100 years of disappointment

04-13-1920 a1 editedThe 1920 Census bumped St. Louis out of fourth place, launching a century-long quest to undo the Great Divorce of 1876. And though its population would climb for a few decades – peaking at 856,796 in 1950 – St. Louis kept sliding in the rankings and dropped out of the top 10 in 1970.  (Most recent estimates indicate the population is hovering just above 300,000 – below the 1870 count.)

Reaction to the preliminary census results, published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 13, 1920, was predictable:

Mayor Henry Kiel: “It isn’t enough. Either it is not a complete count of all our inhabitants, I fear, or else the census of 1910 was too optimistic. We will have to abide by the count, but I am sorry we have not more.”

W.F. Carter, president of the Chamber of Commerce: “I trust that one result of the 1920 census of St. Louis will be to rivet public attention on St. Louis’ boundary limitations with a view to correcting them by proper legal procedure to the end that St. Louis may come into her own in the fullest.”

04-14-1920 cartoonSamuel Rosenfeld, president of the Million Population Club: “These figures ought to make every St. Louisan an active worker for annexation of certain territory in the county that is rightfully a part of this city’s population.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page weighed in on April 14, 1920. A cartoon by Daniel R. Fitzpatrick emphasized the boundary restrictions. And an editorial explored other issues. St. Louis, it argued, compared unfavorably to Detroit: it had higher utility costs, a municipal administration that “aided and abetted” the street car companies, “a political machine operated continuously by the same party,” and a private sector unwilling to develop its riverfront resources without government help. And, of course, “Detroit has not been confined within immovable, unnatural boundaries by a tangle of legal cordage permitting no annexation of tributary territory for more than 44 years.”

04-14-1920 editorial small

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: