For a lot of people, Missouri is one of those states that flies under the radar somewhat. Nestled in between regions with stronger personalities, sometimes it feels like the state doesn’t quite neatly fit into a category like some of its neighbors.
However, this is exactly Missouri’s strong suit. This dynamic state incorporates some of the best elements of the South, Midwest, East Coast, and Great Plains regions. This makes for a hodge-podge of exciting culture and history.
If you’re interested in learning more about the show-me state, take a look at this list of facts surrounding Missouri, and find out why this amazing state has so much to offer.
1. Missouri Has Over 7000 Caves
Missouri is truly a land of caves. Some of the largest and most extensive cave systems in the country are interlaced under Missouri’s topsoil. This includes the mind-blowing Meramec Caverns, often presented as “The Greatest Show Under The Earth”.
Also of note are the Bridal Caves, as well as the Marvel Cave. Most of these caves are available for tourists and visitors to tour if interested.
2. Huckleberry Finn Takes Place in Missouri
Legendary American man of letters Mark Twain is from Missouri. As such, many of his most famous works of literature take place in the “show-me state”.
Huckleberry Finn describes the adventures of the vagrant and mischievous titular character. He’s a scamp who goes on a number of journeys through both land and river terrains. His friendship with fellow Twain creation Tom Sawyer is one of American literature’s most enduring bonds.
Apparently, Huck Finn is based on the real-life character of Tom Blankenship. This man was a wanderer and vagabond who lived in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri.
3. It Has the Largest Beer Producing Plant in America
Missouri is home to the original Annhauser-Busch beer production plant, which is the world’s largest brewing company. Originally a small business producing Budweiser beer, the massive corporation now owns many of the largest names in drinking. This includes Michelob, Stella Artois, and Natural Light.
The original beer brewing plant was opened by German-American immigrant George Schneider. This man started a Bavarian Brewery in south St. Louis in 1852. From there, the Anheuser Busch corporation was formed in 1879 by Adolphus Busch, who purchased the struggling beer hall from Schneider.
4. The Missouri River is The Longest in The United States
This river is the longest river in the United States, flowing an impressive 2,341 miles before its termination into the Mississippi just north of St. Louis. Though it’s named for Missouri, the river counts its origins towards the mountains of Montana. It flows through seven different states through its course.
The Missouri is an important source of hydroelectric power and irrigation for millions of people. It has served this purpose for thousands of years for the indigenous folks of the adjacent areas.
5. The University of Missouri Created the World’s First Journalism Program
As stated above, the University of Missouri was the first university in the world to offer students a comprehensive journalism program. This is now considered standard issue for most colleges and universities.
The Missouri School of Journalism was founded in 1908, and is renowned worldwide for the quality of its program. The school has given its name to the “Missouri Method”. This is a type of journalism education where students engage in a mix of classroom and real-world experience learning.
Many reputable individuals in the world of modern journalism have matriculated through the program at Missouri. This includes several large network television anchors and managing editors for the New York Times.
6. The Gateway Arch is The Tallest Monument in The Country
The Gateway Arch is a national monument in St. Louis that is portrayed as a massive semi-circle arch that towers above the city. The arch is meant to commemorate St. Louis’s historical status as “the gateway to the west.”
The arch itself is additionally notable due to the fact that the grounds that it stands on are the nation’s smallest national park. This is the Gateway Arch National Park.
The arch stands at about 660 feet tall, which is taller than the Washington Monument. The arch is actually the world’s tallest arch, as well as the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere.
7. The World Chess Hall of Fame is In Missouri
St. Louis is also home to the World Chess Hall of Fame. This museum is dedicated to exhibiting homages to the greats of what some consider to be the world’s greatest game.
The exhibition hall is located in downtown St. Louis, not far from many of the other major attractions of the historic American city. There are many activities and exhibitions to take part in, including observing live chess matches.
8. Its State Aquatic Animal is The Paddlefish
The state fish of Missouri is the distinctive and bizarre Paddlefish, one of the most unique-looking fishes in North America. The Paddlefish is easily identified by its massive rostrum, which looks like a nose or a paddle.
