The earliest European (French) settlements in the area now known as St. Louis were built during the 1690’s and early 1700’s on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Illinois Country (known then as Upper Louisiana).
Soon French migrants crossed the Mississippi River from settlements such as Cahokia, Fort de Chartres and Kaskaskia and founded Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, (located on the western bank of the Mississippi River across from Kaskaskia).
In 1763, Pierre Laclède was sponsored by New Orleans merchant Gilbert Antoine Maxent to construct a trading post near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Laclède and his stepson Auguste Chouteau set out from New Orleans in August.
They found the confluence area too marshy to build a town, so on February 15, 1764 they selected a site 18 miles downriver and named it St. Louis, after King Louis IX of France.
French families began to build the city’s economy on fur trade with the Osage, as well as with more distant tribes along the Missouri River.
They also used African slaves as domestic servants and workers in the city.
From 1764 to 1803, European control of Louisiana (the area west of the Mississippi to the northernmost part of the Missouri River basin) was assumed by the Spanish as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
Then in 1780, during the American Revolutionary War, St. Louis was attacked by British forces, mostly Native American allies, in the Battle of St. Louis.
After the Louisiana Purchase, the city became famous as the starting point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
With westward expansion, St. Louis became a major port on the Mississippi River.
By the end of the 19th century, it had become the fourth-largest city in the United States.
In 1904, St. Louis hosted the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the 1904 Summer Olympics.
The city’s population peaked in 1950, then began a long decline that continues in the 21st century.
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