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History

St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the 1918 Influenza epidemic.
Library of Congress

In determining the best guidelines for government action during the COVID-19 outbreak, city leaders and officials are looking at how different metros responded during the 1918 flu pandemic. The general consensus is that because St. Louis implemented more extensive quarantine measures, the area had a lower death rate than other cities — like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City.

In his latest piece, Chris Naffziger, who writes about history and architecture for St. Louis Magazine, wrote that while city officials managed to prevent the deaths of thousands during the pandemic of 1918 through 1920, St. Louis’ response to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic wasn't quite what we've been told.

"City on a Hill: A History of American Exceptionalism" examines the 1630 sermon "City on a Hill" by Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop.
Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

When a country’s origin story is developed, whose stories get highlighted and whose get erased? How do we foster the ideals of a nation while recognizing that some perspectives have been trampled during the nation’s history?

These are among several questions Abram Van Engen explores in his new book, “City on a Hill: A History of American Exceptionalism,” which examines the 1630 City on a Hill sermon by Massachusetts Bay Gov. John Winthrop.

The Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Brooklyn, Illinois, on Feb. 26, 2020. The church is one of two verified Underground Railroad locations in the Metro East. 02 26 2020
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BROOKLYN — On the outskirts of this St. Clair County village, a small green sign reveals how many people live there — about 750. The small community is about five square blocks and sits a few thousand feet from the Mississippi River. 

Yet for a village with less than 1,000 residents, there are 12 churches. The oldest, the Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, was established in 1825 as a Methodist church. It stands apart for its role in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves in Missouri escape to freedom.

Richard Geary performs as Mark Twain during his one man shows at the Planter's Barn Theater in Hannibal.
Richard Geary

Mark Twain, the author born Samuel Clemens in 1835 Missouri, was ahead of his time in many important ways. That’s one reason his brilliant novels endure, and why they’re just as funny as they were when they were published more than 140 years ago.

Officials at Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, known as the ALPLM, are once again trying to verify the authenticity of a hat once thought to belong to Lincoln.

Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham shaped the way the nation saw life on the frontier. His work spanned politics, civil war discord and rowdy riverboatmen, and his genre paintings of 19th century river life are in many major national art collections.

Within the next three years, all of Bingham's nearly 600 known paintings will be accessible online and freely available to the public.

"Michelangelo, God's Architect: The Story of His Final Years and Greatest Masterpiece" will be published on Nov. 19, 2019.
EMILY WOODBURY | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Most people are knowledgeable about the early accomplishments of Michelangelo, like his work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in his 30s. But the artist and architect worked well into his 80s, at a time when the average life expectancy was about 40 to 45 years. In fact, he was still carving sculptures four days before he died.

Glynis Brooks is a Harriet Tubman impersonator based in St. Louis.
EMILY WOODBURY | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

There’s good reason the U.S. Treasury Department selected Harriet Tubman as the new face of its $20 bill. Tubman lived one of the nation’s most remarkable lives. Born into slavery in Maryland, she escaped by making her way to Pennsylvania — on foot. And then she returned, again and again, to rescue family members and other slaves via the Underground Railroad. 

MADCO's new production "WallSTORIES" is a collaboration with UMSL's German Culture Center.
MADCO (Modern American Dance Company)

Nov. 9 will mark 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall that divided Germany from 1961 to 1989.

A dance production being staged this week by St. Louis’ Modern American Dance Company explores the personal stories behind the politics of that moment in time. The production, “WallSTORIES,” was choreographed by native Berliner Nejla Yatkin and is a collaboration between MADCO and the University of Missouri-St. Louis' German Culture Center. 

Reginald Petty poses for a portrait at his home in East St. Louis on Oct. 14, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — Reginald Petty knows the stereotypes of East St. Louis well. A native of the city, he has heard the way many people talk about it.

“'Oh, it’s a high crime rate,'” he said. “'Don’t go to East St. Louis. Be careful.'”

He admits the city has its issues but said crime rates don’t define the city. Petty prefers to focus on East St. Louis’ positive narratives as a city rich with black cultural heritage. After all, he says, the “City of Champions” produced famous athletes, musicians and other celebrities

fitzgene | Flickr

The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation is unveiling its 2019 Places in Peril list today, which details places threatened by deterioration, lack of maintenance, insufficient funding, imminent demolition and development. 

On St. Louis on the Air Friday, host Sarah Fenske spoke with the executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation, Bill Hart, about the places included on this year’s list.