Paddlefish can grow to be absolutely massive, with specimens reaching lengths of six or more feet quite regularly. Paddlefish populations are in decline worldwide. However, protections have been put in place in recent years to attempt to protect the species.
One of the best places to see paddlefish in Missouri is the Lake of The Ozarks, a massive man-made lake located near the center of the state.
9. The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is in Missouri
Another interesting museum located in Missouri is the quirky National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. This museum is in Kansas City, Missouri, a city that exists in two states.
This museum is the world’s largest collection of toys and miniatures. The mission of the museum is to entertain and educate by exemplifying the inherent creativity and sense of play that goes into the conception and manufacturing of toys. Currently, the museum houses over 93,000 individual toys in its exhibitions.
10. The First Gas Station Was Built in Missouri
The world’s first gas station opened its doors in St. Louis in 1905. This store would prove to be a rapid catalyst for others of a similar breed, as similar stores would open shortly after all over the country.
The St. Louis Motor Carriage Company was opened by an individual by the name of George Preston Dorris. This entrepreneur would also go on to develop and patent the world’s first float-carburator. This company would prove innovative in the subsequent development of the automobile over the course of the early 20th century.
11. Missouri Is The Birthplace of Sliced Bread
Similar to the gas station, Missouri is the birthplace of another slice of American life that we take for granted – that is, sliced bread.
Sliced bread was first sold by the Missouri-based Frank Bench’s Bakery, which is based in the humble town of Chillicothe, Missouri. Prior to the invention of this convenient way of consuming bread, you would have to slice it yourself in order to enjoy it this way – imagine that.
The first machine to slice bread was a bit of a monstrosity. 10 feet long, the metal box was armed with rows of pulsating sharp blades that would slice the bread. Hilariously, the inventor of the sliced bread machine had a great deal of trouble finding a bakery client who would take on his new invention until he met Frank Bench.
12. There are over 1,000 Miles of Navigable Waterways in Missouri
Missouri is a land of lakes and rivers, an attribute it has in common with many of the other states in the mid-west. Overall, there are over 1,000 miles of navigable waters in Missouri. Of course, this includes the aforementioned Missouri River. Together with the Mississippi River, it forms the fourth-largest river system in the world.
These navigable waterways form a big part of the cultural identity of Missouri through their recreational activities. In fact, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn primarily chronicle the two heroes navigating the rivers and waterways of Missouri.
13. Iced Tea Was Invented in Missouri
This refreshing beverage was first presented at the 1905 World’s Fair in St. Louis. At least, that’s what’s claimed. There’s actually evidence to suggest that various cultures around the world had thought of this idea prior. An example is China, a country renowned for its tea consumption.
However, for the purposes of this article, Iced Tea was invented at the 1905 World’s Fair in St. Louis. This was the largest world’s fair that had been put on to this point in the United States. Many food staples of cmerican Culture were introduced at this seminal World’s Fair. Some examples include the hot dog, cotton candy, ice cream cones, Dr. Pepper, and the club sandwich.
14. Missouri Borders Eight States
The state holds the record for the most amount of states bordered by a single state. Or rather it shares that record with Tennessee, with both states bordering eight different other states. This stands as a testament to Missouri’s fluid and interesting cultural identity. The state finds itself sharing characteristics with many other regional identities.
The states that Missouri shares a border with are Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Nebraska. Of these eight borders, the largest amount of space that Missouri shares is with Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois.
15. Kansas City Has More Fountains Than Any City in America
Kansas City, MO is known as the city of fountains, and there are more than 200 fountains scattered throughout the metropolitan area of the city. The city celebrates this fact with Greater Kansas City Fountain Day in April when it begins to fire off all of the city’s fountains at once.
The city’s original fountains were constructed in the late 1800s with a purely utilitarian purpose in mind: to provide water for people’s horses in the time of horse-drawn carriages. After this, drinking fountains that were designed for people were also constructed.
The city’s love affair with fountains was cemented in the 1970s when a local executive established the Kansas City City of Fountains Foundation. This foundation exists to build new fountains and manage and maintain the existing ones.
16. It Contributed Soldiers to Both the North and South During the Civil War
Call it sly or call it two-timing, but Missouri contributed soldiers to both the North and the South in the American Civil War. Part of this is due to the state’s identity as a border and buffer state between these two regions.
