The State of Missouri
AT A GLANCE
Name: Missouri is the name of a Native American tribe and means “town with the big canoes.”
Nickname: Show Me State
Capital: Jefferson City
Size: 69,709 sq. mi. (180,546 sq km)
Population: 6,083,672 (2015 est.)
Statehood: Missouri became the 24th state on August 10, 1821.
Electoral votes: 11 (2016)
U.S. representatives: 9 (until 2016)
State tree: dogwood
State flower: hawthorn
State insect: honeybee
Highest point: Taum Sauk Mountain, 1,772 ft. (540 m)
Missouri is a fertile Midwest state. The Mississippi River forms Missouri's eastern border, while the Missouri River forms part of its western border before continuing through the center of the state.
Missouri's north and west are made up of rolling plains. North of the Missouri River, these plains were flattened by the glaciers that covered much of the Midwest during the last Ice Age more than 11,500 years ago. These glaciers also left behind a rich top layer of soil in this area.
Forested hills and fast-flowing streams abound in the Ozarks and the St. Francois mountains of southern Missouri. Southeastern Missouri is part of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and has some of the richest soil in the state.
Summers and winters are milder in Missouri's high areas than in the low-lying plains. The southeastern corner of the state receives the most precipitation.
Lead is Missouri's most abundant mineral, and the state also produces copper, silver, and zinc. About half of the state contains coal deposits, and iron ore is found in the eastern Ozarks.
Facts and Firsts
- Both Missouri and Tennessee border eight states, more than any other states.
- Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri, was named for Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.
- Kansas City has more miles of boulevard than Paris and more fountains than any other U.S. city.
- In 1865, Missouri was the first slaveholding state to free its slaves.
- In 1904, the ice-cream cone was invented at the World's Fair in St. Louis. An ice-cream vendor ran out of cups and asked a nearby waffle vendor to roll waffles into cones to hold the ice cream.
- The tallest documented man, Robert Pershing Wadlow from St. Louis, was 8 feet, 11.1 inches tall.
Native Americans lived in Missouri for hundreds of years before Europeans settled there. Some of the earthen mounds they built as graves can still be seen in parts of the state. When Europeans reached the area in 1673, they found Osage, Fox, and Sauk tribes living there.
The first Europeans to travel to Missouri were the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, who were in search of a water route to the West. French fur traders and missionaries who followed the explorers established the first white settlements, including St. Louis in 1764.
During the French and Indian War, France gave all its land west of the Mississippi to Spain, an ally against Britain. The Spanish encouraged settlers to come west to the region. In 1800, the French won back the territory, but sold it to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Missouri became a state in 1821. Through the Missouri Compromise, Missouri entered the Union as a slaveholding state while Maine entered as a free state, which maintained the balance of slave and free states in the U.S. Congress.
Missouri quickly became a gateway to the West. Both the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail started in Independence. The Oregon Trail was one of the overland routes used by settlers during the westward expansion of the United States. The Santa Fe Trail connected Mexico with Missouri and was an important trade route.
After the Civil War, St. Louis and Kansas City became significant centers of trade, although the fur trade and the Santa Fe Trail declined in importance. During World War I and World War II, many new industries moved into the area and began to manufacture supplies and process food for the U.S. military.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the discovery of iron ore deposits and the growth of industry and tourism boosted the state's economy. Many families moved from cities to suburbs. Missouri was forced to take initiatives to redirect more business and revenue to St. Louis and Kansas City. During the 1980s, farms suffered during a nationwide drop in agricultural prices, but most recovered by the mid-1990s.
Missouri has faced a number of problems in recent decades, including water pollution and soil erosion caused by new land development. The state has lacked adequate funds to support public programs such as schools, roads, and welfare. To increase revenue, a state lottery was initiated in 1986.
Despite these challenges, Missouri's economy is strong and the state remains a major center for trade and travel. Many kinds of goods are shipped along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers daily, and St. Louis and Kansas City are the sites of some of the Midwest's busiest airports and the nation's most important trucking and railroad centers.
Missouri farms grow grains and soybeans and raise beef cattle and hogs.
Manufacturing associated with agriculture (such as meat processing and fertilizer production) is important to the state's economy. Missouri companies manufacture products such as airplanes, barges, railroad cars, truck and bus bodies, and truck trailers. Missouri encourages tourism, which is a billion-dollar industry for the state. The Ozark Mountains are one of the Midwest's most popular vacation destinations, and St. Louis, Springfield, and Kansas City are common convention sites.
Born in Missouri
- Robert Altman, film director
- Maya Angelou, poet
- Burt Bacharach, songwriter
- Josephine Baker, singer and dancer
- Yogi Berra, baseball player
- William S. Burroughs, author
- Sarah Caldwell, opera director and conductor
- Martha Jane Canary (“Calamity Jane”), frontierswoman
- George Washington Carver, scientist
- Walter Cronkite, television newscaster
- T.S. Eliot, poet
- Eugene Field, poet
- John Goodman, actor
- Betty Grable, actress
- Jean Harlow, actress
- Coleman Hawkins, jazz musician
- Al Hirschfeld, artist
- Edwin Hubble, astronomer
- Langston Hughes, poet
- Frank James and Jesse James, outlaws
- James C. Penney, merchant and founder of J.C. Penney Co.
- John Joseph Pershing, general, U.S. Army
- Vincent Price, actor
- Ginger Rogers, dancer and actress
- Sara Teasdale, poet
- Harry S. Truman,U.S. president
- Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), author
- Dick Van Dyke, actor