Fur-trapper Pierre Laclede knew prime real estate when he saw it, so he put down stakes at the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in 1764. The hustle picked up considerably when prospectors discovered gold in California in 1849 and St Louis became the jump-off point (aka ‘Gateway to the West’) for get-rich-quick dreamers.
St Louis became known as a center of innovation after hosting the 1904 World’s Fair. Aviator Charles Lindbergh furthered the reputation in 1927 when he flew the first nonstop, solo transatlantic flight in the ‘Spirit of St Louis,’ named for the far-sighted town that funded the aircraft. The city retains its forward-thinking status today, with several aerospace and high-tech companies based here.