1904 World’s Fair and other trivia: St. Louis claims to Fame

1904 World’s Fair Trivia St. Louis Arch

From the 1904 World’s Fair to current day St.Louis, it’s a city rich with trivia. St. Louis has had many brushes with fame. (Photo by Adam Claypool/Gannett)

DealChicken spends a lot of time hunting and pecking around St. Louis in search of the best daily deals. So it’s no surprise he’s come across more than a few interesting facts. The 1904 World’s Fair helped to put the city on the map, but the stories don’t stop there. Here’s a bit of local trivia—St. Louis style—that even your favorite fine-feathered know-it-all didn’t know until recently.

The 1904 World's Fair put St. Louis on the map. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, city planners, architects and 10,000 laborers constructed an elaborate Expo, transforming 1,200 acres of swampland into a gleaming global spectacle. For seven months, over 20 million visitors from the U.S. and around the world flocked to Forest Park to gawk at the latest in arts, technology and more. Besides the fancy exhibits and famous Observation Wheel, Expo-goers ambled along the Pike, the mile-long arcade and carnival, which offered wild entertainment like the Elephant Water Slide or Jim Key, the Educated Horse. Fair Admission? 50 cents for adults. Wow, those are DealChicken prices!

The Chain of Rocks Bridge is the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. It links to over 300 miles of trails in Missouri and Illinois over the majestic Mississippi. The mile-long bridge, which famously bends at a 30-degree angle midway through, was an engineering marvel at its 1829 debut. In 1936, it became part of the Historic Route 66. However, in 1968 the economy forced the bridge to be shut down. Abandoned for 20 years, its rusted, eerie presence was the backdrop for the 1980 apocalyptic film, Escape from New York. Now, beautifully restored, Chain of Rocks Bridge is a designated historic landmark. Rock of ages!

Creve Coeur Lake is popular for its bike paths and hiking trails. But legend has it that the lake was created by tears, not sweat. An Indian squaw fell in love with a trapper and awaited his return. When he didn't show, her tears poured into the lake. When she jumped off the cliff in despair, the lake turned heart-shaped. Creve Coeur means "broken heart" in French.

Sure, everyone knows Missouri is the Show Me State. But do you know why or how? The motto is attributed by some to Missouri's U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served from 1897 to 1903. While attending a naval banquet in Philadelphia in 1899, Vandiver declared, "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me." Since cockleburs are poisonous bushes to animals and fowl, DealChicken will simply take Vandiver's word for it (and the corn, of course).

DealChicken is a huge Cardinals fan. Duh! So he knows why 91-year-old Stan “the Man” Musial is a local living legend: The outfielder and first baseman played his entire illustrious 22-year career as a St. Louis Cardinal, from 1941 to 1963, setting all kinds of records that earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. On his last game, September 29, 1963 against the Cincinnati Reds, Musial hit an RBI single in the sixth inning to put the Cards on the scoreboard. The game stretched to 14 innings, but the Cardinals prevailed, 3-2.

St. Louis was home to the Summer Olympics in July 1904, but the third Olympiad was overshadowed by the ongoing cultural spectacle known as the World’s Fair, held in the same Forest Park. Still, Olympic highlights include the designation of gold, silver and bronze medals for first, second and third place, and the introduction of boxing and the decathlon as events. But the coolest record? American gymnast George Eyser won six medals... with one wooden leg.

Sure, there’s West Coast, East Coast and Dirty South Rap, but one local rapper created the hip-hop style known as Midwest Twang: Cornell Hayes, Jr., aka, Nelly. In 2000, with his smash debut album, “Country Grammar,” Nelly and his crew, the St. Lunatics, burst out of the Gateway to the top of the charts. With a charismatic blend of urban grit and country charm, Nelly told stories of inner-city gang life over infectious beats in The Lou dialect, while proudly wearing a Cards baseball cap. Nelly won three Grammy awards in 2002 and 2003 for “Hot in Here” and “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” which DealChicken does on the regular.

The St. Louis Walk of Fame may not be as famous as that other one on that other coast, but the star-studded sidewalk on Delmar Boulevard is nothing to sneeze at. Established in 1989 to commemorate the cultural achievements by St. Louisians over the centuries, the Big Name parade includes historical figures such as Ulysses S. Grant and Dred and Harriet Scott, the slaves whose infamous trial led up to the Civil War, as well as literary giants like T.S. Eliot and Tennessee Williams, film stars Shelly Winters and Robert Duvall, music legends Miles Davis and Chuck Berry, and sports stars like Jimmy Connors, broadcaster Bob Costas and (DealChicken’s man) “Runnin’ Redbird” Ozzie Smith.

St. Louis’ own Clayton High Metro School and Metro Academic and Classical both ranked in 2011’s Top 100 Best High Schools in America, according to Newsweek’s annual list—89 and 93, respectively.

Susan Elizabeth Blow, after traveling in Germany, she was inspired to open the first public kindergarten in the United States. The Des Peres School at Carondolet opened in 1873. Six short years later, there were 53 kindergartens in the St. Louis area. Blow tirelessly championed kindergarten education until she died in 1916.

When not out pecking for deals, DealChicken likes to hang out with the Budweiser Clydesdales (and the dappled Dalmatians) at Anheuser-Busch brewery complex. This ornate brick and stained-glass stable was built in 1885 on the 100-acre historic brewery grounds, and it’s one of three buildings registered as a historic landmark by the federal government.

Knew about the 1904 World’s Fair and other trivia, St. Louis smarty? Check out these fun facts about the Ozarks.