Archive | Brief HistoriesRSS feed for this section

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.

  Read more »

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 »

27, July 2012

A Long Way from London

The 2012 Olympics opens today with a ceremony featuring thousands of performers, created by the director of Slumdog Millionaire, and expected to draw a worldwide television audience of 1 billion. It will be the first and maybe biggest example of how different the 2012 Games will be from those held in St. Louis in 1904. Read more »

29, June 2012

St. Louis vs. Chicago: An Olympic Rivalry

St. Louis holds a unique and important place in Olympic history as the first American city to host the modern games. Earning the title, however, was not a victory easily won. Read more »

22, February 2012

Some Sauerkraut with Your Schnitzelbank?

Thirty years ago, in 1982, I was invited to attend the Fasching Sonntag at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Baden. I had no idea what a Fasching Sonntag was, but it sounded like an interesting change from the usual date of dinner and a movie or concert. Read more »

29, August 2011

The Premier Hotspot of St. Louis: Gaslight Square

A nickname can be a great indicator that someone, something, or someplace is unique. The place of which I speak, a portion of Olive Street (between Whittier and Pendleton avenues) and Boyle (perpendicular to Olive), has had not one nickname but three. This place was first known as Antique Row, the crossroads of America’s antique businesses. Then, in the mid-1950s, as the area was increasingly inhabited by intellectual bohemians and beatniks, its name evolved to become Greenwich Corners. In early March 1961, Alderman Joseph F. Read more »

30, June 2011

Race, Class, and Social Movements: Black Worker Struggles in St. Louis, 1930–1973

Stories of social struggle in the city of St. Louis demonstrate the deep ties between civil rights and labor rights there. The study of history has often discussed the fights of working people for better wages, safer working conditions, and a stronger voice in the workplace as distinct and separate from the fight of African Americans for equality, justice, and civil rights. The truth is these two movements, black freedom and labor, are linked inextricably. Read more »