Abstract: The Emergence of St. Louis as a Rail Hub

Carlos A. Schwantes


Given that St. Louis merchants had for so long benefited from the waterways that extended the city's commercial reach as far as the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri rivers were navigable by steamboats, any benefits to be conferred by the new rail technology were not obvious. Hence, the city's emergence as a rail hub was anything but inevitable. The city's merchants stumbled along during the 1850s with no clear objective in mind for local applications of railroad technology, and only slowly did they formulate one. Their collective thinking was shaped in large measure by a pracitical appreciation for what already worked (steamboats) and difficulty appreciating, much less paying for, the new rail technology.