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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Visiting William S. Burroughs - I, II and III

The place to be buried in St. Louis has long been Bellefontaine Cemetery.  Naturally, I scheduled a stop there on our way out of town.

Bellefontaine is more of a tourist attraction than I expected.  At the office, there are brochures for self-guided tours of famous folks, beautiful trees and Civil War veterans.

Most people looking for William S. Burroughs are probably looking for the novelist and author of The Naked Lunch.  He has his own modest stone on the family plot.

The monument for his grandfather is a bit more prominent.  It was placed here by grateful employees of American Arithmometer following the company's first sales convention in 1902.  The company name would not be changed to Burroughs Adding Machine Company until three years later.  From the company records:

At a convention of the Sales Agents, Office and Factory forces of the American Arithmometer Company, held at the Planter’s Hotel on December 27th, 1902, it was the unanimous opinion of all present that a suitable memorial should be erected to the memory of


the inventor of the Burroughs Adding Machine, as a tribute to his genius as shown in this most wonderful invention, out of which has grown one of the large business institutions of the Country, of which we are justly proud, and by which so many have been benefitted.

We believe the machine he invented will prove to be his most lasting monument, but as evidence of our appreciation we subscribe the amounts set opposite our names for the purpose of erecting a monument over his grave in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Mo.

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I photographed all four sides of the monument:
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You may notice some short lifespans on those engravings.  The Burroughs family history is filled with tragedy, never very well documented.  Literary biographer Simon Johnson is hard at work producing what may be the definitive biography of the novelist Burroughs.  You can get a flavor for his effort from an article in the Lowell (Michigan) Ledger at this link

We drove the full tour of the cemetery and found the memorial to Capt William Clark of Lewis and Clark to be one of the most notable.  It stands at the very top of the hill, overlooking the Mississippi River.
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A Short Visit to East St. Louis

The area around the Gateway Arch is undergoing a major upgrade making the arch itself difficult to visit.  Looking for a good place to take more pictures, I decided to try the east side of the river.  If you are familiar with East St. Louis, you might have some concern with this idea.  If you are not -- well, let's go to Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities:
... for a first-time visitor suddenly deposited on its eerily empty streets, East St. Louis might suggest another world.
... It is, according to a teacher at the University of Southern Illinois, "a repository for a nonwhite population that is now regarded as expendable." The Post-Dispatch describes it as "America's Soweto."
But, there must be a great view of the arch.  And, there were signs indicating a riverside casino that might offer a good view from the parking lot.  Of course, I made a wrong turn and ended up driving though several blocks of abandoned properties before getting back to the river's edge.  It was reminiscent of driving through Detroit and Buffalo last year.

We were soon back at the river, a bit downstream from the casino and discovered a wonderful large park with a viewing platform.  This is adjacent to a major Cargill grain facility on the river.

Welcome to Malcom W. Martin Memorial Park, home of the Gateway Geyser.

There was only one group of visitors up on the platform and we soon joined them.  There is a live webcam on the EarthCam network and 24 hours of storage of all visitors.  I handed my camera to a member of the other group that was just leaving and we were fortunate enough to have a very good photographer who captured us with the arch.

I picked up the Earthcam pictures back at our hotel.  And that other fellow sitting on the bench?  That's Malcom.
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Monday, December 28, 2015

A Visit to St. Louis - Part II - An Historic Neighborhood.

Besides seeing the modern city of St. Louis on our recent trip, I wanted to explore a bit of the remaining old St. Louis related to William S. Burroughs and his adding machine.  The area of my interest was located within plate 19 of the Compton and Dry Pictorial St. Louis.  Fortunately, an enterprising blogger has identified all remaining buildings from the Compton and Dry drawings and posted the results at Bygone St. Louis.  The anonymous author identifies only two buildings from this drawing that are still standing.

The area of my interest is near the corner of Broadway and Bates. (Bates was renamed Dickson many years ago.)

There is a lot of history associated with this area.  This is a picture from the National Park Service showing the area along the riverfront cleared in 1942 to build the Gateway Arch.  (The arch was not completed until 1965 - but that's another story.)  The arrow points to Broadway and Bates.

Here is the scene as depicted on Compton and Dry's plate 19.

The three-story building indicated by the red arrow was the Hotel Noble back in 1875.  Only the first floor remains today.  Across Broadway from the Noble was Joseph Murphy's Wagon Factory where, reportedly, 200,000 "Murphy Wagons" were built to supply the Santa Fe Trail trade.  Across Bates from the Noble, Joseph Boyer built his small machine shop.

It was in Boyer's shop that two significant inventions were nurtured to life.  Boyer invented the pneumatic hammer which would drive countless rivets in the early twentieth century and in a small second-floor room, William S. Burroughs created the first practical printing adding machine.  When Burroughs stopped by the Boyer shop about 1883 and asked if he could hire a room and a man for his project, Boyer didn't have a man available - but he did have a talented boy - Al Doughty, who had attended the Bates elementary school across the street (blue arrow.) Doughty would retire from the presidency of Burroughs Adding Machine Company some 60+ years later.

Most of the buildings in this neighborhood disappeared about 1895 as the railroads built freight terminal facilities in the area.  A part of the block to the south became The Wedge automotive service station.  That enterprise was held up in 1950 by Sonny Liston who subsequently was imprisoned for the armed robbery and there learned the useful art of boxing.

The Hotel Noble serves only as a landmark in this story, but I took a picture to anchor us to Plate 19.  And Linda got a nice picture of one of the railway freight terminals from 1895.  As she says, "We certainly visit some unusual parts of cities because of your research."


A Visit to St. Louis - Part I

November seemed like a nice time of year for a drive to the south.  St Louis, the city with the arch, is only about six hundred miles from the Twin Cities but we have seldom passed through the area.  We headed out for a long weekend about November 7th.

St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch and there may not be a hotel room in the area that doesn't include some view of the arch.  Here are two.
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I took several pictures of the arch myself.  This one is my favorite.

My personal interest in St. Louis arises from the fact that William S. Burroughs developed his adding machine here in the years 1880-1898.  As I have researched the St. Louis of the late nineteenth century, nothing has impressed me as much as the collection of pictorial maps drawn and published by  Compton and Dry in 1875.  There were over 100 pages of detailed drawings such as this example of plate 19.

The Missouri History Museum has assembled a large exhibit built around these drawings.  It is open through February 14, 2016 and is well worth a long drive to see.
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The museum has assembled the Compton and Dry plates into a single composite image hanging just inside the exhibit entrance.  Whether you might have an interest in St. Louis, history or photography, I think you'll find the image "awesome" in contemporary parlance.

Other parts of the exhibit illustrate many facets of St. Louis life in 1875 from wages to school buildings.
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If the Compton and Dry plates are of interest to you, they are all available free from the Library of Congress website in stunning detail.