Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Great River City is a fantastic story of Saint Louis

Great River City: How the Mississippi shaped St. Louis by Andrew Wanko. Published November 8 2019 by Missouri Historical Society Press. Photos courtesy of the publisher.

— Review by Michael Pierce

If a picture truly is worth a thousand words Great River City is a valuable contribution to the narrative and pictorial history of St. Louis.

The Missouri Historical Society Press has done it again! I’ve always been quite impressed with every book published by this venerable institution, and this latest offering does not disappoint. I’ll put it right up there with the Society’s Saint Louis: An Informal History of the City and its People, 1764 – 1865, which was originally published in 1991.

Andrew Wanko

This newest offering goes farther, covering the period from the 13th century through 2008. Author Andrew Wanko gives a short, concise narrative at the beginning of each chapter, and the conciseness of this narrative continues with his description of each illustration.

We learn about the famous, the infamous, and the not-so famous folks who have inhabited or visited our town. More so, we learn the story of the Mighty Mississippi and the influence that great river has had on St. Louis history.

The Mississippi is part of the vast system of inland waterways that facilitated the expansion of America across the continent. Immigrants and migrants came to St. Louis from the east and from the south, and millions probably passed through the town on their way west. American Indians came to St.  Louis to trade with government agents and mountain men in the town. Germans and Irish came here and made the place home.

Cotton. Commodities. Trade goods. You name it and it has been transported to our city via the Mississippi. However, we must also remember that his great inland artery, at one time, also carried slaves along its waters, people being bought and sold at various places and transferred to new owners. And then there was the 1917 East Saint Louis Massacre, when hundreds of African-Americans sought refuge in St. Louis via the Eads Bridge.

Buy this book. Leave it on your living room table for a while. Let others pick it up and experience the story of our city and its origins. Let this book encourage your friends and family to learn more about our history.

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