Imagine a cake with 182 birthday candles. That’s how many it would take to celebrate Missouri’s history as a state. Missouri became the 24th state of the Union on Aug. 10, 1821, and today marks its 182nd birthday.
The state’s birthday will be celebrated at 1 p.m. today at the Missouri State Fair with the official unveiling of the new Missouri quarter. The Show-Me State is home to famous firsts, famous people and famous places — some right from Columbians’ own back yards.
Boone County can claim such famous people as Tim Bass, who trained Buffalo Bill Cody’s horse, successful businesswoman Annie Fisher and “Blind” Boone, one of the founders of ragtime, said Deborah Thompson, director of the Boone County Historical Society.
Boone County and Columbia have more than just famous people to offer, however.
“There are a lot of contributions Boone County has made to the state and to the national government,” said Thompson. “Most are political, but some are cultural.”
Thompson noted several firsts claimed by Columbia, including the MU School of Journalism, the first journalism school in the world, and Stephens College, the first women’s college west of the Mississippi.
Missouri is as rich in the diversity of its landscapes as it is in its history.
“I like the diversity of the land; the north is very flat, you go past the Missouri River and it becomes mountains and hills,” said Columbia resident Richard Dixon, while reading a newspaper under a shade tree at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
Tom Strother, protection regional supervisor with the Department of Conservation, is enthusiastic about the variety of terrains in Missouri, from pristine streams to the unique habitats of the western prairies. “Missouri is just great because it has a wide diversity of hills, trees, mountains and flat lands,” he said.
Lewis and Clark were among the first white men to experience the wonders and challenges of the Missouri landscape. But the state is famous for more than just the Lewis and Clark expedition, which literally helped put Missouri on the map. It was also home to the Pony Express, the New Madrid earthquake and a devastating flood.
Missouri was also the host of the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where Richard Blechyden first served his new drink, iced tea. The newly-invented ice cream cone was also showcased at the fair.
Further culinary firsts for Missouri include Lithiated Lemon, created by Charles Grigg of Missouri, which in 1929 became the main ingredient of 7-Up, and toasted ravioli, created in the 1940s.
While these products may be more famous than the names of their inventors, the names of others who have also called Missouri home are more easily recognizable. President Harry S. Truman, Attorney General John Ashcroft, educator George Washington Carver, musician Sheryl Crow, author Mark Twain, actor Dick Van Dyke, frontierswoman Calamity Jane and outlaw Jesse James were all born in Missouri.