Let’s dig into some random and exciting facts about St. Louis… you know, the ones that aren’t common knowledge. Many foods came from STL, and so have many famous people, but we’ve already talked about all that. Fact is, the city doesn’t get enough credit for what is has. And what is has is truly interesting, from large chess pieces to “the best tap water in the nation”… Who else is talking about this stuff?
The Birthplace of Peanut Butter
If you’re a peanut butter lover, you’re in luck! St. Louis is the birthplace of the creamy and crunchy delight we all love to spread on our toast. In 1890, physician George A. Bayle Jr. started grinding peanuts into a paste for his protein-starved patients. Little did he know, he was creating a future staple of school lunches everywhere. Thank you, doctor!
The King of Chess Pieces
Hold onto your hats, because St. Louis also boasts the world’s largest chess piece! Standing at a staggering 20 feet tall, this king certainly isn’t hiding on the board. The chess piece resides at the World Chess Hall of Fame, a not-so-hidden gem of St. Louis that celebrates the game’s history and its champions.
The Blues City
Now let’s jazz things up a bit. St. Louis is the birthplace of the blues! Legends like Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry graced the city with their melodies, laying the groundwork for rock ‘n’ roll. So, next time you’re in town, make sure to stroll down the Delmar Loop, also known as “One of the 10 Great Streets in America.“
The Hair-Raising Museum
St. Louis was home to the world’s first hair museum, Leila’s Hair Museum. Here, you could find an enormous collection of hair art dating back to the Victorian era. Art made entirely of human hair! It’s a bit creepy, a bit fascinating, and a whole lot of unique. Though it’s permanently closed today, it’s still a shocking fact about St. Louis!
Taking the Plunge: The First Parachute Jump
Moving from hair to air, St. Louis was also the launchpad for the first-ever successful parachute jump from a moving airplane, performed by Captain Albert Berry in 1912. Captain Berry plunged 1,500 feet and landed safely, giving adrenaline junkies a new hobby to pursue.
The 1904 World’s Fair: An Exposition of Oddities
In the realm of the delightfully odd, let’s talk about the 1904 World’s Fair, held in St. Louis. This event introduced the world to a variety of now-familiar foods and, believe it or not, the baby incubator. Yes, the device used to help premature babies was first publicly demonstrated here. Talk about a surprise!
Named for a King
Let’s take a step back in time, to the birth of this fascinating city. St. Louis was founded in 1764, and its roots are steeped in French fur-trading history. The founder, Pierre Laclede, was a savvy trader with a knack for choosing memorable names. He decided to honor the patron saint of then-French king Louis XV, King Louis IX, by naming his little fur-trading village after him.
Fast-forward a few centuries, and that humble village has blossomed into a bustling metropolitan area, home to 2.8 million people. Yet, despite all the growth and change, the city retains the name of the saintly king. So, when you say “St. Louis,” you’re actually giving a nod to French royalty. Now isn’t that fancy!
An Architectural Marvel: The Wainwright Building
Journey with us to downtown St. Louis, where you’ll find one of the world’s first skyscrapers – the Wainwright Building. Built in 1897 by Louis Sullivan, this 10-story high architectural marvel was a trendsetter in its time. Today, it stands as a testament to the city’s innovative spirit and grandeur.
The Birthplace of Pork Steaks
Calling all foodies! St. Louis is the birthplace of pork steaks. Yes, you heard that right! This beloved dish, a staple at many barbecues, originated right here. So next time you sink your teeth into a juicy pork steak, remember to give a tip of your chef’s hat to St. Louis!
Free Fun for All
St. Louis offers more free major visitor attractions than any place outside of the nation’s capital. From museums to parks, there’s something for everyone to enjoy without breaking the bank. Talk about a budget-friendly vacation destination!
The Barbeque Sauce Capital
Ready for another saucy fact? St. Louisans consume more barbecue sauce per capita than any other city in the United States. It’s clear this city knows a thing or two about flavor! Why is this unexpected? Well, Kansas City is in the same state (at least, part of it is) – and KC is known for some amazing BBQ.
A Gift of Clydesdales
The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales, a symbol of the brewing company and a treat for the eyes, were originally a gift from August Busch to his father to celebrate the end of prohibition. These majestic creatures continue to draw admiration and represent a fascinating piece of the city’s brewing history.
The First Cocktail Party
Raise your glass to Clara Bell Walsh, who threw the first cocktail party in 1917 at her father-in-law’s house in St. Louis. This social innovation has led to countless memorable gatherings since. Here’s to you, Clara!
The Best Tasting Tap Water in the Nation
Who needs bottled water when you’re in St. Louis? An independent taste test commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors declared that the Gateway City has “The Best Tasting Tap Water in the Nation.” Now that’s refreshing!
Musical Magic at The St. Louis Muny
The St. Louis Muny holds the distinction of being the first and largest outdoor musical theater in the United States. It’s the perfect place for a summer evening of song and dance under the stars.
A Historic Transit Hub: St. Louis Union Station
St. Louis Union Station was once the largest and busiest passenger rail station in the world. Today, it’s a captivating blend of history and modern convenience, with shopping, dining, and even a stunning light show. It’s also worth checking out The Wheel, which looks extra cool during the night!
A Roaring Good Time: The St. Louis Zoo
Last but not least, the St. Louis Zoo has made waves nationally. It won the 2017 USA Today Readers’ Choice for “Best U.S. Zoo.” And in 2016, USA Today named it “Best Free Attraction” in the United States. Offering a world-class wildlife experience without charging a dime for admission, this zoo is truly a jewel of the city.
So there you have it, folks! St. Louis – a city that’s anything but ordinary. From giant chess pieces to hair museums, it’s a place where the unusual becomes the norm. Want to learn more facts about St. Louis? Check out our St. Louis: A City of Firsts article.