"Historic St. Louis" by UMSL's Fred Fausz

Fred Fausz, associate professor of history at UMSL, wrote “Historic St. Louis,” which is available for purchase at the Missouri History Museum, Left Bank Books and by emailing Alexis Nugent at nugenta@umsl.edu. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Fred Fausz isn’t one to let an emergency quintuple bypass get in the way of a deadline. Surprise heart surgery aside and health restored, he still delivered his new book, “Historic St. Louis: 250 Years Exploring New Frontiers,” in the midst of St. Louis’ 250th anniversary year. He also has several book signings and discussions lined up through November.

“Timing must be the critical issue for all anniversary publications if the author wants to reach the general public before interest in the commemoration wanes,” said Fausz, associate professor of history at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. “Otherwise, it’s like a grocer trying to sell expired lunchmeat.”

There is much to devour in the historic feast of “Historic St. Louis.” The book clocks in at 47,000 words and 174 images covering the entirety of St. Louis’ rich 250-year history. Fausz said he gave ample thought to every page about what the curious general reader would want to know about St. Louis history.

“Great illustrations, 57 in color, help interpret stories rather than being merely decorations,” he said. “I would be most pleased if my oversized ‘coffee table book’ was never left on a coffee table but read for enjoyment as well as education.”

Fausz arrived in St. Louis from Maryland in 1991. He was already a well-published ethnohistorian of American Indian-European relations in the 17th century East. He regarded Virginia’s westward-expanding “Corridor of Territorial Conquest” as the dominant theme in American history.

But with his new Midwestern surroundings, he gladly altered his perspectives. He remembered becoming almost immediately enamored by how the French and Native American fur trade made 18th century St. Louis such a successful place. It was also a peaceful place, he said, due to the cooperation and contributions of friendly native nations.

His newfound interests culminated with his 2011 book “Founding St. Louis: First City of the New West.” That makes two St. Louis-centric books in four years. Fausz politely declined picking a favorite of the two.

“I am equally attracted to depth and breadth in explaining history, so I had to write two very different books to satisfy both,” he said. “Picking a favorite book is as impossible as picking a favorite child. Each is unique in its origins, focus, goals, appeal and accomplishments.”

Fausz has fewer reservations about picking St. Louis historic eras he enjoyed showcasing in his latest book. As a colonial historian, of course he’s fond of the formative years of American Indian-European relations. He selected the steamboat era for his second favorite.

“Those decades in St. Louis history produced massive Irish and German immigration, exploration in the Far West, the Great Fire and epidemic of 1849, and the Civil War,” Fausz said.

Highlights of “Historic St. Louis” include expanded coverage of how U.S. officials transformed French St. Louis following the Louisiana Purchase and explorations of the origins and long-term implications of the 1904 World’s Fair.

St. Louis’ history is “one of opportunity and dreams come true,” UMSL Chancellor Tom George wrote in the book’s introduction.

“That’s apparent in the pages of this outstanding book chronicling the birth and development of St. Louis over the past 250 years,” George continued. “It’s a story of individuals seeking better lives for themselves and their families. It’s a story of individuals coming together to create great communities, companies and institutions. It’s our story.”

Now fully recovered from his late 2013 surgery, Fausz has already played a key role in St. Louis’ 250th anniversary celebrations with numerous news media interviews and public speaking engagements, including UMSL’s “St. Louis Metromorphosis” conference. He has appearances to discuss the book planned for the Carondelet Historical Society on Sept. 14, UMSL’s Monday Noon Series on Sept. 29, the Richmond Heights Historical Society on Nov. 6 and the local Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Chapter at the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Nature Center on Nov. 9 and the St. Louis Genealogical Society Book Jamboree on Nov. 23.

“Historic St. Louis” is available for purchase at the Missouri History Museum, Left Bank Books or by emailing Alexis Nugent at nugenta@umsl.edu.

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz