Submitted by scott on

Saint Louis, Missouri was well known to Samuel Clemens.

According to Rasmussen, while working as a river boat pilot "he landed at St. Louis perhaps 60 times."

St Louis was Sam's destination when he first left home in Hannibal, arriving May 27, 1853. He was 17 1/2 years old and aiming for New York City.

Sam returned to St. Louis in 1854.  He contributed a letter to the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal, 16 Feb 1855 that remarked on efforts to enlarge the size of St. Louis as well as railroad developments.  

An extension of the city limits seems to be exciting a good deal of attention just now, and meetings are held every day or two to consider the subject.

St. Louis was debating the merits of a bill, proposed by the city council on 27 December 1854, to redistrict the city into ten wards and triple its area. Under the proposal the city would extend roughly three miles east to west and seven miles along the Mississippi River. Voters ultimately approved the bill, which took effect on 5 December 1855.  SLC to the Editors of the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal, 16 Feb 1855, St. Louis, Mo. (UCCL 00008), n. 3. 

The first train went through to Washington, on the Pacific railroad, on the 9th. The cars started from the new depot in Seventh street. The work on this road is progressing finely, and I hear no more complaint about a want of funds.

The Pacific Railroad had been incorporated by Missouri on 12 March 1849. It was intended to run between St. Louis and Kansas City (about two hundred and eighty miles) and eventually to be part of the central route linking the two coasts. Liberally funded by the legislature, the railroad had just opened a fifty-four-mile section to Washington, Missouri, on 10 February. The Missouri Democrat predicted that “at no very distant day” the railroad would “bring to our city’s lap not only the wealth of golden California, but the richer and more enduring treasures of the world’s trade with the Indies and the East” (“Opening of the Pacific Railroad to Washington on the Missouri,” 12 Feb 55, 2). Despite government assistance, however, a lack of funds impeded construction and the line was not completed to Kansas City until 1865. It eventually became part of the “Southwestern system,” which extended to the Pacific coast.  SLC to the Editors of the Muscatine Tri-Weekly Journal, 16 Feb 1855, St. Louis, Mo. (UCCL 00008), n. 4. 

From Roughing It, on leaving for the west:  "We were six days going from St. Louis to "St. Jo."--a trip that was so dull, and sleepy, and eventless that it has left no more impression on my memory than if its duration had been six minutes instead of that many days. No record is left in my mind, now, concerning it, but a confused jumble of savage-looking snags, which we deliberately walked over with one wheel or the other; and of reefs which we butted and butted, and then retired from and climbed over in some softer place; and of sand-bars which we roosted on occasionally, and rested, and then got out our crutches and sparred over."   

San Francisco Alta California, May 26, 1867:  


EDITORS ALTA: Well, I had to bid good-bye to St. Louis at last. I found it and left it the same happy, cheerful, contented old town - a town where the people are kind and polite, even to strangers - where you can go into a business house you never saw before and speak to a man you never heard of before, and get a perfectly civil answer. It reminded me of the Pacific Coast.

Of course I noticed some little unusual odds and ends of things that set me to thinking. I heard people say "prink" to express that they had been "fixing up ;" and heard them say they had been "peeking" through a crack, for instance, instead of "peeping;" and heard them say "cal'late" instead of "reckon" (which latter is a perfectly legitimate word, as the ALTA readers may see by reference to the 18th verse of the 8th chapter of Romans ;) and heard them say "I admire to do so and so," (which is barbarous;) and heard them say "bosket" for basket, and "gloss" for glass; and "be you goin' home" for "are you going home;~ and heard them say "she is quite pretty" when they meant "she is right pretty" - the one expressing perfection and the other merely a degree of excellence. I heard those and many other unhappy provincialisms which warned me that many New England people have gone westward and are going to mar the ancient purity of the Missourian dialect if somebody don't put a stop to it. But the funniest thing to me was to hear those same immigrants criticising our manner of speaking, and calling attention to what they honestly considered infelicities of language on our part. I couldn't stand that right well.

And I noticed and was glad to see that the Nicolson pavement was used a good deal in St. Louis.

And I also noticed that the ladies did not dress in full fashion - which is a thing that always distresses me. No woman can look as well out of the fashion as in it.

And I noticed that the children in St. Louis have thin legs as a general thing. You see they haven't any hills to climb.

And I noticed that few young men were bald-headed - which is not the case on the Pacific Coast.

