State in the USA, situated in the Midwest, bordered to the south by Arkansas, to the west by Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, to the north by Iowa, and to the east by Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee; area 178,414 sq km/68,886 sq mi; population (2010) 5,988,927; capital Jefferson City. Missouri's nickname refers to its inhabitants' character, which is generally thought to be sturdy and sceptical. In the southeast are the scenic highlands of the Ozark Plateau. The state is a commercial and industrial leader in the region, with a high degree of urbanization and industrial output, particularly in the manufacture of transport and aerospace equipment. The agricultural sector is strong, producing soybeans, livestock, and dairy foods, and there are thriving tourism and biotechnology industries. The two largest cities are St Louis and Kansas City. Other important cities and towns are Springfield, Independence, Columbia, St Joseph, and Lee's Summit. Originally home to the Missouri American Indian people, the region was acquired by the USA under the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and became a state in 1820, following the Missouri Compromise. Missouri was the westernmost state of the Union until Texas joined in 1845, and it served for a time as the eastern end of the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California trails. Missouri was admitted to the Union in 1821 as the 24th US state.
Physical The Missouri River crosses the state west to east, passing through Kansas City in the west, Jefferson City in the centre, and just north of St Louis on the eastern border, where it joins the Mississippi River. The Missouri River Valley marks the southern extent of glaciers during the last ice age. Meltwater from their retreat 400,000 years ago carved the river's original course. North of the river, the Glaciated Plains make up Missouri's northern half. The level topography and thick fertile soils are the result of glacial erosion and deposition. Part of the vast Central Lowlands of the USA, the Glaciated Plains once contained tallgrass prairie, oak savannah, and deciduous forest, but have now been adapted for agricultural use.
To the south of the Missouri River lies the Ozark Plateau, a rugged, forested area underlaid by sedimentary rocks, with steep cliffs, deep hollows, narrow valleys, and isolated peaks. The area is drained by the Osage, Gasconade, White, and Black rivers. The Ozark region contains over 1,000 caves and nearly 10,000 springs. The St François Mountains in the eastern Ozarks are remnants of ancient volcanoes and contain Missouri's oldest rocks, as well as the state's highest point, Taum Sauk Mountain (540 m/1,772 ft). Iron is mined here.
Missouri's Osage Plains region lies west of the Ozarks. Unlike the plains to the north, this region was not glaciated. It is characterized by rolling hills and flat river valleys, with marshes and swamps. Much of the state's remaining prairie is located here.
The Mississippi and Missouri rivers, along with the Grand and Des Moines rivers, form a distinctive natural region consisting of broad flood plains, terraces, islands, marshes, and sand bars characteristic of shifting, meandering rivers. This setting provides a habitat for diverse wildlife: bald eagles are known to migrate there in the winter.
The Bootheel and adjoining counties in the far southeast of Missouri lie in the Mississippi Lowlands region, where the state's low point (70 m/230 ft) is located at the mouth of the St Francis River. Once consisting of swamps and forests, the region has been drained and modified for agricultural use. A steep escarpment divides this area from the Ozark Plateau. The southeastern part of Missouri is not tectonically stable and earth tremors sometimes occur there. The biggest earthquake in North America occurred in New Madrid along the New Madrid seismic fault zone in 1811. The earthquake shifted the course of the Mississippi River.
Missouri has many artificial lakes, built mainly to provide hydroelectric power and protect against flooding, but which also provide recreational facilities. The largest of these is the Lake of the Ozarks, with a shoreline of 2,213 km/1,375 mi. The state also has an abundance of natural streams, some of which are among the largest in the world.
Features St Louis is Missouri's second largest city by population and has a wealth of historical and cultural attractions. The city's role as ‘gateway to the West’ during the period of Westward expansion in the mid-19th century is commemorated by the huge Gateway Arch (1965, designed by Eero Saarinen) which dominates the city skyline and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the park in which it sits; at 192 m/630 ft high, the arch is the tallest national monument in the USA. Eads Bridge was also hailed as an architectural triumph when it was built in 1874, as it was the first major bridge to be made entirely of steel and was also the first bridge to span the Mississippi River in the region. The Old Cathedral (1831–34) is the oldest Catholic cathedral west of the Mississippi River. St Louis is the home of the Cardinals baseball team, and the team's Hall of Fame is located there.
Independence, the home town and burial place of Harry S Truman, the 33rd US president, has the Truman Library and Museum (1957) and the Truman home. In the mid-1800s, Independence was the departure point for thousands of traders, immigrants, and adventurers heading west on the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California trails.
Fulton was the site of British prime minister Winston Churchill's ‘Iron Curtain’ speech in 1946, and there is a collection of materials about Churchill in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury (bombed in London, England, during World War II and reassembled at Fulton).
Some of the state's other historic sites include Sainte Genevieve, the oldest permanent settlement in Missouri, with 18th-century Creole architecture; Wilson's Creek National Battlefield; the Pony Express National Memorial, and the birthplace of the outlaw Jesse James, in St Joseph; and the Laura Ingalls Wilder home in Mansfield. Hannibal, Mark Twain's hometown, has the Mark Twain home and museum. Just south of Hannibal is the Mark Twain Cave, said to be a hideout for Jesse James and a stop on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves.
Missouri has extensive state parks and recreational facilities; the many lakes and rivers are ideal for canoeing, fishing, camping, and waterskiing.
Culture Missouri culture grew from a variety of influences, from American Indian to pioneer and frontier adventurism, European immigrant traditions, riverboat life, and the southern customs of a former slave state.
Today Missouri has a mix of ethnic populations. A large number of its immigrants arrived in the mid to late 19th century, mainly from Germany, Ireland, and England. Later, Italians, Greeks, Poles, and Jews came to the state, settling mainly in St Louis and Kansas City, while immigrants from many other European ethnic groups settled in the rural areas. The impact of the German immigration on Missouri agriculture is seen in the many vineyards in the Missouri River Valley.
Among the state's cultural institutions are the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1880, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, which has one of the finest collections of Asian art in the Western world. The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St Joseph is known for its collection of landscapes and colonial portraits.
The world's first school of journalism was established at the University of Missouri by the Missouri Press Association (founded in 1867), which also established the State Historical Society of Missouri. The St Louis Post-Dispatch, a merging of two pre-existing newspapers, was launched by the Hungarian-born publisher Joseph Pulitzer in 1878. The Mercantile Library (1861), at the University of Missouri in St Louis, was the first library west of the Mississippi River and contains works pertaining to the history of Westward expansion and the fur trade.
Northern Missouri preserves the state's frontier culture. Portions of the Santa Fe Trail and old railways, such as the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad, are preserved in Katy Trail State Park, which has a 360-km/225-mi hiking and biking trail.
The homesteading history of the Ozarks remains in the many horse farms throughout the region, and particularly the Missouri Fox Trotter breed of horse, known for its surefootedness in mountainous terrain.
The Bootheel of Missouri is known for its gospel music, religious oratory traditions, and sharecropping heritage, as well as its history as a pro-slave region. The river culture of the Mississippi is exemplified by the literature of Mark Twain and the blues and jazz music that travelled up the Mississippi River from the south. Black American history and social issues are explored by the Unity Theatre Ensemble in East St Louis.
GovernmentMissouri's state constitution Missouri has had four constitutions: 1820, 1865, 1875, and 1945. The 1945 constitution is still used today.
Structure of state government The legislature consists of a 163-member House of Representatives, whose members serve two-year terms, and a 34-member Senate, whose members serve four-year terms. Senators and representatives may serve no more than eight years. Missouri sends two senators and eight representatives to the US Congress. The state has ten electoral votes in presidential elections. The state tended to support Democratic candidates in presidential elections until 1980. It has since favoured Republicans, but it is an important ‘swing’ state.
The main officials in the Missouri executive are the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state auditor, and state treasurer. Democrat Jay Nixon took the governorship in January 2009. Voters can make their views known through citizens' initiative ballots.
