Nomadic hunters are present in the area now known as Missouri.
Southeastern Missouri features a village society known as the Mississippian culture.
During their voyage down the Mississippi River, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet become the first Europeans to set foot in Missouri. At this time, the Osage and Missouri Native Americans inhabit the region.
Robert de LaSalle claims the territory for France and names it the Louisiana Territory after King Louis XIV.
1700–1799 EARLY EUROPEAN EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT
Employed by the Company of the Indies, Frenchman Marc Antoine de la Loere des Ursins begins digging for lead and silver with a crew of workmen in the Mine la Motte area. African slaves are brought to Missouri to work in lead mining and look for gold along the Mississippi River.
French colonists found Missouri’s oldest European settlement, Saint Genevieve. It is named for the patron saint of Paris, France.
Missouri becomes first in the nation in the production of lead.
(November 13) Spain gains control of the Louisiana Territory from France in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, but it does not assume control until 1770.
Pierre Laclède Liguest and René August Chouteau found the city of St. Louis as a French trading post.
The city of St. Charles is established as a trading post.
Lieutenant Governor Zenon Trudeau of the Spanish government offers celebrated frontiersman and folk hero Daniel Boone 850 acres to settle in the Louisiana Territory. He and his wife move to present-day St. Charles County a year later. Boone serves as "syndic" (judge and jury) and commandant (military leader) of the Femme Osage district until 1804 and then lives out his final years in Missouri.
1800–1849 STATE OF MISSOURI
(October 30) Spain returns the Louisiana Territory to France.
The Louisiana Purchase. The U.S. acquires Louisiana (and what will become 13 other U.S. states) from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. U.S. President Thomas Jefferson agrees to the purchase price of 78 million francs ($15,000,000) from French head of state Napoleon Bonaparte. The purchase is lauded by supporters and savaged by critics of President Jefferson. It more than doubles the size of the United States and is a defining moment in the expansion of U.S. territory.
(May 14) The Lewis and Clark Expedition sets out from St. Louis to explore the Louisiana Territory. William Clark leaves the town to travel upriver and wait for Meriwether Lewis. The two depart on a journey to reach the Pacific, returning to St. Louis three years later.
The Territory of Louisiana is established with the seat of government in St. Louis.
The Missouri Fur Company is organized in St. Louis. The abundance of animal pelts in the Mississippi Valley region plays a key role in the development of the Upper Louisiana territory.
Centered in New Madrid, Missouri, the most powerful earthquake to strike the United States up until that time in history shakes more than one million square miles and causes the Mississippi River to flow backwards.
A portion of the Territory of Louisiana becomes the Territory of Missouri.
During the War of 1812, Britain supplies Native Americans with weapons and encourages them to attack Missouri settlements. The attacks finally end in 1815 with a peace treaty at Portage des Sioux. By 1825 few Native Americans remain in Missouri.
The controversial issue of slavery surrounds potential Missouri statehood. The "Missouri Compromise" allows Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state and Maine to join as a free state, thus keeping the balance of slave and free states equal.
Missouri imposes a "bachelor tax" of one dollar to unmarried men between the ages of 21 and 50.
(August 10) Missouri becomes the 24th state admitted to the Union.
St. Regis Seminary opens in Florissant. It is the first Roman Catholic institution dedicated to the higher education of Native Americans in the U.S.
The Missouri State Supreme Court rules that free African Americans cannot be re-enslaved with its pronouncement of "Once free, always free."
The Sioux, Sauk, and Fox Native American tribes sign a treaty giving the U.S. most of Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri.
The Platte Purchase. Following encroachment by white settlers, the Sauk and Fox sign a treaty that relinquishes their land in northwestern Missouri in exchange for $7,500. Congress ratifies the treaty a year later.
Governor Lilburn Boggs issues the "Extermination Order," demanding that members of the Mormon church leave the state of Missouri and encouraging Missourians to expel them by any means possible.
Missouri bans free African Americans from settling in the state.
The Dred Scott v. Sandford case begins. Dred and Harriet Scott are slaves who sue for their freedom in St. Louis court. Scott argues that since he and his wife once lived in free territory, they are no longer slaves. In 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court rejects Scott’s argument and upholds slavery with the "Dred Scott Decision."
The Missouri towns of St. Louis, Independence, West Port, and St. Joseph become points of departure for emigrants heading to California, as Missouri becomes the "Gateway to the West" during the Gold Rush. Between 1841 and 1869 (when the transcontinental railroad is completed), approximately 400,000 settlers head west on the Oregon Trail from Missouri.
A serious cholera epidemic strikes St. Louis, killing more than 4,000 people.
1850–1899 THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION ERAS
President Franklin Pierce signs the Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing the notion of "popular sovereignty" to determine whether a territory becomes a slave state or a free state. The act leads to violence on the Kansas-Missouri border as Missouri "Border Ruffians" and Kansas "Jayhawkers" transform a frontier quarrel over slavery’s borders into a national issue.
Braille is first introduced to the Western Hemisphere at the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis.
The Pony Express starts its first run from St. Joseph to Sacramento, California. The enterprise fails after 18 months due to competition from the ever-expanding telegraph network.
Immediately before the Civil War begins, Missourians vote overwhelmingly against seceding from the Union. By the end of the war, Missouri has supplied 110,000 troops for the Union Army and 40,000 troops for the Confederate Army. Because of the state’s strategic location linking the Northern and Southern states, Missouri features the third largest number of battles (after Virginia and Tennessee).
