St. Louis: Entering the 20th Century (1900-1930)

The period between 1900 and 1930 was a distinctive time for the development of technology. The "good old days" of horses and buggies, gas lit streets and lack of efficient transportation vanished. The steam engine train brought the United States closer together as steamboats bowed out. The exciting growth affected generations and swept them forward.history century LOGO

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, also known as the St. Louis World's Fair, commemorated the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase. The eight-month exposition featured exhibits from 43 nations and was visited by approximately 20 million visitors. The exposition featured twelve palaces that displayed technological advances. The beautifully designed exposition halls, lakes, and gardens were complemented by amusement rides and foods from many nations. The ice cream cone and the hot dog were first presented to the public at the World's Fair. Visitors from around the world were given a first hand look at the technological progress of the United States. Andrew Sterling and Kerry Mills wrote the music and lyrics of "Meet Me In St. Louis". This song became very popular in 1904 due to the success of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.

A significant transition to the twentieth century came after the World's Fair. People were becoming less community-oriented and kept to themselves more thanks to the invention of the radio, the phonograph, and electric fans. The days of gathering in the Old Courthouse to listen to orators vanished. Walking by the river to feel the cool breeze went by the wayside. Electric trolley cars enabled anyone to commute easily and inexpensively.

With the outbreak of World War I, men went to war and women were left at home. Many women became responsible for providing for their families and sought work outside the home. This economic boost for women in the work force assisted in the women's suffrage movement. By 1919, Congress passed Women's Suffrage giving women the right to vote.

The automobile was taking folks out to the surrounding areas of the city and dispersing its population. By 1923 an estimated 13,300,000 automobiles were registered in the United States. George Dorris, one of the founders of the St. Louis Motor Carriage Company, organized the Dorris Motor Car Company in 1905. He produced his cars until 1925, when competition with mass production forced his business to close his doors. In the first 29 years of the century, St. Louis was home to 219 car manufacturing companies.

Transportation also took to the skies. Viewing gas filled balloons was a popular spectator event. The First International Balloon Race was held in St. Louis in 1908. Charles Lindbergh won a competition to be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean non-stop in 1927. He was sponsored by twelve St. Louis businessmen, and dubbed his plane "The Spirit of St. Louis".

A movement to prohibit alcohol picked up interest and support in the new century. The theory behind prohibition was that abstention from alcohol would reduce crimes and alcoholism, two increasing problems in the city and the nation as well. Instead of cutting crime and disease, however, the Prohibition Act passed by the Federal Government had an opposite effect. The sale, manufacture, or transportation of alcohol encouraged the vices prohibitionists wanted eliminated. People secretly brewed alcohol and sold it at "speak-easies", secret gathering places that resembled bars. This was a tremendous period of growth for organized crime and a gang mentality. In 1933, Prohibition came to an end, a failed social experiment.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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