our recent trip to St. Louis, we had some time between events to check out a
local attraction that we hadn’t visited before.
So Laurie, her sister Bonnie and Bonnie’s husband Bill…with yours truly
in tow…headed to St. Louis’ 1,300 acre Forest Park for a little historical
Park’s world renowned St. Louis Zoo with its 1,700 animals offers free
admission! However, we’ve visited the Zoo
several times in the past and we recently toured the St. Louis Art Museum. Both of us have also attended “The Muny”
(aka. the Municipal Opera). Three out of
5 major attractions in Forest Park isn’t bad but that left 2 more for us to
decided that a visit to the Missouri Historical Museum was in order. As it turned out, we still didn’t have enough
time to see all of it…
museum focuses on local and regional history.
The Missouri Historical Society was formed in 1866…with the goal of
“saving from oblivion the early history of the city and state”. The first Missouri History Museum opened in
1892. With the 1904 Louisiana Purchase
Exposition/aka., the 1904 World’s Fair, funds became available that allowed for
the construction of the Jefferson Memorial Building…which included space for
the Missouri History Museum. Roughly
230,000 people attended the opening in 1913!
the museum was limited until 2000 when the Emerson Center Expansion was built
on the reverse side of the Jefferson Memorial Building. The view above shows the entrance into the
expanded facility. FYI…admission is
Museum has an extensive Charles Lindbergh collection. It includes two full-sized airplanes and
almost 1,900 objects including personal items and gifts… One of the
planes…perhaps this one…is a reproduction of the “Spirit of St. Louis” that was
used in a Lindbergh biopic that stared Jimmy Stewart as Lindbergh. An exhibit featuring Lindbergh’s trophies
from his historic transatlantic flight brought this museum to prominence in the
late 1920s…with 1,300,000 visitors in the first year!
coincided with the opening of a special exhibit…the Mighty Mississippi…which
opened at the museum on 11/23/19. This
exhibit stresses the magnificent Mississippi River’s impact on the various
cultures that have grown and prospered around it…and because of it.
that this ‘name exhibit’ was interesting. With many names given the river, it appears that the ‘Mississippi’ got its name from its Ojibwe/Algonquin
name…or perhaps it was the Dakota, Fox-Sauk, Choctaw or Miami-Illinois peoples.
throughout the Mighty Mississippi exhibit are varied in size, culture and time
period. This particular exhibit includes
a mix of items such as a shovel, sandbag and 6-pack of canned water from the
1993 floods, a 1930s - 1990s rain gauge and a slide rule, calculator used by a
St. Louis University geologist to study man-made causes to the 1973 floods.
Note: In addition to the 29 locks and dams along
the Upper Mississippi River, there are 190 underwater dams and about 3,500
levees that restrict the river’s path and help maintain a shipping channel.
mobile construction is a bit depressing isn’t it?
This suspended sculpture is a painful display of man’s treatment of the
river…and the world's environment as a whole.
model towboat/pusher was built in 1951.
The real “Harry Dwyer” was built in 1949, the first of many larger more
powerful tow boats needed after WWII to provide cargo transportation
(especially fuel) for the growing economy.
there are thousands of tow boats and exponentially more barges being used on the
Mississippi and other rivers in the USA.
The largest tow company has 110 tugs and towboats with 4,000
barges. The newest class of towboat/pusher
is 180 feet long with 10,000 horsepower and it can move 40 barge tows…
an earthenware salt pan dating from between 1000 and 1700. It was found in Kimmswick Missouri. These pans were used by Native Americans to
collect salt from evaporated spring water.
It was repaired with the straps sometime in the late 1800s or early
1900s. Salt was an important trade item
along the Mississippi River among the Mound Builders and later Native American
mural depicts the busy St. Louis waterfront in the mid-1800s. As the “Gateway to the West”, the city is
located just 15 miles downriver from where the Missouri River and Mississippi
river merge. The first steamboat arrived
in July of 1817 and with the river traffic and westbound pioneers, the city
soon became a boomtown. By 1860, the
city had a population of over 160,000.
