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26, October 2017

Gaines v. Canada: A Monumental Civil Rights Victory

Of the several groundbreaking civil rights cases to originate in St. Louis and reach the US Supreme Court, Gaines v. Canada ranks high. The 1938 decision struck a resounding blow to the heart of segregation in higher education. It also signaled the beginning of the end of legal segregation, which had been put in place by the High Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that established the doctrine of “separate but equal.” Pioneering NAACP attorneys Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall were determined to reverse the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, which pronounced racial separation constitutional as long as public institutions were equal, and a young man named Lloyd Lionel Gaines, with the support of his NAACP-provided attorneys Sidney Redmond and Henry Espy, provided a promising test case for the nascent civil rights organization. Read more »

20, October 2017

A Personal Quest to Prove St. Louis the Best

For much of the United States of America’s first century, its national capital was a half-built city in a swamp. As the country expanded westward, and particularly in the years just after the Civil War, loud voices clamored for the removal of the US capital from Washington, DC. They argued that it was simply common sense to move it to the geographic center of the country: St. Louis, Missouri. Read more »

18, October 2017

Selling a War: World War I Propaganda

American leaders faced quite the public-relations crisis after finally deciding to enter World War I in April 1917. During the preceding three years of fighting in Europe, a serious split had developed in the United States between those who favored preparedness, including former president Theodore Roosevelt, and those who supported neutrality. The latter consisted of people who believed the fight was “Europe’s War” and first- and second-generation Europeans, often Germans, who wanted to avoid conflict with their native lands. St. Read more »

6, October 2017

German Day at the 1904 World's Fair

If you were to tell a St. Louisan just after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase that in 100 years a celebration of German heritage would be one of the biggest parties around, you’d likely have been laughed out of town! Back then St. Louis was a largely French city, having just been purchased from France by the United States. Yet German Day at the centennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase—better known as the 1904 World’s Fair—did indeed draw crowds from around the globe. The October 6 event was ultimately the fourth most attended day of the Fair. Read more »

29, September 2017

An Autumn Day Unlike Any Other

Natural disasters have shaped the history of St. Louis from very early on. The Mississippi River and its many tributaries have swollen over their banks multiple times, violent earthquakes have shaken the region to its core, and fire and disease have swept through separately and simultaneously. Read more »

27, September 2017

A Puppy and a Pair of Pistols

America’s most famous duel, between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804, shares some interesting parallels with what occurred just 13 years later on an unassuming sandbar island in the Mississippi River. Both incidents involved an argumentative, ambitious lawyer and a more reserved lawyer from a well-to-do family, but in the local duel the participant with the fiery temper won—though it took him two tries to manage it. Read more »

21, September 2017

Exercising the Mind, Body, and Spirit

In 1848 revolutions demanding national unity, democracy, and freedom from censorship engulfed the German Confederation (a collection of 39 loosely linked states that eventually birthed modern Germany). The revolutions failed, and thousands of working-class and intellectual Germans fled to the United States. New German faces arrived on the St. Louis riverfront daily as a result. Most had little with them except the desire to carry on a familiar social tradition, one that became a cornerstone of German St. Louis. Read more »

14, September 2017

Ebbie Tolbert and the Right to Vote

St. Louis changed forever in mid-September 1920 as thousands of women lined up at polling places all around the city to ensure they could finally make their voices heard on Election Day. Congress had formally ratified the 19th Amendment about a month prior, officially giving women the voting rights they had pushed for since 1848. Over the span of five days, more than 125,000 women registered, far exceeding local election officials’ predictions. One of those women was Ebbie Tolbert, an elderly African American who registered to vote in the city’s 7th Ward on September 14, 1920. Read more »

8, September 2017

Celebrating Scott Field's Centennial

After the US voted to enter World War I in April 1917, the need for military pilots grew, and those pilots had to have places to train. Aviator Albert Bond Lambert worked with local business leaders and government officials to secure 624 acres of land near Belleville, Illinois, to establish a training field for pilots, ground crew, and mechanics. The Unit Construction Company of St. Louis was hired to begin construction in June 1917 and immediately set to leveling the landing field, establishing a rail spur, and erecting dozens of buildings, including hangars and barracks. Read more »

27, August 2017

The St. Louis Epidemic That Wasn't

Major Walter Reed, a surgeon in the U.S. Army at the turn of the 20th century, is typically given credit for proving the connection between mosquitos and yellow fever. But what if he wasn’t the first person to observe the link between the two? Read more »