The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, comprising seven justices who serve 12-year terms; the courts of appeals, divided into three districts with 31 judges; and circuit courts, which are the trial courts of general jurisdiction, divided into 45 districts.
Missouri has 114 counties, each with a county commission and a presiding commissioner. St Louis has county status but is governed by a county executive.
Economy Missouri became heavily industrialized during the 20th century, but its service sector has grown substantially since the 1990s and now generates the greater proportion of state income and employment. Information technology and life sciences are becoming increasingly important, and a growing tourism industry is concentrated in the areas of St Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and the Lake District.
Major manufacturing industries include aerospace, transport equipment and components, machinery, fabricated metals, and chemicals and agri-chemicals.
Mining forms a relatively small portion of the economy, although the state is the main producer of lead in the USA. It also has large reserves of limestone, as well as iron ore and zinc resources.
The state's chief agricultural commodities are soybeans, feed grains, wheat, cattle and calves, and hogs. There is also a developing wine industry.
Missouri has 12 ports on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The Port of Metropolitan St Louis is the third-largest inland port by tonnage in the USA and handles petroleum, chemicals, and grains. Other commodities distributed by Missouri ports are fertilizers, coal, steel, rock, salt, and feed grains.
HistoryIndigenous peoples Missouri was home to the Missouri and Osage tribes of Siouan-speaking American Indian peoples. The Missouri inhabited the northern half of the state, between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, while the Osage dwelled in southern Missouri, particularly in the Osage River Valley.
Both tribes were prodigious hunters, who went on long hunting expeditions. They also cultivated crops and lived in settlements, the Missouri dwelling in groups of earth-covered houses and the Osage in structures made from wooden poles draped with skins or woven mats.
The French first encountered the Osage in the late 17th century and established a thriving fur-trade relationship that would last throughout the 18th century. The fur trade would form the basis of Missouri's history of outposts and outfitters during the period of Westward expansion in the USA, with the growth of towns such as St Joseph and Independence located on the Santa Fe, Oregon, and California trails.
Exploration, settlement, and statehood The Missouri region was explored by Hernando de Soto for Spain in 1541. It was further explored by the Frenchmen Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673, after which explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, took possession of Louisiana Territory, which encompassed the entire Mississippi River basin.
The first settlement in Missouri was Fort Orleans, founded in 1724. Held briefly by Spain in the late 18th century, the Louisiana Territory was returned to the French in 1800 and was acquired by the USA under the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The Lewis and Clark expedition set out from St Louis the next year, encountering the Missouri peoples. A series of treaties – in 1808, 1818, and 1825 – subsequently forced the Osage and Missouri to cede their lands to the US government, pushing them west into Kansas and eventually to Oklahoma. The Missouri Fur Company, established in St Louis in 1809, led to the development of the Upper Louisiana Territory, and, by 1812, the Territory of Missouri was carved out of Louisiana Territory.
Though Missouri petitioned to become a state in 1818, it did not join the Union until 1821, following the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Compromise permitted Missouri to enter as a slave state, while admitting Maine as a nonslave state, thus maintaining the balance of slave and nonslave states in the Union.
Settled by Southerners moving upriver, the Missouri region has long been called ‘Little Dixie’. Early development had primarily to do with transport, especially (after 1817) steamboat travel, as St Louis became the gateway to the opening West. While St Louis was eventually eclipsed by Chicago as the commercial centre of the Midwest, Kansas City benefited from the growth of the railways. From the 1840s, US settlers in Missouri were joined by an influx of Germans, who quickly impressed their culture and industry on the region. Irish, Italian, and other European settlers arrived throughout the 19th century, gravitating toward the larger cities.
The Civil War and the late 19th century There was conflict in Missouri over the issue of slavery. Although Missouri had entered the Union as a slave state, the Missouri Compromise had stipulated that the region north of 36° 30' latitude – a region that ultimately comprised a major portion of Missouri after 1837 – would be free from slavery. The first half of the 19th century saw many court cases about the rights of former slaves in Missouri, culminating in the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, in which the US Supreme Court ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.
