An Exploration of the Show-Me State: Missouri
Missouri, fondly known as the Show-Me State, is a fascinating blend of Midwestern and Southern cultures. Nestled in the heart of the United States, this state is a melting pot of history, culture, and natural beauty.
Getting to Know Missouri
It is located in the Midwestern region of the United States, and the 21st largest state in terms of land area. It shares its borders with eight different states, making it as diverse as it is expansive. The state is named after the Missouri River, which flows through its heart, and it is home to more than six million residents, making it the 19th most populous state in the U.S.
Its major urban hotspots include St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia, with Jefferson City holding the title as the state capital. The state’s geography is diverse, with the Ozarks in the south serving as a source of timber, minerals, and outdoor recreational activities.
A Glimpse into Missouri’s History
People have called what is now Missouri home for at least 12,000 years. The Mississippian culture, which began to flourish around the ninth century, was known for building cities and mounds. European explorers arrived in the 17th century, encountering the Osage and Missouria nations.
The French controlled the territory until the brief Spanish rule, after which the United States acquired the area as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The territory saw an influx of Americans from the Upland South, and Missouri was admitted as a slave state through the Missouri Compromise of 1820.
Missouri’s Role in Westward Expansion
The state played a pivotal role in the westward expansion of the United States, as symbolized by the Gateway Arch. The Pony Express, Oregon Trail, Santa Fe Trail, and California Trail all originated in Missouri. As a border state, Missouri’s role in the American Civil War was complex, with rival governments, raids, and guerilla warfare marking this period.
The Show-Me State’s Culture
Missouri’s culture is a blend of Midwestern and Southern United States elements. It is the birthplace of ragtime, Kansas City jazz, and St. Louis blues. The state is renowned for its Kansas City-style and St. Louis-style barbecues, and it has a thriving beer brewing industry. The state is even home to Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest beer producer.
It has birthed many notable figures, including Chuck Berry, Sheryl Crow, Walt Disney, Edwin Hubble, Nelly, Brad Pitt, Harry S. Truman, and Mark Twain. The state also houses prominent companies such as Cerner, Express Scripts, Monsanto, Emerson Electric, Edward Jones, H&R Block, Wells Fargo Advisors, Centene Corporation, and O’Reilly Auto Parts.
Universities in Missouri
The education landscape in the area is rich, with the University of Missouri, Saint Louis University, and Washington University in St. Louis being well-known institutions of higher learning.
The Name Missouri
The state bears the name of the Missouri River, named after the indigenous Missouria tribe. The pronunciation of “Missouri” varies, even among its present-day residents, with the two most common being mih-ZUR-ee and mih-ZUR-ə.
Although there is no official state nickname, the state is often referred to as the “Show Me State”. This phrase is believed to have originated from a speech by Congressman Willard Vandiver in 1899, in which he stated, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri, and you have got to show me.”
Missouri’s History in the 19th Century
The 19th century was a period of significant change for the area. Napoleon Bonaparte had gained Louisiana for French ownership from Spain in 1800, but it wasn’t until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 that the United States acquired the territory that would become Missouri.
Missouri earned the nickname “Gateway to the West” as it served as a significant departure point for expeditions and settlers heading to the West during the 19th century. St. Charles, just west of St. Louis, was the starting point and the return destination of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which ascended the Missouri River in 1804, to explore the western lands to the Pacific Ocean.
As many of the early settlers in western Missouri migrated from the Upper South, they brought enslaved African Americans as agricultural laborers, and they desired to continue their culture and the institution of slavery. They settled predominantly in 17 counties along the Missouri River, in an area of flatlands that enabled plantation agriculture and became known as “Little Dixie”.
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