Gateway to the West
St. Louis was established in 1764 by the French and named in honour of Louis IX, who is best known for leading two crusades after becoming King of France in 1226 at age 11. The settlement grew rapidly when the 1763 Treaty of Paris gave land east of the Mississippi River to the British, resulting in many French and FrenchCanadians moving across to the west side of the river. The area came under Spanish jurisdiction in 1770, but briefly returned to French control just prior to being sold in 1803 to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. With a strategic location near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, two of the country’s great transportation routes, St. Louis became a major fur-trading centre and an important stop for trappers and others moving west. Although fur trading had suffered a major decline by the early 1840s, the location of St. Louis allowed it to continue as an important river port. The city’s population grew as it became a destination for many immigrants, especially the Irish and Germans, and by 1850 it had become the second largest port in the country. The city’s population had reached 160,000 by the beginning of the Civil War. Following the war, the city began a period of sustained development as economic activity commenced its westward march. The city experienced growth in financial services, manufacturing and breweries, all of which was facilitated by expanded rail connections. The city was home to 500,000 people by 1904 when it hosted both the World’s Fair and Summer Olympics.