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Meet me at the Arch.
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St. Louis, Missouri, is known for the Gateway Arch and... well, actually, that's pretty much what it's known for now, which is a real shame considering its history. St. Louis sits just south of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, a naturally prudent place for a major settlement; the ancient Native American city of Cahokia, the largest pre-Columbian settlement in what would become the US, was more or less just on the other side of the river. The French were the first Europeans to settle in the area, officially founding St. Louis in 1764. The settlement then almost immediately passed into Spanish hands (though it remained culturally French), before going back to France in 1800 and then being sold to the fledging United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Keeping up so far? The city's location at the convergence of the two longest rivers in North America made it a strategic and commercial hub, which in turn helped it grow into a huge city and made it an especially big deal back when riverboats were considered a speedy form of transportation. At the start of the 20th century, St. Louis was the fourth-largest city in the entire country. However, the city has been declining in importance (and population) for quite awhile now. It's lost population in every census since 1950, is no longer even in the top fifty largest cities in the U.S., and is no longer even the largest city in Missouri.note 

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St. Louis is nicknamed "the Gateway to the West" (cf. the Gateway Arch), in reference to its history as a staging ground for westward expeditions by Lewis and Clark and others and its historical position as the last major urban enclave en route to the western frontier. It has sometimes been called "the westernmost eastern city" for similar reasons. (Though Missourians who live more than a couple of dozen miles from the Arch may instead call it "the Exit from the East.") Politically, St. Louis is a fairly deep blue stronghold in an otherwise mostly red state, a trait it shares with Jackson County (Kansas City) and Boone County (the University of Missouri–Columbia). Speaking of counties, the City of St. Louis is not in any of Missouri's 114 counties. It used to be part of St. Louis County but voted to secede in 1876. Besides affecting the city's tax base and infrastructure, this separation has also contributed to St. Louis's population shrinkage by comparison with other major U.S. cities—since the borders of the city itself are fixed, the common practice of incorporating outlying suburbs has been halted for the last century and a half. The full metro area is actually the 21st most populous in the U.S. to this day—still a major downgrade from its earlier prominence, to be sure, but not nearly as bad a drop as it looks on paper. Part of that metro area lies across the river in Illinois; those go by the description "Metro East" for obvious reasons.

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St. Louis has a running rivalry with fellow Midwestern giant Chicago dating back to when they were the biggest cities in the Midwest. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition (more widely known as the "St. Louis World's Fair") was held there in 1904, which also hosted the third Olympic Games, the first held in America—Chicago's still kinda mad about this, since they were supposed to have the games before they switched to take advantage of the fair. Today, the only thing St. Louis really competes directly with Chicago (outside of sports) is its crime rate; St. Louis' violent crime rate is regularly the highest in the nation.

The Gateway Arch has a viewing area at its apex which can be reached by so-called tram cars that ascend either leg of the arch. Each tram consists of a chain of cars with circular cross-sections, which remain horizontal as they travel up and down the changing inclines. Definitely not for the claustrophobic, however, since each car holds five people with no standing room and looks a bit like a washing machine drum.

St. Louis is home to:

  • The St. Louis Cardinals (MLB). The Cardinals are second only to the New York Yankees in total World Series titles and have a strong following. Indeed, in many ways they punch well above their weight in terms of prominence for a market of their size, largely due to the historical circumstances of having been the MLB team furthest west and furthest south for the first half of the 20th century. That landed their games on a large network of first radio and then television stations for "local" broadcasts, which they still maintain to a surprisingly large extent. Especially prominent is radio flagship KMOX, which, because of the flat topography of the American Midwest, the nature of AM broadcasting on medium wave radio, and the power of the signal, can be heard as far away as Canada.
    • St. Louis used to be home to another MLB team, the St. Louis Browns of the American League, which played in the city for the entire first half of the 20th century but moved to Baltimore right around when it became clear St. Louis wasn't going to stay big enough for two teams. Unlike the usually successful Cardinals, the Browns were a perennial bottom-dweller that often resorted to gimmicks to sell tickets, especially when the team was owned by the infamous Bill Veeck (whose named rhymes with "wreck", as his autobiography was titled). Veeck once signed Eddie Gaedel, who was only 3 feet 7 inches tall, to a contract so the opposing pitcher couldn't strike him out because of the small size of his strike zone. Gaedel even wore the fraction "1/8" as his uniform number.
  • The St. Louis Blues (NHL). One of six teams that joined the NHL when it doubled in size in 1967, they went to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first three seasons, aided greatly by a league format that saw the "Original Six" in one conference and the expansion teams in the other. However, they lost all three, twice to Montreal and once to Boston. In the middle of the 2018–19 season, it looked like they'd continue their ignominious streak of being the only active team from the 1967 expansion never to lift Lord Stanley's Mug, seeing that they were dead last in the league. They then pulled a dramatic comeback, making the playoffs and then winning their first Stanley Cup.

