Early St. Louis
- Coordinates: 38°37′38″N 90°11′52″W
- Country: United States Former countries: Kingdom of France, Kingdom of Spain, French Republic
- State: Missouri Metro: Greater St. Louis
- Independent city: City of St. Louis
- Founded: 1764 Incorporated: 1822
- Founder(s): by Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau
- Namesake(s): Louis IX of France
- Nickname(s): Gateway to the West, Mound City, The Lou, Rome of the West
- Area: Independent city 66 sq mi (170 km2)
- Motto(s): St. Louis actually has two awkward slogans. "Perfectly Centered. Remarkably Connected" was adopted by the Regional Chamber and Growth Association in 2006. A year later, the Convention and Visitors Commission adopted "St. Lou. . .is All Within Reach."
- Demonym: St. Louian
A brief history
Pierre Laclede Liguest, recipient of a land grant from the King of France, and his 13-year-old scout, Auguste Chouteau, selected the site of St. Louis in 1764 as a fur trading post. Laclede and Chouteau chose the location because it was not subject to flooding and was near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Construction of a village, named for Louis IX of France, began the following year. Most of the early settlers were French; many were associated with the fur trade. St. Louis transferred to the Spanish in 1770, returned to France under a secret treaty with Napoleon and, following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, became part of the United States. According to legend, on the day of transfer of the territory to the United States in 1803, St. Louis flew under three flags in one day--French, Spanish, and American.
The town gained fame in 1803 as the jumping-off point for the Louisiana Purchase Expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. After 1804, more New Englanders and other East Coast emigrants settled in St. Louis, but the population remained predominantly French until well into the 19th-Century. St. Louis incorporated as a city in 1823. During the 19th-Century, St. Louis grew into an important center of commerce and trade, attracting thousands of immigrants eager to find a new life on the edge of the frontier.
Between 1840 and 1860, the population exploded with the arrival of many new immigrants. Germans and Irish were the dominant ethnic groups settling in St. Louis, especially in the wake of the German Revolution and the Irish Potato Famine. St. Louis was a strategic location during the American Civil War, but it stayed firmly under Union control--in large part because of the fiercely loyal German influence. No major battle was fought in or near the city, although the "Battle of Camp Jackson" was a noteworthy skirmish fought on the modern-day location of the St. Louis University campus. Later waves of St. Louis settlers included Italians, Serbians, Lebanese, Syrians, and Greeks, who settled here by the late 19th-Century.
St. Louis's current boundaries were established in 1876, when voters approved separation from St Louis County and establishment of a home rule charter. St. Louis was the nation's first home rule city, but unlike most, it was separated from any county. Baltimore also is a similarly divided metropolis. Although this boundary would in the future prove a severe limitation to the City of St. Louis, at the time there was ample room for the city to grow within its fixed boundaries. After the Civil War, St. Louis continued its rapid growth, and by 1900 was a major manufacturing center. Industries grew in St. Louis because of the city's dominance in the region, its access to rail and water transportation, and the city's central location in the nation. The 1874 construction of the Eads Bridge made St. Louis an important link in the continuing growth of transcontinental rail travel--but came too late to prevent Chicago from overtaking it as the largest rail hub in the nation. By the 1890s, St. Louis was the nation's fourth largest city.