attractiveness.

A great boulevard and driveway system, to cost many millions of dollars, is now under course of construction, and will, when completed, connect all the larger parks in one continuous chain.

The club life of St. Louis is active and widely varied in its scope.
◦ The St. Louis Club is the richest and best appointed in the city and has a magnificent home on Lindell boulevard just west of Grand avenue.
◦ The University Club appeals to lettered men and exercises a strong social influence.
◦ The Mercantile Club and the Noonday Club are more nearly representative of the city’s commercial interests, and from them has sprung the Business Men’s League, one of the most powerful commercial influence in this country and a pillar of strength for St. Louis.
◦ The Harmonie, the Union and the Liederkranz are among the local clubs that have lived and prospered on a basis of deserving.


Of theatres, St. Louis has many, with an excellent record of management. The Olympic, the Century, the Columbia, the
Grand Opera House, the Imperial, Havlin’s, the Crawford are among the number already well established and the demands of the World’s Fair have added materially to the list.

This is true also of the hotels of St. Louis, which now compare favorably, in number and quality, with those of any other city in the United States.

The musical development of St. Louis has been marked of late years, the Choral-Symphony Society being the leading musical organization.

Reverting briefly to the distinctive educational institutions of St. Louis, it may be stated that this city is unsurpassed in the number and high standing of its medical colleges. Almost every known school of medicine is represented, and the work in this educational field is admirably done.

The newspapers of St. Louis wield a national influence and are controlled by men of great enterprise and ability.

The morning field is covered by the Globe-Democrat and Republic, with the St. Louis World as a newcomer, and the afternoon field by the Post-Dispatch, the Star and the Chronicle. The local German press comprises the Westliche Post, the Mississippi Blaetter and the Amerika.

The magazine press is represented by the St. Louis Mirror, the Censor, and the Valley Magazine.

St. Louis also has many trade papers and publications devoted to special interests.

The news service of the leading papers of St. Louis is abreast of that of any in the world and their editorial utterances are recognized as potential to an unusual degree. In the field of journalistic enterprise they occupy a leading place. On the occasion of its twenty-fifth birthday anniversary the Post-Dispatch recently broke the world’s record by issuing a 160-page paper, the largest in the history of journalism.

A salient characteristic of the local press is its devotion to St. Louis interests and zealous willingness to serve the city in every helpful way possible. This spirit has been finely manifested in co-operation with World’s Fair work, and the newspapers of St. Louis deserve high praise for their service in this field.


What is destined to be known in St. Louis history as the World’s Fair period began in 1898. In that year the first organized action was taken by the Missouri Historical Society in urging a celebration of the centennial anniversary the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France by the United States, consummated by the transfer of the territory on April 30, 1803.

Governor Lon V. Stephens, of Missouri, called a convention of delegates from the twelve States and two territories included in the Louisiana Purchase to assemble in St. Louis on January 10, 1899. This convention was attended by 93 delegates and it was voted to hold the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.

It was also decided that the United States Government be invited to assist in this World’s Fair celebration of the Louisiana Purchase centennial. The convention appointed a n executive committee, with David R. Francis as chairman, and this body appointed a committee of fifty prominent citizens to co-operate in the movement.


It was decided that the amount to be raised to defray the cost of the making of the World’s Fair should be placed at $15 million, the exact sum paid to France by the United States for the Louisiana Territory. Of this amount, one-third was to be raised by private subscription, one-third by the city of St. Louis and one-third was to come from the Federal Government. The World’s Fair Executive Committee was increased to 200.

On June 4, 1900, the National Congress passed a bill providing for a national appropriation of $5 million on condition that the sum of $10 million was raised in St. Louis. The local popular subscription of $5 million was completed January 12, 1901.

On January 30, 1901, the Municipal Assembly of St. Louis passed an ordinance authorizing the issuing of $5 million in city bonds for World’s Fair use. Whereupon the National House of Representatives, on February 9, 1901, and the United States Senate on March 3, 1901, passed the bill appropriating from the National Treasury, for the World’s Fair, the sum of $5 million and this bill was signed immediately by the late President McKinley.

On March 12, 1901, President McKinley appointed a World’s Fair National Commission of nine members. On August 20, 1901, he formally invited all foreign nations to participate in the World’s Fair. Congress Iater appropriated $1 ½ million for a Government exhibit at the World’s Fair, and the State of Missouri appropriated $1 million for a State exhibit.

Many other states came rapidly into line, and it was soon made certain that a total of $50 million would be expended for the World’s Fair commemorating the centennial anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. This outline-sketch of the World’s Fair movement up to a certain point is necessary to a proper consideration of St. Louis history during the World’s Fair period.


St. Louis enters upon this period as the fourth city in population in the United States, having a population of 700,000. It covers an area of 62 ½ square miles. It has 20 miles of river frontage. Over 8,000 factories testify to its importance as an industrial center. It takes rank as the fourth manufacturing city in the world.

It has two great bridges, the Eads and the Merchants, spanning the Mississippi river.

It is the terminal point of 24 railway lines. It has the largest railway union station in the world.

