St. Louis Trivia

Here are some fun facts about St. Louis:

• St. Louis’ McDonnell Douglas Corporation, now Boeing, designed and built the space capsule that carried the first astronauts into space in the 1960s when the company was known as McDonnell Aircraft.

• The Eads Bridge, completed in 1874 over the Mississippi River, was the first arched steel truss bridge in the world. When it was first proposed, it was scoffed at as impossible to build.

• The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis popularized a number of new foods, including the hot dog, ice cream cone, and iced tea. In 1904, the first Olympiad to be held in the U.S. was held in St. Louis at Washington University’s Francis Field.

• The Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden, built in 1960, was the world’s first climate-controlled geodesic dome designed as a greenhouse. Today, it houses a re-created rain forest filled with plants and uses E-feron glass to help it use solar energy more efficiently. The Garden also is the site of the largest Japanese Garden in North America.

• The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis (New Cathedral) features what is considered to be one of the largest mosaic collections in the western hemisphere, 100 million pieces of stone and glass in the artworks that line the interior.

• The first cathedral west of the Mississippi River was built on the St. Louis riverfront. The Old Cathedral still stands there today.

• Many of the historic transportation pieces housed at the National Museum of Transport in St. Louis were experimental vehicles in their time, and several are the only examples remaining in existence.

• St. Louis is home of the nation’s second oldest symphony, and it has been touted as one of the best in the country.

• Eighteen Nobel laureates have done research at Washington University in St. Louis, including five who received the Nobel Prize for research they conducted there.

• Noted St. Louis surgeon Dr. Evarts Graham performed the first lung cancer operation in St. Louis in 1933.

• The first United States kindergarten was started in 1873 by Susan Blow in St. Louis.

• Saint Louis University was the first university founded west of the Mississippi River in 1818.

• In 1839, Saint Louis University confers the first doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree west of the Mississippi River. It is also the first ever conferred by at Catholic university in the U.S.

• Parks College at Saint Louis University was the nation’s first federally certified flight school.

• In 1944, Saint Louis University was the first university in a former slave state to welcome black students and faculty members.

• Saint Louis University was the first major Catholic institution with a lay board of trustees in 1967.

• The first human heart transplant in Missouri took place at Saint Louis University in 1972.

• Saint Louis University was the first school of public health in Missouri.

• Saint Louis University was the first university to participate in the Campus Kitchens program to feed the needy.

• St. Louis was the site of the first major horse show in the United States.

• The Old Courthouse in St. Louis features the first cast iron dome ever built. The historic building was the scene of Dred Scott’s 1847 historic freedom trial, which focused national attention on the slavery issue.

• The first successful parachute jump from an airplane took place at St. Louis’ Jefferson Barracks in 1912.

• In 1891, Louis Sullivan designed the Wainwright Building, considered by some to be the world’s first skyscraper.

• In 1861, James Buchanan Eads, a self-taught engineer who later builds the Eads Bridge, builds the St. Louis, the first ironclad boat built in America and also the first ever engaged in naval battles.

• Several important aircraft were built or first tested at St. Louis, including the CD-25 Coupe business aircraft (later the AT-9 Jeep in wartime service), the CW-20 twin-engine airliner, the C-76 Caravan, and the C-46 Commando of the Second World War.

• George Coleman Poage, a runner from the Milwaukee Athletic Club, was the first African-American to win a medal in a modern Olympiad. He won bronze medals in the 200 and 400-meter hurdles during the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis. After the Olympics, he stayed in St. Louis to teach at Sumner High School.

• The first International Balloon Race was held in St. Louis in 1908.

• The Municipal Theater of St. Louis, also known as The Muny, is the first and largest outdoor musical theater in the United States.

• In 1917, Clara Bell Walsh hosted a party at the home of her father-in-law that has come to be known as the first cocktail party.

• James Yeatman and his associates form the Mercantile Library in 1846, the first public library west of the Mississippi.

•Sumner High School opened in 1875. It is the first high school for African Americans west of the Mississippi. Illustrious graduates are: opera diva Grace Bumbry, rock ‘n’ roll legend Chuck Berry, singer Tina Turner and tennis great Arthur Ashe.

• America’s first wine region took root just west of St. Louis in the mid-19th century. Immigrants from Germany’s Rhine River valley planted vineyards, built cellars and created a wine culture that flourishes today.

• Scott Joplin, known as the Father of Ragtime, spent some of his most productive years in St. Louis and introduced his new “ragtime” style to the world for the first time at the 1904 World’s Fair.

• The Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) is the world’s first museum of interfaith contemporary art.

• The Fox Theatre, built at the then-enormous cost of $6 million, opened in 1929 in St. Louis’ North Grand entertainment district. It was one of the first theatres built for “talkies” with central air conditioning, passenger elevators and an elaborate Siamese-Byzantine interior.

• Fort Belle Fontaine was the first U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi River and a stopover point for expeditions heading west. On their return trip to St. Louis in 1806, Lewis & Clark spent a night at the fort.

• Lafayette Park, which dates from 1836, is the first public park west of the Mississippi River.

• United Hebrew, the first Jewish congregation west of the Mississippi River, was established in 1841.

Updated: February 5, 2010


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