Saint Louis

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Saint Louis

Saint Louis (lōō´Ĭs), city (1990 pop. 396,685), independent and in no county, E Mo., on the Mississippi River below the mouth of the Missouri; inc. as a city 1822. St. Louis has long been a major industrial and transportation hub. It is a leading rail and trucking center, and its airport and river port are among the country's busiest. Its industries produce a variety of manufactures, including chemicals; consumer goods; motor vehicles and parts; electronic components; foods and beverages; textiles; shoes; paper, plastic, and metal products; paints; soap and detergents; hardware; and pharmaceuticals. St. Louis is also a wholesale, banking, and financial center.

Institutions and Landmarks

The city has a noted symphony orchestra, a municipal opera, a large botanical garden, and over 30 educational institutions, including Saint Louis Univ., Washington Univ., three theological seminaries, and a branch of the Univ. of Missouri. The city's large Forest Park has an open-air theater, an art museum, a zoo, a planetarium, and the Jefferson memorial building, which recalls the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 (the "St. Louis Fair" ). Located in the city are two museums of contemporary art, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and the Contemporary Art Museum. St. Louis is also home to the National League's Cardinals, the National Football League's Rams, and the National Hockey League's Blues.

The major attraction is Gateway Arch (erected in 1965), a stainless steel arch, 630 ft (192 m) high, designed by Eero Saarinen. Standing on the banks of the Mississippi, it symbolizes St. Louis as the gateway to the West. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, of which the arch is a part, was established in 1935 to preserve such historical buildings as the old courthouse (1839–64), where the Dred Scott Case was tried (see National Parks and Monuments, table). The poet Eugene Field was born in St. Louis; his house is a museum. New Cathedral is one of the country's largest Roman Catholic cathedrals. The massive Union Station, once the country's largest railroad terminal, now houses shops and a hotel.


Saint Louis was once the site of significant Native American mounds built during the Mississippian period (see Mound Builders), but they were nearly all leveled as the city grew. In 1763 the location was chosen (1763) by Pierre LaClede for a fur-trading post. To honor Louis XV of France, it was named for his "name" saint, Louis IX of France. Transferred to the Spanish in 1770, it was retroceded to France in the time of Napoleon I and then sold to the United States along with the other lands of the Louisiana Purchase.

St. Louis, the gateway to the Missouri valley and the West, was the market and supply point for fur traders, mountain men, and explorers (including Lewis and Clark). The town grew rapidly after the War of 1812, when immigrants came in numbers to settle the West. St. Louis grew to be one of the greatest U.S. river ports; even after the railroads arrived in the 1850s, the river steamers remained extremely important.

The city was at the height of its population immediately following World War II. Between 1950 and 1990 the central city population decreased by half, and industry declined significantly in the same period. While many of the outlying suburbs grew steadily and developed industries, some, such as East Saint Louis, have been marked by high unemployment and poverty.


See E. M. Coyle, Saint Louis (2d ed. 1970) and St. Louis Treasures (1986).

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