In many ways, the state of Missouri is the heartbeat of America. Geographically located at the center of the country, the landscape and culture of the great state of Missouri is somewhat reflective of the make up of our great nation.
Missouri's history is rich with stories about exploration, innovation and leadership, as well as battles and conflict. As a result of the opportunities and challenges endured by Missourians throughout time, they continue to achieve and persevere into the future, offering a special character to our country. The commonsense-driven, hard-working and independent people of Missouri have always been fairly skeptical, earning the "Show-Me" state motto. It's also earned the state the infamous title of being a political bellweather for the country, which led their voters to select the winning U.S. president for the last 100 years with only two exceptions.
Missouri has long played a central role in national politics and served as a harbinger of changes in the political landscape. From Kansas City to St. Louis, Springfield to Hannibal, and all the places in between, the communities of Missouri represent the diversity of the entire nation economically, demographically and politically.
Gateway to the West
Beginning with it's incorporation into the U.S. as a part of the Louisiana Territory, Missouri served as an important jumping off point for westward expansion. In 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began their year-long trek to the Pacific in St. Louis and would return upon the completion of their journey. Starting in the 1820s, hundreds of thousands of settlers journeyed west along the Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails, leaving from posts in St. Louis, Independence and Kansas City, searching for fortune, opportunity and a new life. For a brief period in the early 1860s, the Pony Express connected St. Joseph, Missouri with the state of California. Though soon replaced by the telegraph, the Pony Express proved to many disbelievers that communication across a unified continent could be a reality. More than a century later, in 1965, the city of St. Louis completed construction on the famed Gateway Arch, commemorating the important role Missouri played in creating a unified transcontinental nation.
Caught in the Middle
Unfortunately, Missouri's history will forever be tainted by its involvement with slavery. Under the 1821 Missouri Compromise, the conditions for statehood were based on the guarantee that it would enter the union as a slave state. However, Missourians fought on both sides during the Civil War. The Missouri-Kansas border was plagued by frequent guerilla fighting between the 'Border Ruffians' of Missouri and the 'Jayhawkers' of Kansas. The intense rivalry that developed continues today between the University of Missouri - Columbia and the University of Kansas, who's mascot the 'Jayhawk' is derived from this conflict.
Art and Culture
From the jazz clubs of Kansas City to the Tom Sawyer-inspired fence-painting contest in Hannibal, Missouri's rich cultural heritage reflects a coming together of midwestern, southern, eastern and western influences. Missouri's contributions to American culture are innumerable. Famous Missourians in the arts include writers Samuel Clemens (known by pen name Mark Twain), jazz musician Charlie Parker, landscape painter Thomas Hart Benton, the father of 'Ragtime' Scott Joplin, as well as starlet Jean Harlow and writer Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Women of Missouri
From Sacajawea, who helped guide the Lewis and Clark Expedition, to today, women of Missouri have challenged societal constraints on the female role throughout American history.
Among the many important women who called Missouri home is M. Lemma Barkeloo, the first female lawyer in Missouri, who later became the first female trial lawyer in the U.S. in 1870 and the first woman to argue a case in federal court. In 1873, Elizabeth Blow established in St. Louis the first public kindergarten, becoming a national advocate for early childhood education. Missouri was home to Phoebe W. Couzins, the first woman to become a U.S. Marshal, and Mary Paxton Keeley, the first woman to graduate from journalism school. Titanic survivor, philanthropist and political activist "Unsinkable" Molly Brown called Hannibal, Missouri home. Missouri-native Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first female governor in the U.S., with her 1925 election to the Wyoming governorship. The list of female role models in Missouri is incredibly lengthy, and Claire is proud to follow in this rich tradition, serving as the first female senator elected by the state of Missouri.
Fun Facts About Missouri
Missouri is known as the "Show-Me" state. The origin of this slogan is highly debated. The most likely source is an 1899 speech given by U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver at a Naval Banquet in Philadelphia in which he stated: "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me." However, a competing story also credits a miners' strike in Leadville, Colorado in the mid-1890s during which laborers brought in from southwestern Missouri were unfamiliar with Colorado mining technique and needed frequent demonstrations. Today, the motto is meant to convey the stubborn, conservative and prudent attitude of Missourians.
The state animal is the Missouri mule. For a long time, Missouri was the nation's leading producer of mules. The animals played an important role in pulling wagons headed westward during the 19th century and moving military supplies during World War I and World War II. After World War II, hundreds of Missouri mules were sent to Greece as part of the Marshall Plan to replace livestock lost during the war.
Among the exhibits at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, many foods now considered a quintessential part of American culture were popularized, including the ice cream cone, hamburger, hot dog, peanut butter, iced tea and cotton candy.
Other famous Missourians include the late-President Harry S. Truman, educator and agriculturalist George Washington Carver, baseball great Yogi Berra, famed outlaws Jesse and Frank James, poet T.S. Eliot, actor Dick Van Dyke and TV newscaster Walter Cronkite.
The name Missouri comes from the Native American term 'Oumissouri' used by a Siouan Indian tribe. Though often thought to mean "muddy water," the term actually means "those who have dugout canoes" or "town of big canoes".
The state takes its name from the Missouri River.