St. Louis turned 246 this week. That much historians know. The birthday, on the other hand, remains something of a question.
Feb. 14 has long been the recognized as the anniversary of St. Louis’ founding. But Fred Fausz, associate professor of history at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, said he believes Feb. 15, 1764, is the correct date.
In the story “Has St. Louis been celebrating the wrong day as its founding?” published Feb. 14 by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fausz points to a manuscript by Auguste Chouteau, who was in St. Louis on its first day. The cause for the mistaken date was apparently partly attributable to poor penmanship on Chouteau’s behalf. Bad writing or not, St. Louis’ most famous first citizen was still the best source of the community’s date of origin, according to Fausz.
“The only eyewitness account of the founding of St. Louis says the 15th,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “That trumps everything else, which is secondhand.”
Fausz has been studying Chouteau’s writings for two new books on St. Louis’ beginnings. Both books are due out later this year. One will focus on documents, and the other is a narrative history titled “Founding St. Louis: First City of the New West.”
Gregory Ames, a curator at the St. Louis Mercantile Library at UMSL, was quoted in the Post-Dispatch article. The piece also included a reference to longtime UMSL Professor of History James Neal Primm and his St. Louis history book “Lion of the Valley.”