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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Jul 13, 2022

Politics has always been a hot button issue in St. Louis, but in 1875, the average citizen would have had trouble keeping track of who the mayor of the city even was. In that one year, there were three plus one more who should have been there. Just press play to hear the whole story ——

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Podcast Transcript: In 2017 St. Louisans will take to the polls to vote in a new mayor of St. Louis. The election process will certainly be full of ups and downs. But chances are it won't compare to the strange year of 1875. If you were alive in 1875, it would have been tough remembering who the mayor was. There were three plus one more who should have been there. ——

For the first four months of 1875, Joseph Brown was in office as the 21st mayor of St. Louis. Since his appointment in 1871, he had overseen some pretty big changes in the St. Louis landscape. Giving St. Louisans a day at the park was high on Mayor Brown’s list of goals because his term oversaw Tower Grove Park opening to the public, as well as the legislation to create Carondelet Park, O'Fallon Park, and Forest Park. He also oversaw the opening of the Eads Bridge and ran a soup kitchen for hungry St. Louisans that he funded out of his own pocket. ——

In April 1875, Mayor Brown stepped down and Arthur Barrett took over as the 22nd mayor of St. Louis. But Arthur Barrett would soon set a record. No mayor would want the shortest term of any mayor in St. Louis history. Arthur had a robust history of raising cattle and helping put on the annual St. Louis Exposition Fair. But less than two weeks after taking office, he died. Shortly after being sworn in, Arthur became seriously ill and stumped the team of doctors who were desperately trying to save him. He passed away on April 24th, 1875, just 11 days after taking office. ——

For the rest of 1875, the city of St. Louis might have elected the wrong man as mayor. After Arthur Barrett’s sudden death, a special election was held, and bank president James Britton was declared the 23rd mayor of St. Louis, but his opponent, Henry Overstolz, smelled something fishy. Overstolz cried corruption and blamed Britton’s supporters of stuffing the ballots with hundreds of fake votes. When all was sorted out, the decision was reversed. Overstolz was found to be the winner, and he became the 24th mayor of St. Louis in February 1876. ——

Police officers surrounded City Hall as protesters threatened to storm it and burn it down. And the back and forth argument of who was truly the mayor made St. Louis a laughingstock. In the end how many votes separated Henry Overstolz and James Britton? Just 77 out of nearly 30,000 cast. ——

Here’s History is a joint production of the Missouri History Museum and KDHX. I’m Andrew Wanko and this is 88.1 KDHX St. Louis. ——