NASA

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, when humanity took its first steps on another planetary body via astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, guest host Jim Kirchherr remembered that day in history with the manager at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, Will Snyder, and Linda Godwin, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Missouri and retired NASA astronaut. 

A bible belonging to Abraham Lincoln has been unveiled to the public for the first time in 150 years.

Bill Hart is the author of "Historic Missouri Roadsides."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

From French colonial architecture in Ste. Genevieve and “levee-high pie” in Kimmswick to Civil War history in Bonnots Mill, Missouri is home to plenty of fascinating travel destinations many of them off the beaten path. Bill Hart gives readers a roadmap for exploring them in “Historic Missouri Roadsides.”

Hart has updated his original 2015 book, recently releasing a second edition that includes additional information and ideas for discovering more of the Show-Me State.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Hart talked with St. Louis Public Radio editor Holly Edgell about the wide-ranging possibilities for touring the state.

Rafia Zafar is the author of "Recipes for Respect: African American Meals and Meaning." Her teaching and research at Washington University focuses on literary, culture and food studies.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

“When is a cookbook more than a set of instructions? And how might a meal rewrite history?”

These two questions frame Washington University scholar Rafia Zafar’s exploration of the rich history of African American food and dining in her new book “Recipes For Respect: African American Meals and Meaning.” In it, Zafar leads readers to a deeper understanding of the authors and chefs whose lives and contributions she brings to the fore.

She offers insights on figures ranging from the enigmatic St. Louis mixologist Tom Bullock, to well-known figures such as George Washington Carver, to black women authors of cookbooks and novels that speak to the struggle of the 1960s as well as the preparation and centrality of food.

(April 04, 2019) Acclaimed scholar, critic and essayist Gerald Early discussed a variety of topics on Thursday's "St. Louis on the Air," including baseball, his latest book, "The Cambridge Champion of Boxing," and the value of literary works.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Gerald Early is an acclaimed scholar, critic and essayist. He is the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters in the African and African American Studies Department at Washington University, and among his many interests is the wide world of sports – especially baseball.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, he grew up a Phillies fan. With that in mind during Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann asked Early whether his loyalties have shifted at all while living in St. Louis.

St. Louis Public Library's "Print to Pixel" exhibit looks at the history and power of the printed word.
Jen Hatton | St. Louis Public Library

With items on display ranging from cuneiform to 3D printers, the new exhibit at St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library branch showcases the evolution of print over the course of two millennia.

Titled “Print to Pixels,” it looks at how words have changed the world “in nearly every way possible,” as Waller McGuire puts it.

“[And it] continues to do so,” the SLPL CEO told host Don Marsh during Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “People [now] talk about creating print that is introduced directly into the brain, and it makes one think: Will that be print? How do we react to that?”

William Knoedelseder is the author of the new book, "Fins: Harley Earl, the Rise of General Motors, and the Glory Days of Detroit."
EVIE HEMPHILL | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, William Knoedelseder told host Don Marsh that when he decided to write a book about the rise of the American automotive industry, he, “tried to specifically make it not a book about cars.”

Rather, the University of Missouri-St. Louis alumnus and celebrated author wanted his newest biography, “Fins: Harley Earl, the Rise of General Motors, and the Glory Days of Detroit,” to paint a broader portrait of a moment in American history.

Neal Bascomb is the author of "The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War"
Caitlin Lally | St. Louis Public Radio

When considering the pivotal moments of World War I, the Great Escape of 1918 is likely not the first incident that comes to mind. Indeed, the history of this truly remarkable episode has largely gone unnoticed in the 100 years since it transpired.

Neal Bascomb’s latest book “The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War” attempts to shed light on this central event in world history. Bascomb joined host Don Marsh for a conversation about the new book on this Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Andrew Hurley is the historian for the five-year project “The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and the Community.”
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The Great Flood of ’93 took a severe toll on St. Louis as an unprecedented weather phenomenon. But St. Louis is no stranger to floods, tornadoes, heat waves, ice storms and more.

Amid dealing with the effects of these events, St. Louisans should be aware that climate change has the potential to increase the frequency of them as well.

SLU students conduct archeological dig on campus before new center for science and engineering is built.
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

In a race against the bulldozers and cranes, a Saint Louis University history professor and a handful of students are conducting an archeological dig in the middle of campus.

It’s unlikely they will be able to excavate deep or wide enough to find evidence of an early Civil War encampment that once occupied the site, but Tom Finan, assistant professor of history and archeologist, doesn’t like to give up hope.  

