Middle America gets a bad rap.
In fact, many people often regard it as a bridge between coasts—like nondescript (and mostly flat) connective tissue.
But those who subscribe to that are missing out, and I’m going to show you that today with some fun and interesting facts about Missouri!
When people think about Missouri, they often conjure up images of unpredictable, inclement weather and a politeness and niceness that border on psychopathy.
But there’s way more to the state than just those stereotypes, and the following Missouri facts will back that up.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it! Here are some of the best lesser-known facts about Missouri. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and wait for all those state prejudices to be shattered.
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1. Missouri is the location of the first successful parachute jump
In March of 1912, history was made. According to Air and Space Magazine, Captain Albert Berry executed the first, successful parachute jump from an airplane in St. Louis.
I’ll spare you the sheer horror of the unsuccessful attempts, but just know that on this particular March day, intrepid U.S. Army Captain Albert Berry boarded a “pusher-type airplane.”
They ascended to 1,500 feet, and as they approached a nearby military installation, Berry saw an insane asylum and reportedly said, ‘That’s where we both belong,’ to the pilot.
He then mounted what can only be described as a trapeze bar, attached the parachute, Hundreds of people watched as he successful deployed his chute and returned to earth.
2. Missouri was a location of the United States’ most devastating recorded tornado
It would simply a disservice to the entire State if we didn’t include a tornado fact in our list of fun facts about Missouri.
Commonly known as the Tri-State Tornado of 1925, Britannica Encyclopedia explains this tornado tore through several states, including Missouri.
In the most Missouri turn of events ever, residents never saw it coming. Meteorologists aren’t exactly popular there, though the word “tornado” was banned from weather forecasts at the time. So we should cut them a little slack.
It moved quickly and ravaged a number of towns.
The Missouri towns hit include: Annapolis, Biehle, and Frohna. 11 people died in Missouri before it tore its way into Southern Illinois.
Ultimately, Missouri got off easy. Over 600 people died in Illinois. In total, 695 people died, 2,000 people were injured, and thousands were left homeless and hungry. Okay, maybe not the most fun of all Missouri facts, but still an interesting one to know.
3. You Can Thank Missouri for the ice cream cone
When people think ice cream, they don’t often think Missouri. But one of the fun things about Missouri facts is the state is full of surprises.
The International Dairy Foods Association has outlined what can only be described as the ice cream cone’s complicated history. Because where it was invented is up for debate.
But, we can all agree that the mighty cone’s early origins can be traced to good ol’ M.O.
As a popular origin story goes, in 1904, St. Louis hosted the World’s Fair. A Syrian gentleman named Ernest A. Hamwi had a concession at this fair, although ice cream was the last thing on his mind.
Instead, Hamwi was selling “crisp, waffle-like” pastries. In the neighboring booth, an ice cream vendor was doing his thing.
If you haven’t been to St. Louis, just know this: it gets so hot it’s miserable. So the ice cream sold itself. It was so popular the vendor’s dishes were fully depleted.
Like a true, ingratiated Midwesterner, Hamwi recognized a neighbor in need and rolled his pastries into cones. … and the rest is history.
4. Missouri survived the continental United States’ most powerful earthquake
The West Coast sometimes acts like it has a monopoly on earthquakes (you can check out my post about California facts for proof of that). However, Missouri is actually the site of the most powerful earthquake to strike the continental U.S.
I know, werid flex, but ok.
Smithsonian Magazine has detailed these historic natural disasters. There were actually three earthquakes (one in December, one in January, one in February), all striking New Madrid, Missouri.
Each earthquake had a magnitude of at least 7.5. Amazingly, this makes them stronger than the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. People as far away as 1,000 miles felt it.
However, at this juncture, the Midwest was a sparsely populated frontier region. So casualties were minimal. I suppose the West Coast wins there. (If that’s even winning?)
But there are many stunning accounts of the event. 8-year-old Godfrey Lesieur reported seeing the ground “rolling in waves.” Other accounts describe the river rising suddenly like a loaf of bread, which is a terrifying yet delicious thought.
