Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Missouri - August 10, 1821

My experience in Missouri is limited to two short visits with James' Uncle who lives in Kansas City, and a drive across the state on our way to moving to Arizona. I do remember quite a few fountains in Kansas City, and I know that it is home to Hallmark Corporate Headquarters, which according to its website, is celebrating its centennial this year. James, however, lived in the "Show-Me" state for three years while his father attended the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he will write a supplemental post about his experiences in short order.

Orphan Trains to Missouri
From 1854 until the late 1929 hundreds of thousands of street children from New York City (often referred to as "street arabs" by the police) were taken off the streets, or in some cases from their parents' homes, and sent to rural areas in what became known as the "Orphan Trains". Some children were sent to loving homes, others were simply looked upon as farm hands, and still others ended up abused and neglected, not much better off than they were on the streets. Children were often separated from their siblings and sent to live in places they knew nothing about. The "adoption" process was sometimes as lax as parading the children in front of prospective parents on a train platform who then chose a child or children. Those not chosen were put back on the train and sent to the next stop. As time went on committees formed to vet would-be adopters, and there was some recourse for both parents and children if a placement did not work out.

Over 100,000 of these children ended up in rural Missouri, and these were the focus of the research of Evelyn Trickel, Michael Patrick, and Evelyn Sheets (who died before the research was complete). Thier work, Orphan Trains to Missouri, includes historical backround explaining how European immigration caused the population of New York City to grow in the 1850s, why many of the children ended up on the street and how they survived in the area that came to be known as Hell's Kitchen. The book also tells the stories of several of the children who found their new homes in Missouri, some of these were positive, and some were negative, but it seemed that the authors, like the Children's Aid Society who were in charge of the children, focused more on the good stories.


The World's Greatest Fair
When the St. Louis World's Fair opened in 1904 the automobile was a novelty item, the Wright Brother's first flight had been only months before, and seeing electric lights was a first for many of the Fair's visitors. The documentary The World's Greatest Fair tells the story of this enormous exposition through still photographs, historian interviews, along with a bit of grainy footage. The Fair boasted exhibits of arts; science; and anthropology, which featured native people from Asia and Africa on display. To call  these exhibits "un-PC" would be an understatement. Racism was clear as tribes from Africa were called cannibals, and others were left "displayed" in their native dress, meant for warm climates, even as the fall weather set in in Missouri. The Fair, however, was indeed majestic and excitement in riding the first Ferris wheel (which had a 70-ton axle, and could hold over 2,000 people at a time) would certainly have stuck true awe in the people of the time. For many going to St. Louis for the fair would have been a "once in a lifetime" trip. The 1904 Olympics ran in conjunction with the Fair. I was especially taken by this part of the story. The 1904 Olympics was truly an amatuer sporting event. The story of the Cuban contestant who ran in his street clothes, including shoes, and who had hitchiked part of the way to the games was in such stark contrast to the stories of today's Olympians, who in many cases, really can no longer be called amatuers in any sense of the word. This was a fascinating film that gave a great snapshot view of the United States of 100 years ago. For more information about the 1904 World's Fair see the 1904 World's Fair Society page.

In honor of James' time in Kansas City we ordered Barbeque Sauce from Arthur Bryant. Due to his family's financial constraints, James says he actually never ate in one of the Arthur Bryant restaurants while he lived there, but he knew how famous they were, and that Jimmy Carter liked to eat there. We intended to have a couple of families over for a barbeque to celebrate, but the two families we wanted to invite could each make in on different days, so we had two separate barbeques, one with chicken, and the other with steak. Arthur Bryant's sauce works equally well on both. 

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