The city was home to two notable NFL franchises. The Chicago Cardinals moved to the city in 1960. They played there for 28 years and were quite mediocre; they only visited the playoffs thrice in that span, never actually won in the postseason, and left for Arizona in 1988. The city put up the bill for a new stadium in the '90s hoping to attract a team and brought in the Los Angeles Rams when owner Georgia Frontiere, a St. Louis native, thought the team would do better in her hometown than the crowded LA market. For a time, it actually did: "The Greatest Show on Turf", which lasted from 1999 to 2001, won the Super Bowl in 1999 by one yard against the Titans, and made it to the Big Game again in 2001 only to lost to the Patriots on a last-second field goal. After Frontiere's death in 2008, however, they didn't put up a single winning season. Since their lease allowed them to depart if their stadium was deemed subpar and the economically struggling city couldn't afford to renovate it, the Rams eventually hightailed it back to LA in 2016.

Anheuser-Busch was founded in St. Louis, and it is still home to the international brewing conglomerate's North American headquarters. (Maybe that has something to do with the whole crime thing?) These days almost nobody says "Saint Louie" unless they're joking or referencing Yogi Bear.


People from St. Louis (and vicinity):

  • Maya Angelou
  • Noah Antwiler
  • Josephine Baker
  • Scott Bakula: Born in St. Louis, attended Kirkwood High School.
  • Yogi Berra
  • Chuck Berry
  • Evan Bourne/Matt Sydal
  • Sterling K. Brown
  • William S. Burroughs
  • Cedric the Entertainer: Born in Jefferson City, MO, moved to the Berkeley suburb after junior high.
  • Bob Chandler, who founded a shop in the suburbs where his personal pickup truck evolved into Bigfoot, the first ever monster truck, creating a whole new motor sport.
  • Kate Capshaw (born in Fort Worth, but raised in St. Louis)
  • C. J. Cherryh
  • Kate Chopin
  • William Clark: Supplied and launched the Lewis and Clark Expedition from St. Louis and nearby St. Charles, respectively; returned to the area after the Expedition and lived there the rest of his life, while holding various prominent government positions.
  • Sarah Clarke
  • Andy Cohen
  • Jimmy Connors: Tennis great from Metro East (born in East St. Louis, raised in Belleville)
  • Bob Costas
  • Miles Davis: Born in Alton, Illinois, grew up in East St. Louis.
  • Phyllis Diller
  • Colin Donnell
  • Jack Dorsey (Twitter co-founder and CEO)
  • T. S. Eliot
  • Jenna Fischer: Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, grew up in St. Louis (as did her Office co-stars Ellie Kemper and Phyllis Smith).
  • Redd Foxx
  • Jonathan Franzen: Born in Illinois, grew up in the Webster Groves suburb.
  • Nikki Glaser (comedian): Born in Cincinnati, OH, grew up in St. Louis.
  • David Gonterman
  • John Goodman
  • Ulysses S. Grant: The site of his farm is now a popular tourist attraction, complete with a petting zoo.
  • Dick Gregory
  • James Gunn
  • Sean Gunn
  • Jon Hamm: Born in St. Louis, grew up in nearby Creve Coeur.
  • Scott Joplin
  • Kane: Born in Spain, grew up in St. Louis.
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee: Track legend born and raised in East St. Louis.
  • Faye Kellerman (bestselling novelist)
  • Ellie Kemper—perhaps best known as Erin from The Office and now starring as the title character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—was born in Kansas City but moved to St. Louis as a child. Fun fact: she went to the same high school as Jon Hamm had, and he taught her eighth grade acting class.
  • Kelly Klein
  • Kevin Kline
  • Ann Leckie
  • Charles Lindbergh: Worked as a pilot based out of St. Louis prior to his famous solo transatlantic flight. The flight itself was financed in part by St. Louis businessmen, and was carried out in a custom-built plane called The Spirit of St. Louis.
  • Patricia Lockwood (poet and novelist): Born in Fort Wayne, IN, grew up in St. Louis and Cincinnati.
  • Michael McDonald (singer most famous for his time in The Doobie Brothers): Born in a St. Louis hospital to a family that lived in Ferguson, and raised in Florissant.
  • Taylor Momsen
  • Marianne Moore (poet): Born in nearby Kirkwood and lived in the St. Louis area until age 16.
  • Stan Musial: Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, but played his entire MLB career with the Cardinals and lived in St. Louis County for the rest of his life.
  • Nelly: Born in Austin, TX, grew up in St. Louis.
  • Dan O'Bannon
  • Angel Olsen (indie folk singer-writer)
  • Randy Orton: Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, but raised in and billed out of St. Louis.
  • Evan Peters
  • Vincent Price
  • Joseph Pulitzer: Born in Hungary, made his career in St. Louis (where he founded the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, still the city's most prominent newspaper).
  • Dred Scott: The infamous 1857 Supreme Court decision which ruled that African Americans did not count as US citizens and which is often credited as a catalyst for the outbreak of the American Civil War four years later occurred when Scott sued his enslaver for bringing him back to St. Louis (where slavery was legal) after a period in (free) Wisconsin. The courthouse where the case was first tried is still a prominent St. Louis landmark, and a statue of Scott stands outside of it.
  • Ntozake Shange: Born in Trenton, NJ, lived in St. Louis between ages 8 and 13.
  • William Tecumseh Sherman
  • Phyllis Schlafly (conservative activist and the subject of Mrs. America)
  • Slayyyter (pop singer-songwriter): Grew up in the Kirkwood suburb.
  • Jane Smiley (Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist): Born in L.A., grew up in the Webster Groves suburb.
  • Phyllis Smith (Phyllis from The Office)
  • SZA: Born in St. Louis, grew up in New Jersey.
  • Sara Teasdale (poet)
  • Tina Turner: Born and mostly raised in Tennessee, but lived in St. Louis at two different times during her childhood and graduated from high school in the city. More significantly, she started her music career in St. Louis.
  • Mark Twain: Grew up 100 miles upriver in Hannibal, MO and spent plenty of time in St. Louis throughout his life, especially as a steamboat pilot in the years when the city was a major river port. Today there's a neighborhood in the city named after him.
  • Annie Wersching
  • Beau Willimon: Born in Alexandria, VA, but mostly raised in St. Louis.note  Creator of The Ides of March and the American adaptation of House of Cards. Also a veteran of Jon Hamm's 8th-grade drama class.
  • Tennessee Williams: Born in Mississippi, but lived in and around St. Louis from age 8 until graduating from high school.
  • Mykelti Williamson
  • Both members of 100 gecs