“I can’t help but think with 800 men living here for a month and using the Mill Creek that ran through here, that something wouldn’t be left behind,” he said.

Host Don Marsh (left) and author Jon Meacham talked about Meacham's latest book, "Soul of America" at the St. Louis Public Library on May 25.
Kara Smith/St. Louis County Library

“American history is defined by the phrase ‘and yet …,’” author and historian Jon Meacham told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh May 25, before an audience of 900 people at the St. Louis County Library.

“We promised equality to all, and yet, we didn’t extend it to all,” Meacham said, citing other examples of former presidential actions that they later contradicted. His latest book, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” compares and contrasts today’s political climate to historical events.

Kelsey Thomas started the #314DayAccentChallenge to celebrate and highlight the St. Louis accent. 2018.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Kelsey Thomas celebrates 314 Day the way many St. Louisans do: she puts on a Cardinals shirt and orders some Imo’s Pizza. If she’s feeling nostalgic, she’ll tune in to Hot 104.1.

But a few years ago, she started a new tradition for March 14. To show off her city’s accent, she curated a list of words that end with an “R” sound — chair, hair, millionaire — and posted them on Twitter with the hashtag #314DayAccentChallenge. The words highlight a unique feature of a local accent that has been celebrated by St. Louis rappers and studied by linguists.

Washington University history professor Peter Kastor uses the musical "Hamilton" as a jumping-off point to teach about the Founding Fathers.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s no secret that there’s a renewed interest in the role Alexander Hamilton played in founding the United States.

Portrayed in the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” the nation’s first treasury secretary and many of the Founding Fathers are brought to life by the show’s creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

In advance of the musical’s sold-out run in April at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh talked with Peter Kastor, history professor at Washington University, about the historical accuracy of “Hamilton.”

Astronomers Studying an Eclipse painted by Antoine Caron in 1571
Wikimedia Commons

The furor over the coming solar eclipse is reaching a fever pitch, causing us to ask: has it always been this way? On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we discussed the ways eclipses have been viewed in the past.

From Babylonians’ scientific tracking of eclipses to frequent myth and lore about the relationship between solar eclipses and animal feeding habits, we discussed how old views of solar eclipses impact our viewing of them today.

Forest Park turns 140 years old this year.
henskechristine | Flickr

Whether you’re new to St. Louis or you’ve been here a long time, you’ve probably heard the factoid that Forest Park is bigger than New York’s Central Park by nearly 500 acres, clocking in at a total of 1,293 acres. It’s one of the many things we love about the park.

But how did the park come to be and how has it changed over time to become what it is today?

An example of an image found in "Capturing the City," which features workers at the intersection of Grand and Olive circa 1907.
Capturing the City

This segment was originally produced on November 26, 2016 and re-aired on August 8, 2017.

Charles Clement Holt was many things: an engineer, a draftsman, a surveyor for the St. Louis Streets Department. He became so good at the latter that he eventually became head of the Streets Department.

Donna Rogers-Beard, Emma Riley and Rev. Doris Graham joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the history Clayton's historical, displaced African-American neighborhood.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Picture the affluent St. Louis suburb of Clayton. Great schools. Flourishing businesses. A lively restaurant scene.

But how Clayton came to be synonymous with such commercial affluence is entwined with a little-known part of the suburb’s history.

From the 1800s to the 1950s, Clayton was home to a flourishing African-American community. The area’s black residents were pushed out of the area through rigorous “urban renewal” zoning policy to make room construction of the vaunted commercial center of the suburb. The black community in Clayton all but disappeared.

Detail of Katherine Dunham in Choros, undated
Missouri History Museum | Provided

If you took but one class with dance legend Katherine Dunham, it became immediately apparent that her approach was one that cultivated the dancer as a whole and made the Dunham Technique more of a “way of life.” Dunham, considered the “queen mother of black dance,” lived from 1909 to 2006, making her home and the center of her dance work in East St. Louis for much of her adult life. 

Marcia and Tim Dorsey's fully rehabbed 1850s stone house in Carondelet. Marcia lived in this house when she was a girl, but after it left her family's hands, the home fell into disrepair. In 2014, the Dorseys began the process of rehabilitating it.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Just east of Broadway in the Patch neighborhood of Carondelet stands a small, rough-cut stone house. The structure, over 160 years old, is set to receive a 'Most Enhanced' building award from the Landmarks Association of St. Louis this Thursday evening.

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