36 Amazing Photos That Capture St. Louis in the Early 20th Century


St. Louis was booming in the early twentieth century, growing beyond its frontier boundaries at a rapid rate. The St. Louis Street Department documented these growing pains, both to record the challenges it faced and show how much work was being done. Charles Clement Holt marshaled a force of photographers to shoot street work in progress, dilapidated areas needing improvement, finished municipal projects and -- quite by chance -- the daily life of a burgeoning city. At its peak, the project knocked out 6,000 photographs a year. Many of these were eventually thrown out, but a historian rescued some 300 prime images.

Joseph Heathcott and Angela Dietz collected some prime images in the book Capturing the City: Photographs from the Streets of St. Louis. The book is really more of a time machine, showing a St. Louis that is familiar but vastly different: Horses being hoisted out of holes in the street are a rarity these days, and Market Street never has musicians on flatbed trucks anymore urging us to keep the city clean.

Photos courtesy of the Missouri History Museum.