Within 500 miles of St. Louis there is a population of 37 million, and there are 80,000 miles of railroads.

It has one of the most beautiful residence sections in the world. It is constructing a boulevard, driveway and viaduct system that will be without an equal in the world.

It has the most beautiful suburbs and surrounding country of any American city.

It leads the world in the manufacture of hoots and shoes, as a primary fur market, in the manufacture of tobacco, as a great hardware distributing point, and in many other important lines of commerce and manufacture.

Its banks and other financial institutions are renowned for stability and confessedly, among the solidest in the Union. It is financially independent of New York City, the money center of this country, and at times its banks loan money in New York on New York security.

It has the largest legitimate trade territory of any city in the world and is steadily increasing that territory.

Its credit, both in the United States and in foreign money markets, is unsurpassed by that of any other city in the world. Its citizens pay the lowest tax-rate of any city in the Union.

It is one of the healthiest cities on this continent, its annual death-rate being among the lowest of all the great American municipalities.

In the extent of its municipal improvements, tremendously stimulated by the World’s Fair, it is not surpassed by any other American city.

Its water-supply, drawn from the Mississippi river, is pure and healthful. Its sewerage system is acknowledged by experts to be among the finest in the world.

Its street railway rapid-transit service is unequalled in this country or Europe.

As a great railroad center it has no American superior.

In the matter of hotel accommodations, again thanks to the World’s Fair, it stands comparison with any other city in the world.

Its importance as a great central supply and distributing point has just received official proof in its elevation to the dignity of an army Headquarters post by the United States government.

The one foremost logical deduction to be drawn from the foregoing facts is that the destinies of St. Louis are just now in strong hands. The men who in comparatively a few years have brought St. Louis to a position so commanding must of necessity be exceptionally forceful and compelling men.

The only way to judge the ability of men of action is by results. Upon this basis of judgment the present generation of St. Louis men of affairs is far above the average in masterful competency. It is these men, also, who have made the World’s Fair. They brought to its making the same energy, enterprise and practical common-sense which had been so effectively exerted for their own success in life and which accounted for the high station held by St. Louis at the dawning of the World’s Fair period.

Led by David R. Francis, pre-eminently the type of their class in this generation, these St. Louis builders of the World’s Fair of 1904 have astonished the world by the quantity and quality of their work. It is one of the few instances in the history of such enterprises where the opportunity and the responsibility were perceived and accepted by men entirely capable of improving the one and accounting for the other with the highest possible credit to themselves.


The making of the World’s Fair and the safe placing of St. Louis in a commanding position among American cities, however, were but the larger part of the work done by these typical St. Louisans of the present day.

Coincident with St. Louis’ preparation for the World’s Fair proper arose the great task of so improving the city itself that it should be eminently worthy of the World’s Fair. The greatest part of this task naturally devolved upon a municipal administration which, fortunately, had been placed in control of the city’s affairs more largely upon the issues created by the World’s Fair than upon issues of a political nature.

It was a business administration, its first business being to beautify St. Louis for the World’s Fair period and thereafter. The men elected to direct the city’s affairs throughout this period were, like those placed in important World’s Fair positions, finely representative of the best local type—the St. Loulsan who does things. They have faithfully devoted their utmost endeavor to a satisfactory performance of the task imposed upon them and they have succeeded beyond expectation.

Perhaps the greatest work of municipal improvement undertaken for the World’s Fair period is that of so additionally purifying the city’s water supply as to place it absolutely beyond suspicion on the score of healthfulness and attractiveness of aspect. This is being done by means of a great system of connected reservoirs and weirs at the Chain of Rocks, north of St. Louis on the Mississippi river, where about $700,000 of the water department’s reserve fund is being expended.

The basic idea of the plan is the purification of the water supply by settling. The water is to be admitted to an entrance chamber from a low-service conduit and flow from the chamber over a weir 610 feet long, with a three-foot drop, into a basin 400 feet wide by 670 long.

From the surface of this basin the water then flows over the next weir, falling six inches into the next basin and passing to the next weir, falling one foot into the next basin. The next fall is six inches, the next one foot and so on through the series of eight, the water falling ten and one-half feet in all from the entrance chamber to the service pipes. The six-inch falls are at weirs which are seven feet wide and the one-foot falls occur during the passage of weirs forty feet wide.

The water flows over these weirs in a thin continuous sheet. There are to be no turbid masses pouring great volumes of mud from basin to basin; the transfer from one reservoir, while constant, will be wholly lacking in agitation.

The process amounts to the continuous skimming of the clearest water from the top of each basin. From 48 to 60 hours will be the time of the water’s transfer from the entrance chamber to the service pipes, and in this period 95 per cent of the foreign matter contained in the water will be precipitated.

Second to this work for the further purification of the city’s water supply only because healthfulness must come before beauty is the movement for the permanent improvement of King’s Highway into a boulevard and driveway system of surpassing utility and attractiveness. It is intended so to improve King’s Highway that it shall give an unbroken connection from the Chain of Rocks on the north to Carondelet Park on the south, touching all the important city parks, the cemeteries and the Missouri Botanical Gardens in its course.

