The middle-of-the-road state of Missouri stands nearly midcenter in the coterminous United States. It shares its borders with eight states of the Midwest, South, and Southwest-Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
Once Missouri was on the edge of the nation's last frontier and served as the stepping-stone to unknown country. Its role in American history is symbolized by the Gateway Arch, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. A developer's dream of restoring the blighted St. Louis riverfront during the Great Depression, the project eventually became a national salute to the Louisiana Purchase. Sometimes criticized as an oversized croquet wicket, Eero Saarinen's stainless-steel vision of the Gateway to the West nevertheless was the beginning of an urban renewal project that grew far beyond the memorial site.
Two great rivers-the Missouri and the Mississippi-played prominent roles in the early development of the region. In the 1700s they were the pathways traveled by missionaries and white settlers.
Boats plied both rivers in the 1800s to transport farm products out of Missouri and bring in manufactured goods. During the era of territorial expansion, Missouri was the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe and Oregon trails. Given its location as the national crossroads, it became a major railroad center.
Part of President Thomas Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Missouri was one of 13 states carved out of the land between the Mississippi and the Rockies. It was still a wilderness in Daniel Boone 's waning years, when the trailblazer ran out of land in Kentucky and returned to his Missouri cabin to hunt and trap. Later the wilderness was tamed by farmers. Now more than two thirds of the Missouri people live in urban areas; more than a quarter reside in St. Louis and Kansas City, the eastern and western border...