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Missouri — St. Louis, the Commercial Centre of North America.


St. Louis is ordained by the decrees of physical nature to become the great inland metropolis of this continent. It cannot escape the magnificence of its destiny. Greatness is the necessity of its position. New York may be the head, but St. Louis will be the heart of America. The stream of traffic which must flow through this mart will enrich it with alluvial deposits of gold. Its central location and facilities of communication unmistakably indicate the leading part which this city will take in the exchange and distribution of the products of the Mississippi Valley. St. Louis is situated upon the west bank of the Mississippi, at an altitude of 400 feet above the level of the sea. It is far above the highest floods that ever swell the Father of Waters. Its latitude is thirty-eight degrees thirty-seven minutes twenty-eight seconds north, and its longitude ninety degrees fifteen minutes sixteen seconds west. It is twenty miles below the mouth of the Missouri, and two hundred above the confluence of the Ohio.

Distance by river Miles. Distance by rail Miles.
From St. Louis to Keokuk 200 From St. Louis to Indianapolis 200
“ “ Burlington 260 “ “ Chicago 280
“ “ Rock Island 350 “ “ Cincinnati 340
“ “ Dubuque 480 “ “ Cleveland 470
“ “ St. Paul   “ “ Pittsburgh 650
“ “ Cairo 200 “ “ Buffalo 650
“ “ Memphis 440 “ “ New York 1,000
“ “ Vicksburg 840 “ “ Lawrence 320
“ “ New Orleans 1,200 “ “ Denver 880
“ “ Louisville   “ “ Salt Lake 1,300
“ “ Cincinnati 750 “ “ Virginia City 1,900
“ “ Pittsburgh 1,200 “ “ San Francisco 2,300
“ “ Leavenworth 500    
“ “ Omaha 800    
“ “ Sioux City 1,000    
“ “ Fort Benton 3,000    

St. Louis very nearly bisects the direct distance of 1,400 miles between Superior City and the Balize. It is the geographical centre of a vallay which embraces 1,200,000 square miles. In its course of 3,200 miles, the Mississippi borders on Missouri 470 miles. Of the 3,000 miles of the Missouri, 500 lie within the limits of our own State. St. Louis is mistness of more than 16,500 miles of river navigation.

This metropolis, though in the infancy of its greatness, is already a large city. Its length is about eight miles, and its width three. Snburban residences, the outposts of the grand advance, are now stationed six or seven miles from the river. The present population of St. Louis is about 200,000. In 1865, the real and personal property of the city was assessed at $100,000,000.

St. Louis is a well built city, but its architecture is rather substantial than showy. The wide, well-paved streets, the spacious levee and commodious warehouses, the mills, machine-shops and manufactories, the fine hotels, churches and public buildings, the universities, charitable institution, public schools and libraries, constitute an array of excellences and


attractions of which any city may justly be proud. The Lindell and Southern Hotels are two of the largest and most magnificent structures which the world has ever dedicated to public hospitality. The Lindell is itsolf a village.

The appearance of St. Louis from the eastern bank of the Mississippi is impressive. At East St. Louis, the eye sometimes commands a view of 100 steamboats lying at our levee. Notwithstanding the recent destruction by ice and fire of 10 or 15 boats, and the departure of more than 30 for Montana, there are at this date 70 steamers in the port of St. Louis. A mile and a half of steamboats is a spectacle which naturally inspires views of commercial greatness. The sight of our levee, thronged with busy merchants, and covered with the commodities of every clime, from the l eltries of the Rocky Mountains to the teas of China, does not tend to lessen the magnitude of the impression.

The railroad system of Missouri is exhibited in the following tabular statement:

Railroads. Miles. Railroads. Miles.
Cairo and Fulton 37 North Missouri 170
Platte Country 52 Hannibal and St. Joseph 233
S. W. Branch of Pacific 76 Pacific 283
Iron Mountain 87    
Total length of railroads in operation within the State 938