Of course, Missouri suffered in its own way during this period, as the state was split into heated divisions through divisive loyalties. In this state, brother turned against brother in war. Looking back, the state sent approximately 110,000 soldiers to the Union during the Civil War, and 40,000 to the Confederacy. The state’s government was also split in two during this troubled time.
Missouri saw the third-highest number of skirmishes and battles during the Civil War. It is exceeded only by Virginia and Tennessee in this regard.
17. It’s Union Station Is The Second-largest Rail Station in The Country
The Union Station in St. Louis is the second-largest train station in the United States, after Manhattan’s Grand Central Station. The station was one of the busiest in the country, having welcomed its first train in 1904. The main hall of the station is large enough to fit crowds of 100,000 people.
Nowadays, the station functions primarily as a museum and entertainment center. There are numerous attractions to check out within its walls. Art exhibitions, the St. Louis Aquarium, and other attractions are all available to peruse while you visit.
18. Its Flag Features Bears – and There are No Bears in Missouri
One strange feature of some of Missouri’s statehood accessories is the fact that it’s state flag features Grizzly Bears. This is an animal that has never existed in Missouri.
The St. Louis flag has other interesting features as well. The state’s motto Salus populi suprema lex esto, is emblazoned across a circle filled with red, white, and blue. This translates from Latin into “Let the good of the people be the supreme law”. The circle surrounding the bears has 24 stars emblazoned on it. This is representative of the fact that Missouri was the 24th state induced into the Union.
The design of the flag has been in use for over 100 years, with the current design going into effect on March 22, 1913. Interestingly, the other state flag that features Grizzly Bears, that of California, is also a state that has no Grizzlies in it (although California Grizzly Bears did exist at some point in the distant past).
19. It Has its Own Special Varietal of Grape
Missouri has its own special varietal of grape called The Norton Grape. This type of grape forms the background of the rapidly growing Missouri wine industry.
Missouri is considered the best wine state in the Midwest. This has caused some German winemakers to nickname its wine-growing region the “Little Rhineland”. An influx of Italian immigrants has also given Missouri’s wine-making production a boost.
Most of the wineries in Missouri lie along Route 94 in between the towns of Defiance and Marthasville. This region has been given the nickname the Missouri Weinstrasse, which translates to Missouri wine route.
20. The First Kindergarten in The Country Opened in Missouri
Missouri is the home of the United State’s first kindergarten, which opened in St. Louis in the year 1873. Ten years later, there were over 400 that were opened across several different states.
Today, we take the concept of Kindergarten for granted as an essential part of a child’s educational upbringing. But these types of schools are actually borrowed from Germany, and the word kindergarten roughly translates to “child’s garden”.
21. Missouri is in Tornado Alley
For better or worse, Missouri is right in the path of Tornado Alley. This is a section of the country that experiences a very high volume of Tornadoes and other extreme weather phenomena.
Missouri is consistently placed in the top ten states for those that experience the most Tornadoes per year. In 2021, Missouri experienced 45 Tornadoes. This is quite a few, but a far cry away from the number one slot, Texas, which experiences a whopping 155 tornadoes per year. Most of the tornadoes in Missouri are experienced in April and May.
22. It Has The Oldest University West of The Mississippi
Ok, it’s just west. Like just across the river. But Saint Louis University is the oldest University West of the Mississippi River. The university opened its doors in 1818.
This university maintains a modestly small student body of about 9,000 students. It is a religious Jesuit university and maintains a sister campus in the capital of Spain, Madrid. The institution sets another record in this regard: it was the first American university to maintain a campus in Europe.
23. Missouri Hosted The First Summer Olympics in The United States
The 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis were the first-ever Olympic games held in the United States. These were the first Olympic games ever held outside of Europe.
That being said, because of global political tensions at the time, very few athletes from outside of North America attended the games. Several Olympic mainstay sports debuted at these Olympic games, including Boxing, dumbbells, wrestling, and the decathlon.
The games were held across five venues in the city of St. Louis. The United States emerged as the country with the most medals, winning approximately 500 in total.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sean Pavone/iStock via Getty Images
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