"To Preserve the Historic Lore for Which St. Louis is Famous": The St. Louis Historic Markers Program and the Construction of Community Historical Memory
Starting in the 1930s, the City of St. Louis began marking historic sites with a collection of signs for sites to draw attention to community memory. In this article, Bryan Jack investigates these signs and their meaning in downtown St. Louis.
A person walking around St. Louis, Missouri, in 1944 would have encountered more than 200 markers documenting various sites related to the city’s history. Of that number, 126 were erected by the Historic Sites Committee of the Young Men’s Division of the Chamber of Commerce, which for over a decade had been conducting a historic markers program.1 Depending on the site’s purported importance, and also the marker sponsor’s willingness to pay, four types of markers were used—18'' x 24'' metal or wood shields with a white background and black text were the most common, 24'' x 36'' bronze markers were a step above, and, after 1938, many sites were represented by photographic or painted scenes. The sponsors of the markers were either the business occupying the site, a family member of the person being commemorated, or other interested parties.2 Generally erected at eye-level for a person walking on the sidewalk and placed on the building at the historic site (or as close as possible to the original site), the markers were designed to educate the general public about the importance of St. Louis’ past, “proving St. Louis’ outstanding qualifications as a center of historic attraction.” 3