The St. Louis area was settled by Native American mound builders of the Mississippian culture from the 800s to the 1400s, followed by other migrating tribal native groups. In the late 1600s, French explorers arrived, & after the French & Indian War, a French fur trading company was established in 1764, which depended on trading posts near Indian villages, where Indians & white trappers exchanged furs for goods. The fur trade remained the basis of the wealth of elite St. Louis Creole families well into the early 1820s.
The French settlers brought both black & Indian slaves to St. Louis, as both domestic servants & agricultural laborers. In 1769, the Spanish prohibited Indian slavery in Louisiana, but the practice was entrenched among the French Creoles in St. Louis. As a compromise, Spanish governors ended the Indian slave trade but allowed the retention of current slaves & any children born to them.
The Spanish government secretly returned the unprofitable Louisiana territory to France in October 1800. In 1803, the city & the region were sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Early in 1804, the French flag was replaced by that of the United States. The population of the city expanded slowly after the Louisiana Purchase.
A watercolor depicting the settlement of St. Louis in 1804
After the transfer of Louisiana to the United States, the Spanish had ended subsidies to the Catholic Church in St. Louis. Thus the resident priest of St. Louis left in 1804, & local Catholics were given periodic services by a traveling priest from Ste. Genevieve roughly six times a year until 1818. In spite of these problems, baptisms continued at the church in St. Louis, with roughly 400 whites & 100 blacks baptized between 1804 & 1816. St Louis had no resident priest until the arrival of Louis William Valentine Dubourg in early January 1818. Upon his arrival, he replaced the original log chapel with a brick church, recruited priests, & established a seminary.
Protestants relied on services from itinerant ministers from in the late 1790s. In 1818, was a Protestant church built within St. Louis, organized by Baptist missionary John Mason Peck with 11 members claiming membership in the First Baptist Church.
Starting in the early 1810s with the growth of American families moving to St. Louis, brick buildings began to be built in the town. Architecture reflected the American style as well, with more frame houses & log buildings than the Creole style of the original village. American business practices also took hold, with signage & advertising of services on buildings present by about 1810, as families began opening new businesses.
Among the early settlers in St. Louis was Irish immigrant Joseph Charless, who published the 1st newspaper west of the Mississippi, the Missouri Gazette, in St. Louis on July 12, 1808. On the 23d of July, 1808, the following announcement of household items appeared in the Missouri Gazette: "spices, salt, knives, hatchets, guns, kitchen-ware, hunting-shirts, & every variety of coarse dry-goods."
One 19C historian, Richard Edwards wrote, "Articles now regarded as indispensable to human existence, & occupying a low position in the scale of human comfort, were then esteemed the greatest luxuries, & so expensive as to be enjoyed only on state occasions, & then with parsimony."
By August of 1808, a Gazette ad announced, "I will sell to the highest bidder for cash...at the bouse of Mrs. Labadie, in the town of St. Louis...Best Cognoo brandy, that has been more than 3 years in cedar at this town; dry-goods, consisting of oloths, strouds, chintzes, calicoes, muslins, Irish linen; saddlery, chewing tobaooo, etc., & a large quantity of well-assorted castings & hardware."
On September 14th, 1808, the Gazette announced: " Hunt & Hankinson have received...Tin & hardware, medicines, stationery, saddlery of all kinds, wrought nails, cut do. of all sizes, men's hats, women's do., wool do., boots & shoes, ladies sprig'd kid & morocco shoes, plain do., Jefferson do., children's do., Lisbon wine, claret do., Cognac brandy, Imperial tea, Young Hyson do., Hyson skin do., loaf sugar, lump do., Muscovado do., coffee, chocolate, mustard, box raisins, best Spanish cigars, dry-goods."
Jacob Philipson announced in the Gazette of Nov. 9, 1808, that he was "opening at his new store, opposite post-office, a seasonable supply of dry-goods & a general assortment of groceries, among which are blankets, shoes, madder, & turkey red, linseedoil, tanners' do., fresh teas, coffee, chocolate, & sugar, shad, mackerel, a few German & English Bibles, Testaments, hymn-books, etc., all of which he intends selling for cash at reasonable prices."
Late in 1808, "Z. Mussina, just arrived from Philadelphia via Pittsburgh, with a large assortment of dry-goods, groceries, queensware, ironmongery, tinware, paints...for sale at the old stand of Madame Labadie (lately occupied by A. C. Dunn) & opposite to Mr. Jacob Philipson."
About this time also H. Austin & Co., of Ste. Genevieve offered to sell "brown, drab, & mixed broadcloths at from 82 to $6 per yard; 1000 yards of calicoes from 50 to 75 cents per yard; cotton laces from $1.25 to $2.50; best green coffee at 62} cents per pound; loaf & lump sugar at 50 cents per pound. Goods purchased in New York for cash, & will be sold as low as any in the Territory for cash, or lead at $6 per 100 pounds, delivered at Ste. Genevieve or Herculaneum."
In 1809, the 1st Board of Trustees, composed primarily of members of the Creole elite & newly arrived Americans, primarily concerned itself with slave control, except for one ordinance banning horse racing on city streets. Other ordinances created volunteer fire department companies, required the removal of dead animals from the town, & created a streets overseer who was able to order males to work on streets adjacent to their property. The town also enacted a small property tax & obtained some revenue from issuing business licenses. By this time, merchants were bringing goods from Baltimore, Philadelphia, & Kentucky into St Louis.
On May 24, 1809, the Gazette noted: "For sale, 300 yards fine country linen, 1400 yards tow linen, 1500 pounds nails, 2000 gallons old whiskey, also a quantity of white rope. The above-mentioned articles will be sold by the quantity for oash, as low as first cost & carriage from Lexington, Ky., to this place." July 26, 1809 "The subscriber has opened in the store...an assortment of drygoods, groceries, & hardware, which he is determined to sell at reasonable terms. Matthew Kerr."
September 13, 1809 "Merchant tailor. Bernard Lalende, lately arrived from Bordeaux, takes the liberty to inform the publio that he intends to follow the tailoring business in all its branches... he will sell at his shop cloth & other stuff, handkerchiefs, thread, wine, coffee, & Imperial tea, also an assortment of the best fiddle-strings." September 13, 1809 "P. Berthold & Paul, lately arrived from Baltimore & Philadelphia, offer for sale a very elegant assortment of dry-goods & groceries at very moderate prices for cash. They keep their store at Mr. Valois', Main Street."
In 1810 the Gazette contained the following announcements: January llth: "Just received an assortment of dry-goods & groceries, for sale at reasonable terms, also a keel-boat seventy feet in length. Samdel Perry."
February 20th.—" F. Menard has the honor of informing the public that he is now opening, at the house of Mr. Pierre Chouteau, the following articles, which he will sell at wholesale or retail on very low terms: Sugar per one hundred pounds, $20; coffee per one hundred pounds, $40; Marseilles soap, dry-goods, Russia sheeting, brown linen, blankets, Frenoh brandy, rum, claret, etc." April 26th.—" Thomas Hickey, tailor & ladies' habit maker, has commenced business on the Public Square."
April 26th.—"H. M. Shreve A Co. have brought from Philadelphia...a complete & general assortment of dry-goods, groceries, hardware, china, & queens'ware, iron, steel, castings, & stationery, at the most reduced prices." April 26th.—"Wood A Dunn have just arrived from Philadelphia, & have opened in St. Louis a general assortment of dry-goods suitable to the season, also groceries, queens & hardware, etc. They have also opened in Ste. Genevieve an assortment of dry-goods, groceries, hardware, etc."
About this time the terms of sale were barter & exchange rather than cash. When "a heap of whiskey & peach brandy" were offered by Frederick Yeiger (1811) for "beef hides," with the remark, "no credit, as he can't write." It is not surprising that "Joseph Bouju, clock- & watch-maker, silversmith & jeweler," should offer for sale "cherry bounce, ratifia de Grenoble, whiskey, a gig & harness, with his keelboat & apparatus." Christian Wilt, from Philadelphia, advertised his goods July 25th, in Mussina's stand, & Depestre, De Mun A Co. announced September 9th, that they were just from Philadelphia & Baltimore with an assortment of new goods.
After the end of the War of 1812, the population of St. Louis & the Missouri Territory began expanding quickly. Between 1804 & 1810, the town increased from 1,200 to 1,400, while from 1810 to 1820, the town population more than tripled from 1,400 to 4,600. In 1812, the Louisiana Territory was renamed the Missouri Territory, & from 1812 to 1821, St. Louis remained the capital of the territory.
During 1813, the following Gazette advertisements appeared: January 9th.—" To the Ladies. Shawls, fine muslins, bonnets, laces, etc., for sale at a moderate price. M. Tesson." June 19th.-- "Berthold A Chouteau have on sale a general assortment of dry-goods, groceries, hardware & crockery, etc."
Around 1816, there was an influx of men of business & capital to St. Louis. The end of the War of 1812 saw a great impetus to settlement in Illinois & Missouri, all these new settlements, as well as the old ones, began to look more & more to St. Louis as their place of obtaining supplies. A flurry of merchants had arrived in town to do business by 1818. About 1819, business began to be classified, & there were separate dealers in groceries, in dry-goods, in hardware, although many houses still continued to deal in mixed merchandise.
