'St. Louis: An Illustrated Timeline' Creates a Tapestry of Local History

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

Local history buffs have had a year to remember; and that’s just what they’ve done as they’ve celebrated 250 years of St. Louis history with reenacted events—such as the founding of the city on Laclede’s Landing—an extravagant museum exhibit, and 250 birthday cakes spread around the city at historic locations. The cakes told the historical story of the location via virtual reality using your cell phone and an app produced by the city’s own Candy Lab. And now professional and amateur historians have a book too. “St. Louis: An Illustrated Timeline” chronicles people and events that have shaped the city. The book—written by St. Louis historian Carol Ferring Shepley—hit book stores last week.

"St. Louis: An Illustrated Timeline" tells the story of the city. Courtesy of The Polansky Group

“St. Louis: An Illustrated Timeline” tells the story of the city. Courtesy of The Polansky Group

Billed as the most comprehensive book about St. Louis history written to date, the complex patchwork history of the Gateway City is getting this one-of-a-kind treatment even as its citizens celebrate their 250th birthday. Seminal moments in the region’s development come to the forefront, from the Mississippians to their Cahokian civilization, as do names both familiar and unfamiliar; founding fathers Chouteau and Laclede; Harland Bartholomew, the nation’s first full-time city planner; Phoebe Couzins, the third female lawyer in the U.S.; and others who helped shape the city.

Boasting more than 330 photos and illustrations, this fascinating coffee-table volume provides a wide-angle view of life in our region throughout an impressive timeline that runs from 900 CE and ending in the future in 2016 with the estimated completion of St. Louis’ CityArchRiver project. The book illustrates how a simple fur-trading outpost grew into a major American city. Shepley’s research was facilitated through access to the many archival treasures of the Missouri History Museum, the State Historical Society of Missouri, the Library of Congress, as well as several other institutions, all of which allows her to deliver a rich tapestry that lives and breathes on the page.

“St. Louis: An Illustrated Timeline,” is available at the Missouri History Museum, Left Bank Books, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold.

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