Missouri: The Show Me State

Geography and Industry

The Missouri River splits the state into three parts.

The northern part is flat prairie that is like the land in Iowa. Also like Iowa, this part of Missouri is very rich farmland. Farmers grow lots of corn there, and raise livestock such as cattle and hogs. The Missouri River valley is also largely farmland, although the state's large cities — Kansas City in the west and St. Louis in the east — have attracted much heavy industry.

St. Louis lies at the juncture of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. This location has led to both remarkable growth and quite a lot of history for the city that has long been considered the gateway to the west. This is in no small part because St. Louis sits at a crossroads of various parts of the nation. It is right at the center where north meets south, and both meet west. This makes it a bit of a cultural melting pot.

Directly south of the Missouri River lie the Ozark highlands, which include both mountains and foothills. The eastern part is more rugged, with the western part more rolling hill country.

The southwestern part of the state is part of the Great Plains, and rolls westward into Oklahoma. The main crops grown on these plains are livestock fodder, such as hay and alfalfa. Since cattle, sheep, and hogs are raised in this region as well, farmers don't have to go far to find customers for their crops!

Around Cape Girardeau in the southeast is the “bootheel” part of the state. This part of the state was swampland when Missouri was originally settled. Around the time that the United States acquired the territory as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, a drainage system was devised that allowed the swampland to be converted into cotton plantations.

Missouri is not just an agricultural state, though. In cities like St. Louis, the aerospace industry is well represented. Airplane parts are made throughout the state also. In Kansas City, cars, trucks, other types of transportation equipment (buses, tractors, etc.), and vending machines are built.

ALL ABOUT Missouri

CAPITAL: Jefferson City


POPULATION: 5,595,211 (2000 Census)

STATE BIRD: Bluebird



STATE MOTTO:Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto (The Welfare of the People Shall Be the Supreme Law)”

STATEHOOD: August 10, 1821


Fun Facts


When Missouri was ready to become a state, it turned out that it was a few thousand people short of the number required to become a state. So Congress shaved off what we now call the “bootheel” from the Arkansas Territory, and added it to Missouri in order to make its population high enough to qualify it for statehood!


Before European exploration and settlement of the area, there were a number of Native American tribes who lived in the region, including the Osage, the Oto, and of course, the Missouri, for whom the state is named. The French were the first Europeans to settle in the region, establishing a lead mine at Sainte Genevieve in 1735. To this day, lead mining is an important part of Missouri's economy.

From 1735 until 1763, the French controlled Missouri. In 1763, they ceded Missouri along with the rest of their North American lands to the Spanish. Under Napoleon, the French got Missouri (and the rest of French Louisiana) back from the Spanish, but with the condition that they never turn it over to the United States. Napoleon promptly broke that agreement, and sold the entire area to the United States for about $3,000,000. What a bargain that turned out to be!

Missouri entered the Union as a result of the Missouri Compromise (see the Maine section of Chapter 1 for an explanation of the Missouri Compromise) in 1820. Because many of the people from the United States who moved in to help settle Missouri were originally from the South, and because Missouri had some land near Cape Girardeau that was under cotton cultivation, Missouri came into the Union as a slave state.

Surprisingly enough, when the Civil War finally came between the North and the South, Missouri stayed in the Union, although citizens of the state fought on both sides of the conflict, as was the case in other border states (see Chapter 3, Kentucky).


Places to See If you're in St. Louis, make sure you check out the Peace Arch. It's an amazing piece of architecture. Other places to see in Missouri include Kansas City's Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, the Museum of the American Indian in St. Joseph, and the Harry S Truman Memorial Library in Independence.

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