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24, December 2014

How Santa Got His Suit

The image of Santa Claus is widely recognizable. But how did Santa come to look as he does today? Santa’s transition began long before he started drinking cola to pull off a gift-giving round-the-world all-nighter. Santa Claus is a hybrid figure, and while he may have descended from the bishop Saint Nicholas, he has evolved into a secular figure from the influence of many people over the years.

John Pintard and Washington Irving Read more »

31, October 2014

A Halloween History Lesson

Halloween is a holiday that allows us to find joy in the eerie and frightful, but where did it come from, and how did we come to celebrate it as it is today? Read more »

1, November 2013

Fifty Years Later: The Jefferson Bank and Trust Protests

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Jefferson Bank and Trust protests. Although the event is often commemorated at the end of August (the first protest against unequal hiring practices at the Jefferson Bank and Trust at Jefferson Avenue and Washington Boulevard took place on August 30), the protests continued until March 31, 1964. Many local civil rights activists were involved, such as William “Bill” Clay, Ivory Perry, Norman R. Seay, Charles and Marian Oldham, and Robert Curtis. Read more »

18, October 2013

“Where Did They Go to High School?”: A Brief History of the First High Schools in St. Louis

Part 2: Public Schools and African American Schools

The first public high school in St. Louis was founded in 1853, although it sadly closed in 1984, after 131 years. Known as Central High School, or simply “the High School,” this school was originally housed in a room of the public elementary school near Benton Park.[...]

Image at left: Central High School, Davison Avenue and Natural Bridge Road location. Photograph by W. C. Persons, 1937. Missouri History Museum. Read more »

4, October 2013

“Where Did They Go to High School?”: A Brief History of the First High Schools in St. Louis

Part 1: Catholic Schools

One question I have heard again and again since arriving in St. Louis is that ubiquitous one: “Where did you go to high school?” As a non-native, I am mostly excused from answering this, but, when I mention my St. Louis–born boyfriend, I am often asked where HE went to school. Recently, this prompted me to do a little research on the history of high school education in St. Louis.

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25, April 2013

A Look Back at a Notorious Bank Robbery in South St. Louis

Sixty years ago this week, a story that inspired a Hollywood movie was unfolding in South St. Louis. On the morning of April 24, 1953, a gang of bandits from Chicago attempted a heist at Southwest Bank at the intersection of Southwest and Kingshighway.

As the bank’s alarm sounded, officers Melburn Stein and Robert Heitz were first on the scene, Heitz heading to the side entrance while Stein went for the front door. A shootout followed, wounding Heitz. When bullets whizzed above Stein’s head, he ducked behind a newspaper vending machine outside. Read more »

9, October 2012

A Brief History of…Home of the Friendless

In 1855, Ellen Gelling found herself far from home, penniless, and alone. A few years earlier, Ellen’s husband, her daughter Christina, and Christina’s husband had journeyed from their home on the Isle of Man seeking a new life in America. Ellen stayed behind with Christina’s grown daughter. When Ellen came over, she found that her husband and son-in-law had both died of fever. Christina, strained by the loss of her husband and father and saddened by her separation from her daughter and mother, broke under the emotional weight of her situation and was committed to the County Insane Asylum. Read more »

20, September 2012

A Legacy in Dispute

Olympic Games are judged just as much as their events and athletes, and few Games have been as harshly criticized as those held in St. Louis in 1904.

The most accurate assessment of the St. Louis Games is likely that they were neither the overwhelming success that the organizers and local press made them out to be at the time nor the embarrassing failure that is most often portrayed today.

Left: American Martin Sheridan set a new Olympic record in discus. Photograph by Jessie Tarbox Beals, 1904. Missouri History Museum.

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10, August 2012

Running Through History

No event better represents both the similarities and differences between the 1904 Olymic Games and those currently being held in London than the marathon.

In St. Louis, the race began at what is now known as Francis Field on the Washington University campus and was then run over county roads. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote that “the course resembles the road from Marathon to Athens in that the hills are about the same height as those in Greece.” Read more »

2, August 2012

Not So Far from London

Looking at photos from the 1904 Olympics it’s not difficult to spot the differences from the Games currently being held in London. Many of the competitors are wearing jerseys promoting their city’s athletic club rather than the United States of America. The athletes often appear to be competing in front of only a handful of spectators. And some of them are running in street clothes.

But look closer and you can see what connects these two Olympic Games spread so many miles and years apart. Read more »