St. Louis 1840
A melding of the City Directory and the Federal Census
by David A. Lossos
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1840 St. Louis was at a crossroads. No longer a small settlement (the 1830 population was a mere 6200 people), St. Louis was on the verge of blossoming into one of the larger metropolises in the nation. The first steamboats came in 1817, and the large influx of immigrants began as early as 1834. By the 1840 census, the small confines of the city was bursting with over 16,000 inhabitants, and the outlying areas swelled the population to just under 23,000. Enterprising individuals found business was brisk, and fortunes were being made.
My focus in putting this book together was to capture the moment in 1840 that allows us to see a glimpse of the people of St. Louis at that turning point in time. Who were the movers and shakers, who were the people that sold the meat in the grocer's storefront, and who made the shoes for everyone to wear.
Up to this point we could look at a number of sources. St. Louis was blessed with a number of historians that have chronicled the city's growth through just about every period. By 1850 we finally had a Federal Census that recorded everyone. The 1840 Census, and all the previous ones, gave us nothing but names of the heads of each household, usually men. Even that information is quite misleading, since many individuals weren't even to show up on this list.
Looking through the 1840-41 St. Louis City Directory, published by Charles Keemle, I was struck by a number of things. Position in the community seems to have not been a factor in being enumerated. It was not uncommon to find someone of the stature of the Mayor of St. Louis listed next to a "col'd washerwoman". Also, I was surprised at the number of Census entries that had no corresponding Directory listing, and vice versa.
Taken separately, the City Directory (without household enumerations) and the Census (without occupations and addresses) fall short of providing meaningful information to the St. Louis historian or genealogist. Putting the two together is the object of this book.
Reading through the 1840 City Directory one day I was struck by the fact that back then the editor did not have WordPerfect to do the spell-checking for him. Also, he certainly could have used the wonderful Sort capabilities of today's modern word processors. Within each grouping of alphabetized letters the most the reader can hope for is that all the "A"s are in one group, the "B"s are in the next section, etc. But don't assume more than that. To make matters worse, in a totally different place within the 86 page document is a few pages called "Appendices" that contain more names that just plain didn't make it into the "alphabetized" listing at all. After transcribing all the names, addresses, and occupations, I had a total of 3117 entries.
One of the most exciting things, to me, were the beautifully ornate advertisements. I've tried to faithfully capture each image, and to place it near the name of the advertiser in the completely revised alphabetized listing.
Adding to this I incorporated the 4953 individuals listed in the 1840 Federal Census for St. Louis. There were only four Wards within the city at that time, but only Ward 3 and Ward 4 were noted on the Census. In addition, the townships of Meramec, Bonhomme, Central, Carondelet, and St. Ferdinand were also enumerated.
The resulting 8070 individuals and businesses portray a very nice snapshot of what was happening in St. Louis in the year of 1840.
1840 St Louis Directory and Census (in PDF format) Caution: This file is VERY large.
"Sketch" of St. Louis that appeared in the 1840 St. Louis City Directory (in PDF format)
Customized map of downtown St. Louis in the 1840s