The earliest informal sketches from daily life in St. Louis were done by Anna Maria von Phul 1786-1823. She came from a religious Moravian family which had moved to Philadelphia just 2 years before she was born. In 1764, her father Johann Wilhelm von Phul emigrated from Westhofen, Central Pfalz, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He became a successful businessman & married Catharine Graff in 1775. Both were members of the Moravian Brethren church.
Anna Maria was born in Philadelphia, where her parents had 8 children. After William von Phul's death in 1792, Catherine Graff von Phul moved part of her family, including her daughter Anna Maria to Lexington, Kentucky, where Anna Maria studied with the artists George & Mary Beck & was encouraged by her friend & neighbor, artist Matthew Harrist Jouett (1788-1827). Jouette was a well-known Kentucky portraitist who had studied with Gilbert Stuart. As a 14-year-old, she had attended Mrs Beck's young ladies' academy in Lexington. George & Mary Beck owned a collection of European prints with which they shared with their aspiring young artists. When Anna Maria's mother died in 1808, George & Mary Beck are reported to have cared for her & her siblings, taking them on visits to Chaumiere des Prairie, Colonel David Meade, III's estate. While living with the Becks, Anna Maria painted & wrote poetry, dispatching some of the latter to her childhood friend Ann Elizabeth Gist.
Anna Maria came to St. Louis from Kentucky in 1818, to visit Henry von Phul 1784-1874, her brother's family. One of her brothers, who had moved to Baltimore, sent Anna Maria art supplies, which would have been in short supply in early Kentucky & St Louis. Anna Maria brought paper & watercolors with her & filled several sketchbooks with sketches & watercolors of early St. Louis. Anna Maria had been close to her brother Henry, especially after the death of her mother in 1810. In a letter to her brother dated May 18th, 1812, Anna Maria chided Henry for not writing "Tis a long time since we have heard from you. Which I hope does not proceed from indisposition or any other cause than indolence." She had apparently made him a gift, for she continues "Since I wrote I have been anxiously waiting to know how you like your little book I sent by Peter."
In the same letter, Anna Maria wrote of the effects of the War of 1812 on Lexington, Kentucky. "You know I suppose L. is the head quarters, that our town is filled with military officers etc. etc. Nat Hart has raised a most respectable corps of Volunteers to go to Vincennes." Later, Anna Maria describes the financial difficulty experienced by the merchants which proceeded from the war "...from what you say the times are not much better at St. Louis than with us and that I assure you is bad enough and had New Orleans surrendered it would probably complete the ruin of Lexington even as it is suspicion is abroad, and every one seems afraid of his neighbor. Many people, and some among our best informed confidently expect a peace....there would be a better opening for business in L. than there has been for years, as all our darling people are either broke, or so embarrass'd that their movements are, and must be circumscribed for some time, at least."
Her brother Henry had been among the crowd which witnessed the arrival of the 1st steamboat in St. Louis, the General Zebulon Pike in 1817. When his sister arrived in St Louis, Henry was busy with his associates buying a number of steamboats & forming a company to be the 1st to run boats from St. Louis to New Orleans. In 1816, her brother had married Rosalie Genevieive Saugrain 1797-1887, who came from a well-known Creole family; and so Anna Maria had access to most of the societies & cultures in St Louis. She recorded Native American mounds, street scenes, & people from a variety of cultures, all assembled in St. Louis by 1818.
Von Phul aspired to be a professional artist, but died at the home of her sister in Edwardsville, Illinois, in 1823. Her obituary in the Edwardsville Spectator noted "the pleasure of her conversation" and "the virtues of her heart." It also remembered "her lively imagination" but did not mention her artwork. However, family members commented on her art frequently in their letters. The family saved Anna Maria's artwork & gave it to the Missouri Historical Society in 1953.
The Smithsonian Instution reports that artist Matthew Harrist Jouett (1788-1827) painted a portrait of Anna Maria Von Phul in 1819. See: Floyd, William Barrow, "Jouett-Bush-Frazer: Early Kentucky Artists," Lexington, KY, 1968. In 1816, Jouett went to Philadelphia, and then on to Boston, where he studied with Gilbert Stuart for 4 months. Stuart considered Jouett, whom he called "Kentucky," his favorite student.
For watercolors see: Missouri Historical Society.
Edwards, Richard, and M. Hopewell. Edward's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis... St Louis: Edward's Monthly, 1860
Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Saint Louis City and County: From the Earliest Periods to the Present Day. Volume 2 St Louis: L. H. Everts, 1883
Van Ravenswaay, "Anna Maria von Phul" Missouri Historical Society Bulletin 10 (April 1954): 367-84.
Von Phul Family Papers, Missouri Historical Society, St Louis