St. Louis had so much river traffic that it was the second largest port in the
USA, with commercial tonnage only exceeded by New York City. It was the largest city west of Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania. On peak days, as many as
170 steamboats of all sizes and types lined the levee along the river.
to say that 1849 wasn’t a good year for St. Louis. In May, during the midst of a cholera
epidemic that would eventually kill about 10% (4,500 people) of the population,
a riverfront fire ignited that inflicted enormous damage. A paddle wheel steamer caught fire and slowly
drifted down the river spreading the fire to 22 other steamboats and other
flames leaped from the burning steamboats to the buildings along the
riverfront. It kept spreading for more
than 8 hours, destroying more than 9 city blocks along with the riverboats and
barges along the levee. Finally, in
desperation, the volunteer fire department loaded 6 businesses in front of the
fire with kegs of black powder, and blew them up depriving the fire of more
addition to the river craft at the levee, a total of 430 buildings were
destroyed. Also, this was the first fire
in US history where it is known that a firefighter was killed in the line of
duty. He was killed when spreading the
black powder in one of the buildings to be blown up.
the wheelhouse from the Golden Eagle
paddlewheel steamboat. The wheelhouse
dates back to ca. 1930 but the 175’ long boat itself was first launched in 1904
as the William Gage. Originally the boat was designed for the
lower Mississippi cotton trade.
Subsequently she was refurbished and rechristened as the Golden Eagle.
In May of 1947, after a
second refurbishing, the Golden Eagle set
out downriver from St. Louis en-route to Nashville Tennessee via the Ohio and
Cumberland Rivers. She didn’t get
far. Most of the 91 passengers and crew
were sleeping when her steering froze up and she ran aground. Everyone was evacuated safely but the ship
was abandoned where she crashed. The
wheelhouse was subsequently salvaged and restored through the efforts of a St.
Louis area teacher’s efforts.
photo shows some of the furnishings one could find on an old time
riverboat. First class cabins were quite
luxurious. The ca. 1850 settee belonged
to a southern Illinois riverboat captain.
Note the 1880 era reconstruction carpet bag. Historically, a carpetbagger was a person
from the northern states who went to the South after the Civil War to profit
from the Reconstruction. Many of these
folks would be called ‘scammers’ in today’s terminology.
the roof bell from the steamboat Elvira. This ship was built on the Ohio River in 1851
and it was named after the builder’s daughter.
Roof bells were important…mounted high on the superstructure and
sounding 3-times whenever arriving at or departing from a port.
Elvira plied the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers for more than 10 years,
finally sinking while running supplies for the Union Army in 1863 during the
Civil War. Her active lifespan was more
than twice the average for a river steamboat.
On average, these river steamboats only lasted about 5 years. Wooden hulls were breached, fires occurred and
boiler explosions were common.
early days over 500 ships were lost due to boiler explosions alone. More than 6,000 people died in riverboat
mishaps. The boiler explosions and fire
aboard the riverboat Sultana near Memphis Tennessee in 1865, led to at least
1,192 deaths and it’s considered the worst maritime disaster in US
history. Mark Twain’s (Samuel Clemens’)
brother died as the result of a riverboat boiler explosion…
This is a
Metis hide coat. This quill-embroidered
animal hide coat was owned by a member of the Chouteau family. Pierre Chouteau Jr. was the Manager of the
Western Department of the American Fur Company and he may have acquired it
during his travels. The Metis
designation indicates people of mixed heritage…combining European styles with
the design and technique of the indigenous peoples, resulting in functional
Chouteau family was a wealthy St. Louis fur trading family. Pierre’s father Jean Pierre, was one of the
area’s first settlers as well as part of the early French elite. Pierre Jr. pioneered the use of steamboats on
the Mississippi River. Later he
successfully invested in railroads and mining.
Pierre South Dakota is named for him.
items are whelk (marine snail) shell gorgets, archaeological finds from the
mound-building Native American civilization that flourished throughout the area
from roughly 800 until 1600. Termed the
Mississippian culture or Mound-Builders, almost all dated sites for this
culture predate ca. 1540 when Hernando de Soto explored the area.
is from the French with gorge meaning throat.
Sometimes it has been a protective item for the throat…such as a steel
or leather collar or plate armor, or it can be purely ornamental jewelry as
worn by various societies throughout history.
large mural depicts a possible scene showing the mound-builders/Mississippian
culture. The most distinct
characteristic of this culture are indeed the ceremonial mounds they left
behind. Cahokia Illinois, right across
the Mississippi from St. Louis, includes one of the very largest of these structures at its center.
peak ca. 1100, Cahokia covered about 6 square miles and included roughly 120
earthen mounds varying is size, shape and function. Cahokia’s population may have briefly been
greater than London England at that time.