And I noticed that whenever people hadn't anything to do, they washed their hands. They use a great deal of coal there, and the air is always filled with invisible coal-dust that soils every thing it touches.

And I noticed that flour was nineteen dollars a barrel.

And I observed that the political bitternesses engendered during the war are still about as strong as they ever were. Individual friends and whole families of old tried friends are widely separated yet - don't visit and don't hold any intercourse with each other. If you give a dinner party for either gentlemen or ladies, or both, it is much the best policy to invite Democrats only or Republicans only. Even Church congregations are organized, net on religious but on political bases; and the Creed begins, "I believe in Abraham Lincoln, the Martyr-President of the United States," or, "I believe in Jefferson Davis, the founder of the Confederate States of America." The genuine Creeds begin that way, although to keep up appearances they still go through the motions and use the ancient formula, "I believe in Jesus Christ," etc.

And one of the pleasantest things I noticed was, that those old-fashioned twilights still remain, and enrich all the landscape with a dreamy vagueness for two hours after the sun has gone down. It is such a pity they forgot to put in the twilight when they made the Pacific Coast. And it is another pity that they forgot to put in any splendid sunsets, too, when the country is so large, and there would have been such a fine opening for them.

From Page 66, History of East St. Louis; its resources, statistics, railroads, physical features, business and advantages.
Tyson, Robert A.  East St. Louis [Ill.] J. Haps & co., 1875.

The following named Railroads radiating from East St. Louis began operations here, in the order of time named, as follows:

1st. The Illinois and St. Louis Coal Road. First built of wooden rails, in 18387, by Ex-Gov. Reynolds and others, from here, six miles, to the Coal bluffs, and extended six miles further to Belleville, in 1870. Horse power was first used.

2d. Ohio and Mississippi Railroad. Ground broke in 1852., Terminated here, June, 1857.

3d. Terre Haute, Alton and St. Louis Railroad, now known as the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad.

4th. Illinoistown and Belleville Railroad, now known as the Cairo Short Line. This road now runs to DuQuoin, on the Illinois Central, and connects there for Cairo.

Mark Twain was in the city in 1882, as reported in Life on the Mississippi.  He remarks on the quality of water (See entry for Cairo, IL).

Next morning, we drove around town in the rain. The city seemed but little changed. It was greatly changed, but it did not seem so; because in St. Louis, as in London and Pittsburgh, you can't persuade a new thing to look new; the coal smoke turns it into an antiquity the moment you take your hand off it. The place had just about doubled its size, since I was a resident of it, and was now become a city of 400,000 inhabitants; still, in the solid business parts, it looked about as it had looked formerly. Yet I am sure there is not as much smoke in St. Louis now as there used to be. The smoke used to bank itself in a dense billowy black canopy over the town, and hide the sky from view. This shelter is very much thinner now; still, there is a sufficiency of smoke there, I think. I heard no complaint.

However, on the outskirts changes were apparent enough; notably in dwelling-house architecture. The fine new homes are noble and beautiful and modern. They stand by themselves, too, with green lawns around them; whereas the dwellings of a former day are packed together in blocks, and are all of one pattern, with windows all alike, set in an arched frame-work of twisted stone; a sort of house which was handsome enough when it was rarer.

There was another change—the Forest Park. This was new to me. It is beautiful and very extensive, and has the excellent merit of having been made mainly by nature. There are other parks, and fine ones, notably Tower Grove and the Botanical Gardens; for St. Louis interested herself in such improvements at an earlier day than did the most of our cities.

The first time I ever saw St. Louis, I could have bought it for six million dollars, and it was the mistake of my life that I did not do it. It was bitter now to look abroad over this domed and steepled metropolis, this solid expanse of bricks and mortar stretching away on every hand into dim, measure-defying distances, and remember that I had allowed that opportunity to go by. Why I should have allowed it to go by seems, of course, foolish and inexplicable to-day, at a first glance; yet there were reasons at the time to justify this course.