Missouri remained part of the Union during the Civil War, although strong sympathy for both sides existed. In 1861, the Battle of Wilson's Creek left southwestern Missouri in Confederate hands, until the Battle of Pea Ridge in 1862. Many battles and skirmishes, particularly by pro-Southern guerrillas, fostered a general lawlessness that continued in the post-war exploits of such bandits as Jesse and Frank James.
Post-war expansion saw the rise of railways and the decline of river commerce and communities. St Louis benefited from the building of Eads Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River, and the Wainwright Building (1891), one of the USA's first skyscrapers. The Grasshopper Plague of 1875 briefly damaged Missouri agriculture, after which agricultural prosperity was regained until the Great Depression.
20th-century industrialization and diversification Missouri was progressively urbanized and industrialized during the 20th century, beginning with the establishment of the Monsanto chemical company in St Louis in 1901. The city proudly hosted the 1904 Summer Olympic Games and World's Fair in 1904. In 1933, the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation was founded and played a key role in World War II, after which Missouri entered the car industry.
In referenda between 1910 and 1918, Missouri rejected alcohol prohibition and, as a major alcohol producer, has some of the most permissive alcohol laws in the USA.
Big-city political machines, such as that of Kansas City's Thomas Pendergast, helped pull Missouri through the Depression and were influential in national politics. Missouri benefited economically during World War II, and after the war, with Missourian Harry Truman as US president.
Transport industries grew in the mid-20th century. Increasing urbanization brought problems with segregation and civil rights: Missouri's ‘separate but equal’ laws were challenged by the US Supreme Court in 1938, although court-mandated desegregation of schools did not begin until in 1980. Missouri's economy suffered from the decentralization of its manufacturing sector and a declining population in the late 20th century.
In 2004 Missouri voters approved an amendment to the state constitution to define marriage as being the union of one man and one woman, in opposition to the trend elsewhere to approving same-sex marriages. However, legal challenges to the state ban on same-sex marriage were gaining momentum a decade later.
Famous peoplesport Casey Stengel (1891–1975), baseball player; Yogi Berra (1925– ), baseball player; Tom Watson (1949– ), golfer
the arts Mark Twain (1835–1910), writer; Eugene Field (1850–1895), journalist and poet; Charles M Russell (1864–1926), painter; T S Eliot (1888–1965), poet and playwright; Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975), painter; Josephine Baker (1906–1975), dancer; John Huston (1906–1987), director; Jean Harlow (1911–1937), actor; Vincent Price (1911–1993), actor; Ginger Rogers (1911–1995), dancer and actor; William Burroughs (1914–1997), author; Betty Grable (1916–1973), actor; Robert Altman (1925–2006), director; Dick Van Dyke (1925– ), actor; Chuck Berry (1926–2017), singer; Maya Angelou (1928–2014), writer and activist; Burt Bacharach (1929– ), songwriter; Sheryl Crow (1962– ), singer
science George Washington Carver (1860–1943), agricultural chemist; Harlow Shapley (1885–1972), astronomer; Edwin Hubble (1889–1953), astronomer; Norbert Wiener (1894–1964), mathematician; William Lear (1902–1978), aviation inventor; Jack Kilby (1923–2005), Nobel Prize-winning electrical engineer
society and education Dale Carnegie (1888–1955), author and teacher; Roy Wilkins (1901–1981), civil-rights leader; Martha Gellhorn (1908–1998), journalist; Walter Cronkite (1916–2009), journalist
economics James McKinsey (1889–1937), management consultant
politics and law Jesse James (1847–1882), outlaw; John J Pershing (1860–1948), general; Thomas Pendergast (1872–1945), politician; Harry S Truman (1884–1972), 33rd president of the USA; Omar Nelson Bradley (1893–1981), general; William Fulbright (1905–1995), politician.
Missouri – flag
(1820) During the contentious period from 1819 to 1821, when the Missouri Territory sought statehood, the U.S. Congress wrestled with the...
Lying west of the Mississippi River, the present-day state of Missouri was part of the territory acquired by the United States from the French...
Named for its two intrepid leaders, Meriwether Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clark (1770–1838), the Lewis and Clark expedition is the...