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Behind The Scenes In St. Louis
by [?]


Col. Robert Ingersoll once said of the city of St. Louis that, as to Missouri, it was “a diamond pin in a dirty shirt.” I will not maintain the immaculateness of the shirt; but the diamond has flaws, and is, in some respects, as a gem not far removed from the “phony.”

They call St. Louis “the solid city.” It is solid. Also stolid. It’s a little Chinese. It regards the stranger as the enemy. In St. Louis they don’t gather in the stranger and skin him, as they do in Chicago; but if he happens to have four dollars to invest he is regarded as having designs upon the coagulated capital of a select assortment of “stiffs,” known as leading citizens. If he have brains, they dicker with him and let him in on their deals for a share in his. St. Louis is a close corporation. Less than twenty men run it. Jim Campbell, Dave Francis, Geo. A. Madill, Sam Kennard, Ed. Butler, Charlie Maffit, John Sculin, Edwards Wittaker, Thomas H. West, Julius S. Walsh, George E. Leighton and a few more own the town. They dare do anything. They control the banks, the trust companies, the street railroads, the gas works, the telephone franchises and the newspapers. Almost all the ability in the town is engaged in their service. They gather it in as it develops, and the multitude is made vassal to them. They own everything in St. Louis worth owning. They are the local nobility. They can crush anyone who ventures to oppose their desires. When they war among themselves they manage that no interloper shall come in for a share of the spoils. They unite against the newcomer and crucify him. They control municipal legislation. They buy aldermen like cattle. The city is at their mercy. They are all religious and moral men; their crookedness is purely commercial and political. Their different monopolies oppress the town, and the press is their tool. Most newspaper warfares upon them are mere “blinds” to draw off public attention to one quarter, while they gobble up something valuable in another.

St. Louis has had a reputation for a long time, for public spirit. It’s there all right, but it is public spirit for private gain. Take the exposition. A job. Public money built the structure. The city gave the ground, right in the heart of the business-district-to-be. All the subscribers are frozen out but a few shrewd ones own the whole business. They have a piece of property worth at least eight million dollars. It is untaxed. They rake in the coin accruing from the exposition. They work the public up into supporting the venture, and three or four men in large retail stores get all the benefit. They advertise their private business by their public spirit, in capturing an enterprise that in its inception was somewhat communal in character.

St. Louis boasts of her fine Planters Hotel. Well, eight or ten men have confidenced the public out of that property, and its stupendous increment. Once there was subscribed $600,000 for what are known as the Fall Festivities. There were illuminations for a few years, and the Veiled Prophet pageant still survives; but there has been no accounting for the $600,000 that anyone has been able to understand. It is a legend in St. Louis that a large wad of the $600,000 was invested in the Planters Hotel, in the names of the individuals who made up the Fall Festivities Association. They are drawing from the splendid institution the earning upon money raised by miscellaneous public subscription. No paper dare take up these matters and discuss them. If one were to do so, it would not have five advertisements of the leading retail dealers in anything in the whole city. Col. Charles H. Jones, when editor of the Post-Dispatch, once criticized Mr. Sam Kennard for something, and forthwith Barr, Nugent, Crawford, Scruggs, Vandervoort and Barney, and the other big dealers withdrew their patronage in order to prevent his making the sum of money each year prescribed in his contract with Joseph Pulitzer as the sine qua non to his retention of his place. They drove him out of journalism finally. You’ve got to stand in with all this gang, or go to the wall. The only person who gets anything from them is the person who will do their work.