5. Missouri is where a Democrat protested Abraham Lincoln’s election by never shaving his beard again (it grew 50 years)
In a world dominated by people who can’t seem to let politics go, this is almost comforting. Because it illustrates this has been happening forever.
The News Tribune describes Valentine Tapley’s 50-year protest. The year was 1860 – the US at this time was intensely polarized and divided, and was on the brink of total war and chaos.
Well, over in Pike County, Missouri, a “dyed-in-the-wool Democrat” decided to take a stand. Though, admittedly, even that’s too generous of a description.
As a farmer who owned slaves, he heavily opposed Abraham Lincoln’s political stances. He went so far as to say he would never shave again if Lincoln was elected.
And, to his credit, he didn’t. It’s hard not to respect that, at least.
He kept his beard rolled in a silk bag and tucked it in his shirt. And he even maintained it with a special wooden comb and oils.
Ultimately, he died on April 3, 1910. He was 80 years young. This protest went on for 50 years. His beard would grow to be 122 feet long.
And, for those interested, there’s photographic evidence. And it’s about as gnarly as you’d expect in the best way possible!
6. Hermann, Missouri is a piece of Germany transplanted
Missouri isn’t exactly where one typically thinks to go for culture. However, those who malign Missouri that way have not visited Hermann, a real piece of Germany in the US.
How did this happen? According to Experience Hermann, a group of German immigrants settled there all the way back in 1837, and set up their own town along the Missouri River that felt just like home.
Today, Hermann boasts breathtaking views and scenery, along with architecture consistent with their strong German heritage.
Home to the Missouri Wurst Fest and their own Oktoberfest, this is truly an international experience you can find domestically in the US. They even have their own authe
Thanks to the landscape, there are abundant wineries, as well as an authentic German brewery: the Tim Mill Brewery.
7. Missouri is pronounced two different ways (in the same speeches) by politicians to placate voters
It’s no secret people get worked up over politicians. But, if you really want to aggravate your constituency, mispronouncing the state name is a good way to do so.
But what if there are two different pronunciations accepted by two different groups of people? Well, according to The New York Times, that is Missouri’s conundrum!
Missouri may be oft forgotten, but it’s still influential. As a swing state, it has major influence over the nation’s direction.
Now, there are two different pronunciations for the name: “Missouruh” and “Missouree.”
This linguistic divide has actually impacted the rhetoric of politicians. Many will use both pronunciations in the same speech just to cover their bases. Which is politics in a nutshell.
8. A lightning strike on the Missouri capital destroyed the building in 1911
At 7 p.m. on February 5th, 1911, disaster struck Jefferson City. St. Louis Today describes a thunderstorm rolling in and lightning lambasting “the copper-sheathed dome.”
The building caught on fire, firefighters were mobilized, a crowd gathered to witness the tragedy, but nothing could be done.
While dozens of people risked their lives to save important documents, the city’s water systems proved ineffectual. It didn’t have the pressure to extinguish the blaze.
This was the second time a Missouri capitol was claimed by flames. The resulting debate revolved around relocating the capital.
In 1917, after much debate about relocating the capitol altogether (and much to St. Louis’ chagrin), it was rebuilt on the site of the fire.
9. The University of Missouri is the first college in the world to offer a journalism degree
Founded in Columbia in 1839, The Britannica Encyclopedia reveals the University of Missouri was the first university in the world to offer a journalism degree.
Which means, before that, journalism was the Wild West before the Wild West.
Colloquially known as “Mizzou,” it was the first public university in the Louisiana Purchase territory.
In 1908, the first ever course of journalism was offered. Journalism finally got the respect it deserved and the journalistic world will forever be in its debt.
10. Kansas City, Missouri is only second to Rome in volume of fountains
This Missouri fact is pretty random, but I love it – yes, Kansas City has a TON of fountains.
Why so many fountains? According to Kansas City Fountains as well as The Kansas City Mayor’s Office, the fountains here were originally built for horses, birds, and dogs… you know, pragmatic reasons.
The first fountain was built in 1904, with water pouring out of spigots positioned in lions’ mouths, and these were eventually built throughout the entire city.