In media:

  • Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter.
  • Defiance is set in the city formerly known as St. Louis — the Gateway Arch survives (and is host to a radio station) while much of the city ended up buried underground.
  • The Glass Menagerie, by St. Louis native Tennessee Williams, is set in the city.
  • An important (and traumatic) section of Maya Angelou's memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings takes place in St. Louis.
  • The novel Jack by Marilynne Robinson (the third sequel to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead) has a St. Louis setting.
  • The John Larroquette Show.
  • Lackadaisy is set in Prohibition-era St. Louis.
  • In The Lightning Thief, Percy goes up the Gateway Arch, then in an emergency jumps straight into the Mississippi River. No, really. In real-life, he would have been swatted before he even reaches the street separating the complex from the river, because there's a freaking stairway in front of the arch. A gently sloping stairway.
  • Masters of Sex, based on the real-life studies of Masters and Johnson at Washington University in the '50s.
  • Meet Me in St. Louis, of course.
  • The City appears in National Lampoon's Vacation.
  • The serial killer villain in Red Dragon lives and works a day job in St. Louis.
  • Sparring Partners by John Grisham is set here and features the skyline on its cover.
  • The Spiral Zone episode "Island in the Zone" is set in St. Louis.
  • The W.C. Handy blues standard "Saint Louis Blues" has been performed by Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Cab Calloway, Bing Crosby, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and many others, in addition to lending its name to several films and the city's NHL team. Handy himself lived briefly in St. Louis.
  • An important first-season episode of Supernatural takes place in the city, and is referred to frequently afterwards.
  • Jonathan Franzen's debut novel The Twenty-Seventh City follows the career of a fictitious St. Louis County police chief. As mentioned above, Franzen himself hails from St. Louis County.
  • The folk and blues standard "Stagger Lee", which has been performed by... well, just about everyone (see the song page for a partial list), is based on a real-life shooting that happened in St. Louis on Christmas Day, 1895.
  • Given that it's based on the career of Tina Turner, some of the early sections of What's Love Got to Do with It take place here.
  • The sitcom Work It is about two St. Louis men who see no option but to dress as women to get employed.
  • The X-Files episode "Je Souhaite", written and directed by Vince Gilligan, has a St. Louis setting.

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