Happy Birthday Missouri!


On August 10, 1821, Missouri entered the Union as the twenty-fourth state. Named after the Native American people who originally inhabited the land, Missouri was acquired by the U.S. as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. At that time, the territory’s occupants were mainly French settlers. After the War of 1812, American settlers poured into the region.

In November 1818, the Missouri territorial legislature adopted a request for statehood, and it submitted the request to the U.S. Congress in December 1818. However, what would otherwise have been a routine admission became mired in a national controversy due to the delicate balance between slave and free states. The Missouri legislature had requested admission as a slave state, but antislavery members of Congress attached amendments to the legislation accepting Missouri as a state. In 1820, the Missouri Compromise cleared the way for Missouri’s entry to the union as a slave state, along with Maine, a free state, to preserve the balance. Additionally, the Missouri Compromise stated that the remaining portion of the Louisiana Territory above the 36°30′ line was to be free from slavery. This same year, the first Missouri constitution was adopted. The following year, 1821, Missouri was admitted as the 24th state, with the state capital temporarily located in Saint Charles until a permanent capital could be built. Missouri was the first state entirely west of the Mississippi River to be admitted to the Union. The state capital moved to Jefferson City in 1826.

At the time of its admission, the western border of Missouri was a straight line from Iowa to Arkansas based on the confluence of the Kaw River with the Missouri River in the Kansas City West Bottoms. Land in what is now northwest Missouri was deeded to the Iowa (tribe) and the combined Sac (tribe) and Fox (tribe). Following encroachments on the land by white settlers—most notably Joseph Robidoux — William Clark persuaded the tribes to agree give up their land in exchange for $7,500 in the 1836 Platte Purchase. The land was ratified by Congress in 1837. The purchase received widespread support from Southern Congressmen since it would mean adding territory to the only slave state north of Missouri’s southern border. An area only somewhat smaller than the combined area of Rhode Island and Delaware was added to Missouri. It consisted of the Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Holt, Nodaway and Platte counties.

The Louisiana Purchase is considered the greatest real estate deal in history. The United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France at a price of $15 million, or approximately four cents an acre. The signing of the Louisiana Purchase treaty on April 30, 1803, doubled the size of the United States and opened up the continent to its westward expansion.

Missouri was the westernmost state in the Union until Texas was granted statehood in 1845. St. Louis, located at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in the southeastern part of the state, was called the “Gateway to the West” because it served as a staging area for wagon trains in the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the city captured the world’s attention while hosting the much celebrated Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis World’s Fair) of 1904.

Happy 194th birthday Missouri!

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