A vast enlargement of our railroad facilities is contemplated. More than 10,000 miles have been projected on the west side of the Mississippi. A quarter of a century may elapse before the completion of these extensions, yet the very conception of them shows that the public mind is alive to the importance of ampler means of communication with the States and Territories of the far West. Most of these roads have received grants of land from the Government, and upon some of the lines the work is already far advanced. The terminal points of the most important roads are: Superior City and New Orleans via St. Paul, St. Louis, and Memphis; St. Louis and San Francisco via Kansas City and Salt Lake; Kansas City and Fort Benton via Omaha; Leavenwerth and Gilveston via Lawrence; St. Louis and San Diego via Springfield. The extension of this last line from liolla merely to the south-west, coiner of Missouri would be an incalculable benefit. The trade of the north-western roads may be partially diverted from St. Louis by the construction of rival lines. But the south-west branch, by its advantages of situation, will compel all connecting lines to be subsidiary to itself; and its commerce, constantly swelled by the traffic of tributary road, must necessarily flow to St. Louis. The extension of this road


would open to settlement vast tracts of valuable land; and,by the impulse of cheap transportation, lead to an extended developement of the rich mines of south-western Missouri.

It is to be hoped that our citizens will press forward to anearly completion all the roads which will converge at St. Louis. On the east side of the Mississippi an air-line road from Cleveland to this city is now in progress of construction. This road will be a very important accession to our commercial facilities. The great bridge whose arches will, within a few years, span the Mississippi at this point, will put St. Louis in direct connection with the entire railroad system of the Continent. The parallel and meridian lines between oceans and zones will intersect at this city. From this centre roads will radiate to the circumference of our land.

The Union Pacific is already built 80 miles west to Kansas City. By the 1st of August it will reach Fort Riley, a distance of 448 miles from St. Louis. The work upon this great Continental line is pushed forward with great activity. The Vice President of the Union Pacific authorizes the statement that 6,000 men are now employed upon the California and Eastern divisions of the line. The completion of this national highway will strengthen the alliance of States with iron bands, and develop our Western wilderness into populous commonwealths.

The growth of St. Louis, though greatly retarded by social institutions, has been rapid. The population of the city in —

1840 was 16,467
1850 “ 77,860
1860 “ 160,773

At the lowest rate of decennial increase, St. Louis in 1900 would contain more than 1,000,000 inhabitants. This number certainly seems to exceed the present probability of realization, but the future growth of St. Louis, vitalized by the mightiest forces of a free civilization, and quickened by the exchanges of a continental commerce, ought to surpass the rapidity of its past development.

In 1865 the amount of duties payable in gold, collected at this port, was $586,407. This sum is about one-fifth of the customs levied on goods imported into St. Louis. This is only a Port of Delivery. The imposts upon our foreign merchandise are chiefly paid at the Ports of Entry.

From the records of the United States Assessor it appears that in 1865 the sales of 612 St. Louis firms amounted to 1140,688,856. For the same year the imports of this city reached an aggregate of $235,873,875.

The manufactures of St. Louis constitute an important element in our commercial transactions. In 1860 the capital invested in manufactures was $9,205,205, and the value of the product was $21,72,323. St. Louis, though the eighth city in the United States in population, ranked as seventh in the importance of its manufactures. Missouri might profitably imitate the activity of its metropolis.

The extent of our social and commercial intercourse with the rest of the world may be inferred from the postal statistics of this department. In 1865 the number of letters which passed through the St. Louis Post-office for distribution, mail or delivery, was about 11,000,000. In the judgment of the office, the transactions of the first quarter indicate an aggregate for 1866 of 15,000,000 letters. In postal importance, St. Louis is the fifth city of the Union.


The earnings of our railroads indirectly exhibit the magnitude of our trade. For the fiscal year of 1865, the total receipts of

The North Missouri were $1,013,000
Pacific and Southwest Branch " l,939,000
Hannibal and St. Joseph " 2,000,000

In 1865 the total number of passengers, by river or rail, who made St. Louis their destination or a point of transit, amounted to $1,180,000,

The Register of the Custom-house shows that the number of arrivals at the port during the last year was:

Barges and canal boats 1,114
Steamboats 2,761
Total 8,875

The tonnage owned and enrolled in the district of St. Louis was, in 1865, 97,000 tons.

Our commerce is aided by ample banking facilities. There are in St. Louis, in addition to 15 or 20 private banks.

  Actual. Authorized.
13 Savings institutions $3,37 5,000 $5,880,000
11 Banks 9,179,000 14,149,000

The character of our banks stands deservedly high in the financial world. The development of the territories is bringing large deposits to our banks, creating new demands for capital, and extending the channels of circulation.

Our trade with the mountains is large and rapidly increasing. In 1865 20 boats sailed from this port for Fort Benton, which is more than 3,000 miles from St. Louis, with a total freight of 6,000,000 pounds.