A great viaduct system crossing the railway tracks in the south-central section is included in this movement, the viaduct itself, by reason of handsome architecture, ornamented with statuary, preserving the beauty of the boulevard of which it will be a part. The establishment of new parks along the line of this magnificent boulevard and driveway system will also be a feature of the accomplished task.

This great movement, the result of a recommendation to the Municipal Assembly of St. Louis made by Mayor Wells in June, 1902, is being vigorously pushed to completion. In addition, many other large tasks of municipal improvement are in process of performance and it is estimated that a total sum of $10 million will be expended in order that St. Louis shall be brought up to the highest standard of modernity.


The mainspring of a city’s prosperity, of course, is its commerce. Pierre Laclede founded St. Louis where it is because, applying the rude rules which the pioneers had learned from their trafficking, he saw that the site would control commercially a vast territory.

St. Louis, as it has grown through its one hundred and forty years of development has never lost any trade it has gained, but its influence has yearly widened till it is felt now, in both buying and selling, in every State of the country.


That part of the United States in which St. Louis does most business, the west, the south and the southwest, had more railway building to its credit in 1903 than all the rest of the United States put together. These figures, indicating where the largest development of the country is going on, are interesting. The new mileage of the railways in the State, built during 1903 was as shown in the accompanying table.

TABLE: MILEAGE OF RAILWAYS BUILT IN 1903 — Total, 5,652 in the United States

660 - Oklahoma
387 - Indian Territory
390 - Louisiana
361 - Texas
286 - Pennsylvania
262 - Minnesota
236 - Missouri
231 - Arkansas
230 - Iowa
186 - Utah
169 - California
159 - Michigan
158 - New Mexico

Of this total 5,652 miles, 3,103 was built in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Indian Territory, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, the States and Territories where St. Louis sells most of its goods.

Into this trade territory in 1903 St. Louis manufacturers and wholesale merchants sent thirteen million tons of merchandise and manufactured product, most of it things to eat and drink and wear and build houses. One million tons more were sent into this trade territory last year than the year before. To those who are accustomed to examining trade statistics these figures are an amazing proof of the great increase in the volume of business in St. Louis.


The past of St. Louis has been rich in achievement. The future of St. Louis is bright with assured promise. The influence exerted by the World’s Fair movement has been genuinely wholesome and filled with the soundest inspiration. It has stimulated the best minds of the city to their best endeavor.

It has not aroused that unwise spirit which seeks present profit at a sacrifice of future prosperity and stability. There have been no “boom” tactics resorted to during the World’s Fair period. The firmest characters of local citizenship have safeguarded the community against this peril, consequently there will be no depressing reaction following the close of the World’s Fair.

The great local banks have profited by the experience of other World’s Fair cities, and, while offering every encouragement to legitimate enterprise, have been enabled to prevent the consummation of perilous projects from which the city would suffer later. Similarly, also, the real estate interests have properly discouraged an inflation of realty values that would mean demoralization in the end.

The one aim of the leaders of local thought and action has been so to shape affairs that St. Louis should profit legitimately by the World’s Fair to the fullest extent and yet remain secure against an ensuing depression and disturbance of proper values.

As a result of the dominance of this wise counsel, the World’s Fair gain of St. Louis is certain and vast in extent. The city has been favorably brought to the attention of the entire world. Its surpassing claims as a field for the profitable employment of capital are known in every great money center on the globe.

The continent-sweep of its natural trade territory is vitally recognized. Its importance as one of the world’s leading manufacturing cities is distinctly appreciated. The increase in population, due to the attracting of permanent residents as a result of the World’s Fair, will be great. The wholesome advance of real estate values is assured. The beautifying of the city as a preparation for the World’s Fair constitutes a lasting gain of incalculable benefit.

The stimulus to greater effort in the immediate future is an inevitable consequence of the new and prouder station now occupied by St. Louis. A spirit of exceptional civic loyalty and acceptance of citizenship duties has been aroused.

Good government of the municipality is more strenuously insisted upon than in the past. The elimination of politics as the deciding force in municipal elections is viewed with greater favor.

The World’s Fair has created a cosmopolitan atmosphere which counts for future greatness and dignity. The World’s Fair advertising of St. Louis will be beneficently felt for many years to come. The first World’s Fair city of the twentieth century holds the strongest position in the center of the world’s stage.

The local historian who closes his consideration of St. Louis and its history in the full flush of the World’s Fair period does not need to be a partisan to predict the brightest of futures for this city.

St. Louis is but at the beginning of the most fruitful era of its existence. It has progressed logically to this point. It has made good its claims at every juncture. The World’s Fair celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase is but a natural sequence in the fulfillment of the destinies of St. Louis, the metropolis of the Louisiana Purchase Territory.

The future greatness of the city is confirmed by its inexorable past progress along its appointed course. This is the soundest and sanest logic of the existing situation.

St. Louis, the World’s Fair city of 1904, is now about to enter upon its fullest inheritance of well earned prosperity and international acclaim.

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