It was the largest and most influential urban settlement of the
Cahokia Mounds is a National Historic Landmark and a designated UNESCO World
Heritage Site. Want to visit the most
important pre-Columbian archaeological site north of Mexico City? Learn more at https://cahokiamounds.org/.
culture collapsed due to the various diseases introduced by Europeans. The Native Peoples had no resistance to
measles or smallpox and the resulting epidemics killed so many people that the
social order and political structures were permanently disrupted. To learn more about this culture, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippian_culture.
stop at the Missouri History Museum was across the hall at the Pulitzer Prize
Photograph special exhibit featuring photos from the St. Louis Post Dispatch
newspaper. (I inserted ‘newspaper’ for the benefit of younger folks who never
have looked at one)
from its home in Washington D.C., this exhibit showcases prize-winning photos
taken since 1941. Those photos are
interspersed with important images from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the
exhibit will be at the museum until January 20, 2020.
the museum’s director of exhibitions, “these photos capture the absolute best
of humanity, but they also capture the absolute worst”. I chose not to include the absolute worst in
this post… Man’s inhumanity to man can be pretty depressing.
first photo is truly famous and heroic too.
The “Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima” from WWII was taken in 1945 by
Associated Press Photographer Joe Rosenthal.
the first photo to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Milton Brooks for the Detroit News captured this scene during a massive
strike at Ford Motor’s River Rouge Plant.
A strikebreaker was apparently arguing with some striking workers and
those workers began beating the man up with their fists and clubs. Hired thugs were also brought in during this
dispute… Brooks took one shot and then hid his camera out of fear that the mob
would destroy it.
was one of the ‘fun photos’ on exhibit.
Taken by J.B. Forbes in 1982, “Booth Buddies” features competing
baseball announcers, Harry Carey (Chicago Cubs) and Jack Buck (St. Louis
Cardinals), as they were clowning around in the KMOX broadcast booth.
Jack Buck actually worked with Carey when
Carey was the Cardinals announcer, taking over from Harry when he moved to the
Chicago Cubs. Buck broadcasted for the
Cardinals from 1954 until 2000. Carey
put in 25 years with the Cardinals and another 16 with the Cubs, but during his long career he also covered the St. Louis Browns, the Oakland Athletics and the Chicago White Sox. Holy Cow, Harry!
more negative side of the exhibit, this photo is titled “Inside a Sniper’s
Nest”. It was taken in 2013 by Javier
Manzano for Agence France-Presse and it is focused on 2 Syrian rebel snipers
looking for targets. With bullets flying
and snipers on both sides of this conflict, it had to be a tense time for the
photographer...and the snipers. Note the
bullet/shell holes in the wall!
negative photo from our world’s recent past.
Tyler Hicks, a photographer for the New York Times took this photo of a
terrified woman and her child seeking shelter during the Kenya Mall Massacre in
September of 2014. Hicks had been
running errands but hearing there was trouble at the mall he ran in and spotted
this scene on the level below him. Bodies were lying near the
woman and child. The authorities threw
Hicks out of the mall right after he took the photo. At least 67
people were killed in this terrorist attack.
The siege continued for 4 days…
speak louder than words… Many historic photos in the exhibit feature
starvation, brutality, self-immolation and assassination while others feature
hope and positive actions.
the portion of the Missouri History Museum that includes the original
structure…the Jefferson Memorial. It was
the first national monument to President Thomas Jefferson that commemorated his
role in completing the Louisiana Purchase.
The purchase of this territory from France basically doubled the size of
the United States…of course disregarding any rights to the land by Native
in the beginning, this building was completed for the 1904 World’s
Fair/Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The
western wing of the building houses the Jefferson Gallery and the Lopata
World’s Fair Commemorative Gallery, both of which are dedicated to the
Exposition. The elaborate plasterwork,
art-nouveau ceiling panels, World’s Fair Murals and Jefferson’s 9 foot tall statue
await the visitor. They await us too as
we ran out of time! We’ll be back!
click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
for stopping by and taking the tour with us!
Care, Big Daddy Dave