A Scotchman, Hon. Charles Augustus Murray, writing some forty-five or fifty years ago, said—'The streets are narrow, ill paved and ill lighted.' Those streets are narrow still, of course; many of them are ill paved yet; but the reproach of ill lighting cannot be repeated, now. The 'Catholic New Church' was the only notable building then, and Mr. Murray was confidently called upon to admire it, with its 'species of Grecian portico, surmounted by a kind of steeple, much too diminutive in its proportions, and surmounted by sundry ornaments' which the unimaginative Scotchman found himself 'quite unable to describe;' and therefore was grateful when a German tourist helped him out with the exclamation—'By —, they look exactly like bed-posts!' St. Louis is well equipped with stately and noble public buildings now, and the little church, which the people used to be so proud of, lost its importance a long time ago. Still, this would not surprise Mr. Murray, if he could come back; for he prophesied the coming greatness of St. Louis with strong confidence.

The further we drove in our inspection-tour, the more sensibly I realized how the city had grown since I had seen it last; changes in detail became steadily more apparent and frequent than at first, too: changes uniformly evidencing progress, energy, prosperity.

But the change of changes was on the 'levee.' This time, a departure from the rule. Half a dozen sound-asleep steamboats where I used to see a solid mile of wide-awake ones! This was melancholy, this was woeful. The absence of the pervading and jocund steamboatman from the billiard-saloon was explained. He was absent because he is no more. His occupation is gone, his power has passed away, he is absorbed into the common herd, he grinds at the mill, a shorn Samson and inconspicuous. Half a dozen lifeless steamboats, a mile of empty wharves, a negro fatigued with whiskey stretched asleep, in a wide and soundless vacancy, where the serried hosts of commerce used to contend!{footnote [Capt. Marryat, writing forty-five years ago says: 'St. Louis has 20,000 inhabitants. The river abreast of the town is crowded with steamboats, lying in two or three tiers.']} Here was desolation, indeed.

'The old, old sea, as one in tears,
Comes murmuring, with foamy lips,
And knocking at the vacant piers,
Calls for his long-lost multitude of ships.'

The towboat and the railroad had done their work, and done it well and completely. The mighty bridge, stretching along over our heads, had done its share in the slaughter and spoliation. Remains of former steamboatmen told me, with wan satisfaction, that the bridge doesn't pay. Still, it can be no sufficient compensation to a corpse, to know that the dynamite that laid him out was not of as good quality as it had been supposed to be.

The pavements along the river front were bad: the sidewalks were rather out of repair; there was a rich abundance of mud. All this was familiar and satisfying; but the ancient armies of drays, and struggling throngs of men, and mountains of freight, were gone; and Sabbath reigned in their stead. The immemorial mile of cheap foul doggeries remained, but business was dull with them; the multitudes of poison-swilling Irishmen had departed, and in their places were a few scattering handfuls of ragged negroes, some drinking, some drunk, some nodding, others asleep. St. Louis is a great and prosperous and advancing city; but the river-edge of it seems dead past resurrection.

Mississippi steamboating was born about 1812; at the end of thirty years, it had grown to mighty proportions; and in less than thirty more, it was dead! A strangely short life for so majestic a creature. Of course it is not absolutely dead, neither is a crippled octogenarian who could once jump twenty-two feet on level ground; but as contrasted with what it was in its prime vigor, Mississippi steamboating may be called dead.

It killed the old-fashioned keel-boating, by reducing the freight-trip to New Orleans to less than a week. The railroads have killed the steamboat passenger traffic by doing in two or three days what the steamboats consumed a week in doing; and the towing-fleets have killed the through-freight traffic by dragging six or seven steamer-loads of stuff down the river at a time, at an expense so trivial that steamboat competition was out of the question.

Freight and passenger way-traffic remains to the steamers. This is in the hands—along the two thousand miles of river between St. Paul and New Orleans—-of two or three close corporations well fortified with capital; and by able and thoroughly business-like management and system, these make a sufficiency of money out of what is left of the once prodigious steamboating industry. I suppose that St. Louis and New Orleans have not suffered materially by the change, but alas for the wood-yard man!

He used to fringe the river all the way; his close-ranked merchandise stretched from the one city to the other, along the banks, and he sold uncountable cords of it every year for cash on the nail; but all the scattering boats that are left burn coal now, and the seldomest spectacle on the Mississippi to-day is a wood-pile. Where now is the once wood-yard man?

January 9 and 10, 1885 Mercantile Library Hall Interview Southern Hotel, "Cable and Twain: The Author and Humorist Arrive in the City Today" St Louis Post-Dispatch, 9 January 1885, p2 Included in "Mark Twain: The Complete Interviews" (#32) "Two of a Kind, Samuel L. Clemens and George W. Cable" St Louis Chronicle, 9 January 1885, p1 (#33)

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