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History Museum’s Celebration Of St. Louis’ 250th May Be Record-Breaker

The Missouri History Museum’s “250 in 250” exhibition is on track to make history, itself.

The exhibit promises to break attendance records, with more than 54,000 people having already visited the display highlighting 250 images, people, places, objects and moments in St. Louis history. That’s more than half the number who came through "The Civil War in Missouri” – the most recent exhibit originated by the museum – during its entire 18-month run.

Credit Missouri History Museum
Jody Sowell

The numbers look promising, according to the museum’s director of exhibitions Jody Sowell.

“This will probably end up being the biggest exhibit that we’ve ever had at MHM — the biggest temporary exhibit," Sowell said.

Bordellos and Broadcasters

Many are first-time visitors to the exhibit, of course, but some are going back for more, Sowell said. “I heard from one person who saw it five times.”

The exhibit can be a launching pad for conversations among generations. Sowell has seen grandparents point to photos and other items while talking to their grandchildren about what it was like when they were growing up.

The 50 people of “250 in 250” include many whose names you might expect to see: Henry Shaw, Chuck Barry, Annie Malone. But some have a more checkered past. Perhaps they’re not well-known but still deserving of fame, at least in some quarters.

One such name is Eliza Haycraft. Haycraft was a wildly successful St. Louis businesswoman in the mid-1800s.Her company wasn’t what you might expect. She ran a brothel, something local law enforcement OK'd with a wink and a nod.

Haycraft was generous with her profits, contributing to many public causes. When she died, she was mourned as a beloved philanthropist.

“Her funeral procession to Bellefontaine Cemetery was almost as well attended as that of Adolphus Busch,” Sowell said.

Each month, a different St. Louisan in history will be the 51st person in the exhibit, determined by a vote of the exhibition’s visitors. In keeping with the debut of the St. Louis Cardinals’ new season, legendary broadcaster Jack Buck will be celebrated in April.

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.