Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Show Me the Missouri

Magnet # 315:  Missouri State Symbols

Material:  Brass

Purchased By:  Mom

The Missouri Compromise allowed Missouri to join the Union on this day in 1821, making it the 24th state. Earlier on, the first Europeans to reach what would become Missouri were French Canadians traveling south. Around 1750, they established Ste. Genevieve and later they developed a fur trading post at St. Louis. It became an important economic center of the region, while Ste. Genevieve grew into a bountiful agricultural center. The area eventually became part of the United States when the Louisiana Purchase was made. As more and more Americans set out to explore the western areas of the country, the newly-formed Missouri Territory came to be known as "The Gateway to the West" as many explorers both began and ended their journeys in the St. Louis area, most notably Louis and Clark. And yes, it was the Missouri Compromise that finally made it possible for the territory to become a state.  As it wanted to be a slave state, factions in Congress demanded that the balance between slave states and free states not be upset.  To solve the matter, Maine was admitted in 1820 as a free state, allowing Missouri to join the Union the next year.  This arrangement would set a pattern for the future admissions of Arkansas and Michigan in the late 1830s.  When the Civil War broke out, tensions ran deep in the state, resulting in battles being fought between the two sides who favored secession and staying in the Union.  Missouri never officially joined the Confederacy, but they claimed the area nonetheless.  During and after the War, Missouri continued to draw in more people, developing into an important transportation center and developing nearly all of its frontiers.  In 1904, a great deal of attention was brought to the state when it hosted the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, better known as the St. Louis World's Fair.  It was held to celebrate the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase and brought in crowds of visitors from all over the globe.  And the Summer Olympics were also held in the city that year, bringing it even more importance.  Over the past century, the state has developed into an important center of industry and agriculture and remains a gateway between the east and the west.

I have never been to Missouri, and it's pretty much is on the outskirts of the block of states I have yet to visit. While I have been to its neighbors Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois, I have not seen Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa, to its north and west. So perhaps a trip to the Show Me State that extends to those directions is in order someday. As it borders eight states, it's tied with Tennessee for bordering the most of any state in the Union.  I guess that makes it a pretty obvious choice for a road trip of Mid-America.  And there are plenty of places to check out in the Show Me State.  First off is the Gateway Arch, which at 630 feet is the country's largest monument and perhaps the state's most famous landmark.  Visitors can travel in a tram to almost the top of the structure and take in the incredible views, which can be as far as 30 miles - sounds like fun to me.  There's also Kansas City, headquarters of Hallmark Cards, Inc.  If you're like me, and can't get enough of Hallmark, you can tour the Hallmark Visitors Center there, which details the history of the company and its many facets.  You might even get to see employees at work.  Best of all, it's free to tour.  So is Kaleidoscope, right next door, an art studio for children created by Hallmark.  There, families can engage in all sorts of projects and all of the craft materials are provided.  And, of course, there's Missouri's most colorful destination - Branson.  With its many shows and shops, it's like a Midwestern combination of Broadway and the Las Vegas Strip.  It's also worth visiting nearby Silver Dollar City, a reconstructed amusement park based on an 1880's mining town.  This state clearly has a wide variety of destinations to show off and I hope to get to check them out for myself - hopefully as a gateway to areas further west.

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