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26, August 2017

Jefferson Bank: A Defining Moment

The protests against unequal hiring practices at Jefferson Bank and Trust, which lasted for seven months, mark the largest—and most contentious—civil rights struggle in the history of St. Louis. Many local civil rights activists were involved, including William “Bill” Clay, Ivory Perry, Norman Seay, Charles and Marian Oldham, and Robert Curtis. Read more »

22, August 2017

The Great Divorce

Throughout the 1860s the entire 588-square-mile area that now makes up St. Louis County and St. Louis City was ruled as one by the St. Louis County Court. Back then more than 300,000 people occupied the land east of Grand Avenue (the city’s boundary at the time), while the vast space beyond was home to barely 31,000 people. Older towns such as Florissant and small train stops such as Kirkwood and Ferguson sat in a sea of undeveloped land and farm fields. Read more »

18, August 2017

Meriwether Lewis in St. Louis

Though his time in our river town was short, Meriwether Lewis’s efforts as a trailblazer and founding father of the Louisiana Territory ensure he’ll forever be associated with St. Louis. Read more »

16, August 2017

Racial Tensions in St. Louis Waiters' Unions

If you went out to dinner in St. Louis during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, odds are your waiter would have been an African American male. At the time, the majority of waiters were black, and the position was seen as one of the most desirable ones available to black workers due to its relatively substantial wage and lack of physical labor. The security African Americans felt in this role was short lived though, because in the 1910s white men saw the same benefits of waiting tables and attempted to force black men out of the industry. Read more »

5, August 2017

The Missouri National Guard Prepares for War

When the United States entered World War I, it had a standing army of fewer than 130,000 troops, with an additional 70,000 troops in the reserves. To put that in perspective, at the start of the war in 1914, Germany had a combined standing army and reserve force of 4.5 million. Read more »

24, July 2017

Ain’t No Party Like a Henry Shaw Party

There ain’t no party like a Henry Shaw party ’cause a Henry Shaw party . . . didn’t have an official start time. Friends just showed up at his door. Read more »

20, July 2017

From Amicable Meetings to Brutal Beatings: The 1972 City Jail Sit-In

The evening of July 11, 1972, was typical of a St. Louis summer—until 30 riot squad policemen armed with tear gas, clubs, and dogs stormed the chapel on the sixth floor of the St. Louis City Jail to break up a three-day protest against cold food, lack of hygiene supplies, poor recreation facilities, and inadequate medical care. The white policemen brutally attacked 25 male inmates, 40 female inmates, and 7 citizen negotiators, all of whom were black.  Read more »

18, July 2017

Rico Zouave: How Clothes Helped Make One Man

Each year clothing designers spend millions to convince us that the right outfit can change our lives. For a Chicago man inspired by the uniforms and skills of North Africa's Zouave (rhymes with suave) soldiers, that turned out to be true. It also left an imprint on St. Louis and changed Civil War history. Read more »

12, July 2017

66 Through St. Louis: Big Chief Roadhouse

In 1920 few people paid much attention to the idea of a “highway business,” but there would soon be a fortune waiting on the roadside. Within the first year of the Federal Highway System’s founding in 1926, the American Automobile Association predicted tourists would drop $3.3 billion along the nation’s roads because they needed places to sleep, eat, and gas up. The experience of getting gas was generally the same everywhere, but eating and sleeping along the road could rapidly devolve into unwanted adventures. Read more »

3, July 2017

“A Stain on the Name of America”: The Nation Reacts

Welcome to our three-part series about the 1917 East St. Louis race riot. This post covers events after the riot. To find out what happened before it and during it, click here.

The two ends of Illinois smoldered in uncertainty on July 3, 1917. Read more »