Eventually, they decided they needed fountains for people to drink out of, so those were built too. And they just kept building and building. To this day, Kansas City has over 200 fountains in total. This has earned the nickname “The City of Fountains.’
It’s an impressive number, but sadly they’re still overshadowed by Rome… Which is like being second to Tom Brady in Super Bowl wins. Definitely not bad company to be in.
11. Missouri’s St. Louis Arch is the country’s tallest monument
Anyone who has been to St. Louis has seen the famous St. Louis arch. And anyone who has seen the arch has likely been floored by its magnitude.
And for good reason. According to the National Park Service, the Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall. For context, it dwarfs both the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument.
One of the newest monuments of the National Park system, it’s a truly awing structure that makes St. Louis a very special place to visit.
Commonly referred to as the “Gateway to the West,” Infoplease explains that The Arch was completed on October 28, 1962.
Bonus fun Missouri fact: its design enables it to sway 18 inches in case of earthquakes.
12. Missouri doesn’t tolerate ‘worrying squirrels’
Every state and city has its share of odd laws (you can check out my California facts and Washington facts for some fun ones).
…. Maryville, Missouri is no different. According to the Northwest Missourian, there are even laws prohibiting ‘worrying squirrels.’
However, while it may seem silly, and while it may very well be silly, there’s a reason. Squirrels in Maryville are infamously fearless.
The law on record states (hilariously plainly) that ‘worrying squirrels will not be tolerated.’ Whether the law came first or the fearless squirrels came first is still unclear.
Other animal related laws include the prohibition of supplying ‘intoxicating liquors to elephants,’ and a law rendering owning a dangerous reptile over 8 feet long illegal.
And, for good measure, it’s also ‘unlawful to throw hard objects by hand’ in Missouri.
13. St. Louis, Missouri is home to the real site that inspired the movie “The Exorcist”
Film buffs are undoubtedly familiar with the classic, “The Exorcist.” And many would likely be surprised that Missouri is actually home to a piece of cinematic history.
Interestingly, according to St Louis Today, the incident that inspired the book, and eventually the film, occurred in St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1949, a 14-year-old boy started having what can only be described as “episodes”—these included body distortions, bursts of preternatural strength, and bending his heels to the back of head. His bed shook and obscenities manifested on his skin in raised, red welts.
According to reports, the young boy would even spew a foul substance at attending priests across the room “with incredible accuracy.” Unsurprisingly, the identity of the boy has been kept secret for his own privacy.
14. Missouri is where the first cow flew in an airplane
Forget about waiting for pigs to fly, Missouri is the land where cows fly.
Rootsweb.ancestry.com details the adventures of the preeminent cow in all of aviation, Elm Farm Ollie, also referred to as “Nelly Jay” by folks “who had the privilege of milking her.”
Elm Farm Ollie was the first ever cow to have flown in an airplane.
In February of 1930, this pioneering cow caught a flight to the International Aircraft Exposition in St. Louis. While aboard, she ate her feed and even generated 24 quarts of milk.
And, for the record, yes, I do believe that being on the plane with a farm animal would still be preferable to being on a plane with a shrieking baby.
As far as cows go, there are a lot of accounts celebrating her and her celebrity. And, honestly, a cow in a plane is about as Missouri as it gets.
15. In the 19th century, an island in Missouri positioned in the Mississippi River was where prominent figures went to duel
If you think people handle things barbarically now, you’ve got another thing coming.
According to the Secretary of State, Missouri is where people handled their problems with a more definitive resolution.
It’s worth noting dueling wasn’t exactly an uncommon mode of conflict resolution. Still, the sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi river was the home to some true fisticuffs.
This sandbar grew to island proportions, and thanks to its neutral location between Illinois and Missouri, it was technically out of both states’ jurisdiction.
On this island, politicians, journalists, and many other prominent figures convened to settle disputes. These duels sometimes resulted in deaths.
In the end, the Civil War is largely to thank for the end of prevalent dueling. Though, as is still true today, lawsuits have been more than capable of filling those shoes.