(August 10) The Battle of Wilson’s Creek results in Union retreat as southwestern Missouri is left in Confederate control.
(March 6–8) A three-day battle at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, ensues. The Union Army forces the Confederates to retreat, ending Confederate military control in Missouri.
A Confederate cavalry raid through the states of Missouri and Kansas, Price’s Raid is led by Confederate Major General Sterling Price. His expedition, which ultimately fails, is the last significant Southern war operation west of the Mississippi River.
(January 11) Slavery is abolished in Missouri, making it the first slave state to free its slaves before the adoption of the 13th Amendment.
(April 10) Missouri’s second constitution is adopted, which excludes former Confederate sympathizers from voting and from holding certain occupations.
The first organization of its kind in the U.S., the Missouri Women’s Suffrage Club is organized in St. Louis.
The Jesse James gang stages its first train robbery at Gads Hill. In 1881 the governor offers a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of members of the James gang. James is shot in the back and killed by James Gang member Robert Ford in 1882.
A grasshopper plague in Missouri causes $15 million worth of damage, devastating fields, orchards, grass, and trees.
Missouri passes a law that bans concealed weapons in order to curb gunslinging. Voters uphold the law until 1999.
Newspaperman Chris Rutt invents ready-mix pancake flour in St. Joseph. It is the first self-rising flour for pancakes and the first ready-mix food ever introduced commercially. He names it "Aunt Jemima" after a vaudeville skit about a Southern mammy.
1900–1949 EARLY TO MID 20TH CENTURY
(April 30) The World’s Fair opens in St. Louis. Originally scheduled to be held in 1903, it is delayed while elaborate fairgrounds are completed. Ice cream cones are introduced for the first time at the fair.
(May 14) St. Louis hosts the first Olympic Games held in the U.S. The summer games last for four and a half months and feature 94 events.
Joyce Clyde Hall and his brother begin selling greeting cards in Kansas City, marking the beginning of Hallmark Cards.
(January 16) Missouri becomes the 38th state to approve Prohibition with its ratification of the 18th Amendment. However, the state never implements statewide prohibition, and the national prohibition law is never enforced.
(July 2) Missouri becomes the 11th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.
(March 18) The Tri-State Tornado kills 695 people and injures 13,000 in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. Property damages reach $17 million.
Bagnell Dam is completed. The dam forms the Lake of the Ozarks, one of the largest artificial lakes in the world with approximately 1,400 miles of shoreline.
World War II helps to revitalize the state’s flagging industries. In the postwar period, Missouri becomes the second largest producer of automobiles after Michigan.
(June 22) Holt, Missouri, experiences a world-record rainstorm when one foot of rain falls on the town in 42 minutes.
1950–PRESENT MODERN MISSOURI
(July 14) The George Washington Carver National Monument in Joplin becomes the first national park honoring an African American. Dubbed the "black Leonardo" by Time magazine in 1941, the Missouri-born Carver was a scientist and inventor who revolutionized crop production in the southern states, encouraging the move away from cotton to crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes.
The Missouri State Penitentiary Riot erupts. The 15-hour prison riot leaves five people dead and six prison buildings heavily damaged. At the peak of the riot, the inmates have complete control of the prison and the National Guard is summoned.
Henry and Richard Bloch form the H&R Block company in Kansas City. It grows to become the world’s largest tax-preparing firm.
Construction of the 630-foot stainless steel Gateway Arch begins. The arch is built to serve as a monument to the spirit of the Western pioneers. Completed in 1965, it becomes an iconic symbol of St. Louis.
(April 9) Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., race riots erupt in Kansas City. The riots are sparked when the Kansas City Police Department deploys tear gas on student protesters who view the government’s failure to close schools across the city as disrespectful. Other citizens begin to riot as a result of the police action. Five are killed, 21 injured, and over 100 arrested.
Court-ordered desegregation begins in Missouri.
Missouri voters approve riverboat gambling on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Overflow of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers results in the Great Flood of 1993. It is one of the most costly and devastating floods in modern history. Forty-seven people die and more than 54,000 are forced to abandon their homes. The flood inundates more than 20 million acres in nine states.
(January 26–27) Pope John Paul II arrives in St. Louis where over 100,000 people gather at the Trans World Dome to see him.
Governor Mat Blunt signs a bill outlawing "cyber-bullying" in response to the suicide of a 13-year-old girl who is harassed over the Internet.
(February) Tornadoes sweep through the state of Missour, causing severe damage in the cities of Joplin and Branson, and killing 116 people.
Click to enlarge an image
1673: Osage warrior
1735: Saint Genevieve
1764: Pierre Laclède Liguest
1798: Daniel Boone engraving depicting hunting in Missouri
1803: The Louisiana Purchase
1811: New Madrid earthquake map
1820: Color-coded Missouri Compromise Map
1836: Map of Platte Purchase region (highlighted in red)
1838: Image of the original handwritten Extermination Order
1838: Lilburn Boggs
1846: Portrait of Dred Scott
1854: Franklin Pierce, 14th president of the United States
1861: Map of the Battle of Wilson's Creek
1862: Plan of the Battle of Pea Ridge
1874: Jesse James
1925: Tri-State Tornado headline
1951: George Washington Carver
1993: The Mississippi River floods Festus, Missouri.