This year more than 30 boats have already sailed for Fort Benton, and the agent of the largest line of Montana steamers estimates the number of passengers at 1,500, and the tons of freight at 5,000. In three instances the cost of assorted goods was as follows:

13 Tons of merchandize $12,000
35 “ “ “ 40,000
40 “ “ “ 65,000
Mean cost per ton 1,300

The agent who furnishes these facts feels authorized, by his experience in the trade of the Upper Missouri, to appraise a ton of Montana merchandize at $1,000. It is thought that at least ten boats more will sail for the mountains.

The following table is an approximate estimate, based upon the preceding data, of our commerce with Montana for the year 1866:

Number of boats 40
" " passengers 2,000
Pounds of freight 13,000,000
Value of merchandize $6,500,000

The trade across the Plains is of still greater magnitude. The overland freight from Atchison alone has increased from 3,000,000 in 1861 to 21,500,000 in 1865.


Messrs. Butterfield and Forsyth of the Overland Dispatch Company have courteously furnished me with estimates, based upon their own transactions, of our total commerce with the territories in 1865. These figures do not include the Fort Benton trade.

Number of passengers East and West by the overland coaches 4 800
" " " by trains and private conveyances 50,000
Number of wagons 8,000
“ cattle and mules 100,000
Pounds of freight to Plattsmouth 3,000,000
" Leavenworth City 6,000,000
" Santa Fe 8,000,000
" St. Joseph 10,000,000
" Nebraska City 15,000,000
" Atchison 25,000,000
Government freight 50,000,000
Total number of pounds 117,000,000
Amount of treasure carried by express $3,000,000
“ “ by private conveyance 30,000,000

The Overland Express charges three per cent for the transportation of bullion. This high commission and the hostility of the Indian tribes induced many miners to send their gold East by way of San Francisco to Panama.

The estimated product of our Rocky Mountain mines for the present year is $50,000,000.

So great is the length of the overland routes that the trains are able to make but two through trips a year.

Before the first of August the Union Pacific Railroad will be completed to Fort Riley. This will materially shorten the extent of overland freightage.

Distance from St. Louis to Ft. Riley 420 miles.
" Ft. Riley to Denver 460 "
" Ft. Riley to Salt Lake City 890 "
" Ft. Riley to Virginia City 1,520 "

The length of these lines of transportation, the slowness of our present means of communication, and the magnitude of our territorial population and trade, forcibly illustrate the necessity of a Pacific Railroad.

The foregoing summaries exhibit the commerce of the Mississippi valley with the mountains. But while St. Louis does not monopolize the trade of the gold regions, it yet sends to the territories by far the largest portion of their supplies. Even in cases where merchandise has been procured at intermediate points, it is probable that the goods were originally purchased at St. Louis.

During the rebellion the commercial transactions of Cincinnati and Chicago, doubtless exceeded those of St. Louis. The very events which prostrated our trade, stimulated theirs into an unnatural activity. Their sales were enlarged by the traffic which was wont to seek this market. Our loss was their gain.

The Southern trade of St. Louis was utterly destroyed by the blockade of the Mississippi. The disruption by civil commotions of our commercial intercourse with the interior of Missouri was nearly complete. The disruption by civil commotions of our commercial intercorse with the interior of Missouri was nearly complete. The


trade of the Northern States, bordering upon the Mississippi, was still unobstructed. But the merchants of St. Louis could not afford to buy commodities which they were unable to sell, and country dealers would not purchase their goods where they could not dispose of their produce. Thus St. Louis, with every market wholly closed or greatly restricted, was smitten with a commercial paralysis. The prostration of business was general and disastrous. No comparison of claims can be just, which ignores the circumstances that during the Rebellion retarded the commercial growth of St. Louis yet fostered that of rival cities.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates the geographical superiority of St. Louis than the action of the Government during the war. Notwithstanding the strenuous competition of other cities, our facilities for distribution, and a due regard for its own interests, compelled the Government to make St. Louis the Western base of supplies and transportation. During the Rebellion, the transactions of the Government at this point were very large. General Parsons, Chief of Transportation in the Mississippi Valley, has not yet completed his accounts, but he submits the following as an approximate summary of the operations in his department from 1860 to 1865:

Amount of Transportation.
Cannon and Caissons 800
Wagons 13,000
Cattle 250,000
Horses and mules 250,000
Troops 1,000,000
Pounds of military stores 1,950,000,000

Gen. Parsons thinks that full one-half of all the transpartation employed by the Government on the Mississippi and its tributaries was furnished by St. Louis.