16. A riverboat exploded on the Mississippi in Missouri, leaving one thousand dollars floating in the water
Looking for another weird Missouri fact/story?
SEMO Press has detailed the disastrous riverboat accident that put a small river town called Neely’s Landing, Missouri on the map.
On October 27, 1869, a sidewheel steamboat called the Stonewall traveled down the Mississippi toward New Orleans.
Departing from Grand Tower just an hour prior, the night was dark and frigid. However, people still sat on deck using candlelight.
One of candles would eventually tip over, and tragedy would ensue. Approximately 210 people died on the vessel carrying 270.
The candle was being used to light a card game being played near hay bales. When the candle tipped, the hay was literal kindling waiting to be lit.
With no water available (on the ship, of course) nearby, they couldn’t extinguish the flame fast enough. The winds fanned it and it only got worse from there.
In the aftermath, a thousand dollars were left floating in the water, and Neely’s Landing, Missouri found its claim to fame in the worst way possible that dreadful night.
Bonus interesting Missouri fact: The turbulent waters of that section of the Mississippi are commonly attributed with the high volume of deaths.
17. Missouri is home to the world’s most expensive pie ever sold at an auction
According to the Los Angeles Times, Jerry Mumma, a then 75-year-old farmer who grew soy, wheat, and corn, once bought the world’s most expensive (auctioned off) pie for $3100 in 2012.
The baker was none other than his 18-year-old granddaughter, Jara Mumma. Which, you know, considering their names, should come as no surprise.
While Jerry Mumma’s account is about as dry as you’d expect a Midwestern farmer’s account to be, it’s still impressive.
The auction occurred in Rich Hill, Missouri at their annual Fourth of July fundraiser (where all proceeds are reinvested into next years auction)
The Mummas, in what we can only assume is typical Mumma fashion, had this to say about the spectacle:
“I wasn’t paying attention to it. Doesn’t matter much. I don’t care.”
Some people are truly blessed with the gift of gab.
PS in case you’re wondering, the pie was peanut butter banana.
18. Missouri has seen only had three fatal snakebites
A 2015 article by The Wichita Eagle reported only the 3rd snakebite in the entire state of Missouri. Though, it’s worth noting, there are 5 venomous snakes that inhabit the state. (Very specific, I know)
Prior to this, the Missouri Department of Conservation claims only two people have died of a snakebite in the state.
These two incidents were the product of a timber rattlesnake bite in 1933 and a copperhead bite in 1965.
And, of course, there was this third snake in 2015. Though the snake species is still unknown, officials strongly suspect it was a copperhead bite.
It’s worth noting people suspect the true total of deaths greatly outstrips this surprising count, but what’s the fun in that?
19. Missouri has a state dinosaur
The Bollinger County Museum of Natural History explains that Missouri, in fact, has a state dinosaur.
More surprisingly, Missouri is one of only 14 states with a state dinosaur.
In 1942, Dan Stewart of the Missouri Geological Survey was conducting research in the southern Ozarks. There, he encountered 8-year-old Ole Chronister at his family’s creek.
Dan explained he was looking for clays as old as dinosaurs, and fitting of the “Show Me State” motto, Ole, in turn, revealed bones his family had discovered.
Dan immediately knew they were dinosaur bones. They were eventually bought from the family for $50. And, interestingly, they were misidentified in the initial scientific report.
The dinosaur turned out to be a buck billed creature called the Hypsibema Missouriense, and it was designated the official Missouri dinosaur in 2004.
20. Missouri is where Winston Churchill delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech
When you think Winston Churchill, you probably think England or World War II (like any sane person), but Missouri is actually home to one of his defining, political moments.
Britannica Encyclopedia explains the famous “Iron Curtain” speech was actually delivered in Fulton, Misouri by the British Prime minister.
This speech is significant and has had a long lasting impact on our lexicon. He stressed the need to resist communism and the USSR, and promote peace and stability.
It’s worth noting the speech was delivered on March 5, 1946, just one year after the end of World War II. Churchill’s speech would prove to be a harrowing premonition.
Did we miss any of your favorite Missouri fun facts?
Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.