St. Louis

St. Louis

St. Louis, situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, was established by Pierre Liguest, in 1764. Built as a French fur-trading post it was named after King Louis IX. After Liguest's death in 1778, Auguste Chouteau, became the leading figure in St. Louis.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1763), Spain received St. Louis, New Orleans, and the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi. In 1803 it was returned to France and three years later it was sold to the United States.

St. Louis became an important port during the steamboat era and with the arrival of the railroad became a major transportation centre. This was recognised during the American Civil War and St. Louis was kept under martial law during the conflict.

In 1990 the population of St. Louis was 396,685. As well as having access to raw materials such as iron, lead, zinc, copper, aluminum and magnesium, it is involved in manufacturing aircraft, automobiles, shoes, chemicals, railway cars, textiles and electronic components.

Primary Sources

(1) In 1673 Luis Joliet and Jacques Marquette travelled along the Illinois River. Joliet wrote about his experiences in a letter to Claude Dablon (1st August, 1674).

The river which we named for Saint Louis, which rises near the lower end of the lake of the Illinois, seemed to me the most beautiful, and the most suitable for settlement. The place at which we entered the lake is a harbor, very convenient for receiving vessels and sheltering them from the wind. The river is wide and deep, abounding in catfish and sturgeon. Game is abundant there; oxen, cows, stags, does, and turkeys are found there in greater numbers than elsewhere.

A settler would not spend ten years in cutting down and burning the trees; on the very day of his arrival, he could put his plow into the ground. After sowing grain of all kinds, he might devote himself especially to planting the vine, and grafting fruit-trees; to dressing ox-hides, wherewith to make shoes; and with the wool of these oxen he could make cloth, much finer than most of that which we bring from France. Thus he would easily find in the country his food and clothing, and nothing would be wanting except salt.

(2) Lincoln Steffens, and Claude Wetmore, Corruption and Reform in St. Louis, McClure's Magazine (October, 1902)

Go to St. Louis and you will find the habit of civic pride in them; they still boast. The visitor is told of the wealth of the residents, of the financial strength of the banks, and of the growing importance of the industries; yet he sees poorly paved, refuse-burdened streets, and dusty or mud-covered alleys; he passes a ramshackle firetrap crowded with the sick and learns that it is the City Hospital: he enters the Four Courts, and his nostrils are greeted with the odor of formaldehyde used as a disinfectant and insect powder used to destroy vermin; he calls at the new City Hall and finds half the entrance boarded with pine planks to cover up the unfinished interior. Finally, he turns a tap in the hotel to see liquid mud flow into wash basin or bathtub.