From Sept. 1, 1861, to Dec. 81, 1865, Gen. Haines, Chief Commissioner of this Department, expended at St. Louis, for the purchase of subsistance stores, $50,700,000.

During the war, Gen. Myers, Chief Quartermaster of this Department, disbursed at this city, for supplies, transportation and incidental expenses $180,000,000.

The National exigencies forced the Government to select the best point of distribution. The choice of the Federal authorities is a conclusive proof of the commercial superiority of St. Louis.

The conquest of treason has restored to this mart the use of its natural facilities. Trade is rapidly regaining its old channels. On its errands of exchange, it visits the islands of the sea, traverses the ocean, and explores foreign lands. It penetrates every State and Territory in the Mississipp1 Valley, from Alabama and New Mexico to Minnesota and Montana. It navigates every stream that pours its tributary waters into the Mississippi.

But St. Louis can never realize its splendid possibilities without effort.The trade of the vast domain lying east of the Rocky Mountains, and south of the Missouri River, is naturally tributary to this mart. St. Louis, by the exercise of forecast and vigor, can easily control the commerce o 1,000,000 square miles. But there is urgent need of exertion. Chicago


is an energetic rival. Its lines of railroad pierce every portion of the Northweat. It draws an immense commerce by its network of railways.

The meshes which so closely interlace all the adjacent country gather rich treasures from the tides of commerce. Chicago is vigorously extending its lines of road across toward the Missouri River. The completion of these roads will inevitably divert a portion of the Montana trade from this city to Chicago. The energy of an unlineal competitor may usurp the legitimate honors of the imperial heir. St. Louis cannot afford to continue the masterly inactivity of the old regime. A traditional and passive trust in the efficacy of natural advantages will no longer be a safe policy. St. Louis must make exertions equal to its strength and worthy of its opportunities. It must not only form great plans of commercial empire, but must execute them with an energy defiant of failure. It must complete its projected railroads to the mountains, and span the Mississippi at St. Louis with a bridge whose solidity of masonary shall equal the massiveness of Roman architecture, and whose grandeur shall be commensurate with the future greatness of the Mississippi Valley. The structure whose arches will bear the transit of a continental commerce should vie with the great works of all time, and be a monument to distant ages of the triumph of evil engineering and the material glory of the Great Republic.

The initial steps for the erection of a bridge across the Missouri at St. Charles have already been taken. The work should be pushed forward with untiring energy to its consummation.

The iron, stone and timber necessary for these structures can be obtained within a few miles of St. Louis, and the greater part of the materials can he transported by water. The construction of public works, whose cost will be millions of dollars, would afford employment to thousands of laborers, and give fresh impulse to the prosperity of St. Louis.

A full and persistent presentation of the superior claims of Carondelet ought to induce the Government to establish a naval station at that point. The supply of labor and material which a navy-yard would require would be another source of wealth to Missouri and its metropolis.

The effect of improvements upon the business of the city may be illustrated by the operations of our city elevator. The elevator cost $450,000, and has a capacity of 1,250,000 bushels. It is able to handle 100,000 bushels a day. It began to receive grain last October. Before the 1st of January its receipts amounted to 600,000 bushels, 200,000 of which were brought directly from Chicago. Grain can now be shipped, by way of St. Louis and New Orleans, to New York and Europe 10 cents a bushel cheaper than it can be carried to the Atlantic by rail.

The facilities which our elevator affords for the movement of cereals, have given rise to a new system of transportation. The Mississippi Valley Transportation Company has been organized for the conveyance of grain to New Orleans in barges. Steam tugs of immense strength have been built for the use of the company. They carry no freight. They are simply the motive power. They save delay by taking fuel for the round trip. Landing only at the large cities, they stop barely long enough to attach a loaded barge. By this economy of time and steady movement, they equal the speed of steamboats. The Mohawk made its first trip from St.


Louis in six days with ten barges in tow. The management of the barges is precisely like that of freight cars. The barges are loaded in the absence of the tug. The tug arrives, leaves a train of barges, takes another, and proceeds. The tug itself is always at work. It does not lie at the levee while the barges are loading. Its longest stoppage is made for fuel.

Steamboats are obliged to remain in port two or three days for the shipment of freight. The heavy expense which this delay and the necessity for large crews involve is a grave objection to the old system of transportation. The service of the steam tug requires but few men, and the cost of running is relatively light. The advantages which are claimed for the barge system are exhibited by the following table:

  Tag and barges. Steamboats.
Stopping at intermediate points 2 hours 6 hours
“ “ terminal “ 24 “ 48 “
Crew 15 50
Tonnage 25,000 tons 1,500 tons
Daily expenses $200 $1,000
Original cost 75,000 100,000

In addition to the ordinary precautions against fire, the barges have this unmistakable advantage over steamboats — they can be cut adrift from each other, and the fire restricted to the narrowest limits. The greater safety of barges ought to secure for them lower rates of insurance. The barges are very strongly built, and have water-tight compartments for the movement of grain in bulk. The transportation of grain from Minnesota to New Orleans by water costs no more than the freightage for the same point to Chicago. After the erection of a floating elevator at New Orleans, a boatload of grain from St. Paul will not be handled again till it reaches the Crescent City. At that port it will be transferred, by steam, to the vessel which will convey it to New York or Europe. The possible magnitude of this trade may be inferred from the fact that in 1865 Minnesota alone raised 10,000,000 bushels of wheat. Of this quantity 8,000,000 bushels could have been exported, if facilities of cheap transportation had offered adequate inducement.

This new scheme of conveying freight by barges bids fair to revolutionize the whole carrying trade of our Western waters. It will materially lessen the expense of heavy transit, and augment the commerce of the Mississippi River in proportion to the reduction it effects in the cost of transportation. The improvement which facilitates the carriage of our cereals to market, and makes it more profitable for the farmer to sell his grain than to burn it, is a National benefit. This enterprise, which may yet change the channel of cereal transportation, shows what great results a spirit of progressive energy may accomplish.

The mercantile interests of the West imperatively demand the improvement of the Mississippi and its main tributaries. This is a work of such prime and transcendent importance to the commerce of the country that it challenges the co-operation of the Government. A commercial marine which annually transfers tens of millions of passengers and hundreds of millions of property ought not to encounter the obstructions which human efforts can remove. The yearly loss of capital, from the interruption of communication and wreck of boats, reaches a startling aggregate.


For the accomplishment of an undertaking so vital to its municipal interests, St. Louis should exert its mightiest energies. The prize for which competition strives is too splendid to be lost by default. The Queen City of the West should not voluntarily abdicate its commercial sovereignty.

If the emigrant merchants of America and Europe, who recognize in the geographical position of St. Louis the guarantee of mercantile supremancy, will become citizens of this metropolis, they will aid in bringing to a speedier fulfillment the prophesies of its greatness. The currents of Western trade must flow through the heart of this valley.

The march of St. Louis will keep equal step with the progress of the West. Located at the intersection of the river which traverses zones and the railway which belts the continent, with divergent roads from this center to the circumference of the country, St. Louis enjoys commercial advantages which must inevitably make it the greatest inland emporium of America. The movement of our vast harvests and the distribution of the domestic and foreign merchandise required by the myriad thousands who will, in the near future, throng this valley, will develop St. Louis to a size proportioned to the vastness of the commerce it will transact. This metropolis will not only be the center of Western exchanges, but also, if ever the seat of Government is transferred from its present locality, the capital of the nation.

St. Louis, strong with the energies of youthful freedom, and active in the larger and more genial labors of peace, will greet the merchants of other States and lands with a friendly welcome, afford them the opportunities of fortune, and honor their services in the achievement of its greatness.



1. Though it is somewhat foreign to my subject, jet I cannot resist the temptation to give the statistics of this massive edifice:

Area of plate glass 1 acre Number of windows 310
Length of gas-pipe 3 miles Weight of water-pipe 30,000 lb
Stories, exclusive of basement 7 Extent of steam-pipe 87,700 feet
Total floorage 7 acres Amount of lead 1,480,000 lb
Length of carpeting 18 miles Area of flooring boards 300,480 feet
Area of plastering 27 acres Amount of wrought and cast iron 1,480,000 lb
Length of bell-wire 32 miles Cost of furniture $200,000
Surface of mural brick 38acres " lot $326,400
Hight from the sidewalk 112 feet " the building $955,000
Number of rooms 530
Capacity of accommodation 800 guests Total cost of the Lindell Hotel $1,476,400