Two great rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri, have had a great influence on the development of Missouri. The Mississippi tied the region to the South, particularly to New Orleans. The Missouri crosses the state from west to east and enters the Mississippi near St. Louis; the portion of its valley between St. Louis and what became Kansas City was the greatest avenue of early 19th century advancement westward across the continent.
The region north of the Missouri River is largely prairie land, where, as on the Iowa plains to the north, corn and livestock are raised. Most of the region south of the Missouri is covered by foothills and by the plateau of the Ozark Mountains. The rough, heavily forested eastern section of the Ozarks extends into the less hilly farming plateau in the west and encompasses the irregular, twisting Lake of the Ozarks to the northwest.
In southwest Missouri there is a long, narrow area of flat land, part of the Great Plains, where livestock and forage crops are raised. In the southeast, in the “Bootheel” region below Cape Girardeau, are the cotton fields of the Mississippi floodplain, a once-swampy area improved after the establishment of a drainage system in 1805. The state’s rivers have periodically flooded and eroded fertile farmlands. In 1993 flooding cost 31 lives and caused an estimated $3 billion in damage, much of it to agriculture. The Missouri River basin project represents a major flood control effort.
The capital is Jefferson City, and the largest cities are Kansas City, Saint Louis, Springfield, and Independence.
Missouri’s economy rests chiefly on industry. Aerospace and transportation equipment are the main manufactures; food products, chemicals, printing and publishing, machinery, fabricated metals, and electrical equipment are also important. St. Louis is an important center for the manufacture of metals and chemicals. In Kansas City, long a leading market for livestock and wheat, the manufacture of vending machines and of cars and trucks are leading industries.
Coal in the west and north central sections, lead in the southeast, and zinc in the southwest are among the resources exploited by Missouri’s mining concerns. Lead (Missouri has been the top U.S. producer), cement, and stone are the chief minerals produced.
Missouri remains important agriculturally; with over 100,000 farms, the state ranks second only to Texas. The most valuable farm products are soybeans, corn, cattle, hogs, wheat, and dairy items. The development of resorts in the Ozarks, including Branson and several lakes, has boosted tourism income.
Missouri generally has a humid continental climate with cold snowy winters and hot, humid, and wet summers. In the southern part of the state, particularly in the Bootheel, the climate becomes humid subtropical. Missouri often experiences extremes in temperatures. Without high mountains or oceans nearby to moderate temperature, its climate is alternately influenced by air from the cold Arctic and the hot and humid Gulf of Mexico. Located in an area that can be prone to tornadoes and severe weather, being aware of weather conditions is important.
The Gateway Arch is the iconic structure that visually defines of St Louis, and is also the symbolic “Gateway to the West”. Visitors can take an elevator up to a viewing platform at the top, which reaches 625 feet, for stunning views out over the city. The arch is located in Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park but can be seen from all over the city and even from great distances on the surrounding highways.
Branson, in southwest Missouri, with no false modesty, calls itself the “Live country music capital of the universe”. It draws millions of tourists each year, mainly country music fans. The “Strip” is crowded with music palaces, souvenir booths selling all imaginable kinds of kitsch, motels, and restaurants. The music venues here host some of country music’s greatest performers. However Branson is also a good base for excursions into the wild and romantic lake district in southwestern Missouri, on the border with Arkansas. Features of particular interest are the dam that has formed Table Rock Lake and the Silver Dollar theme park.
One of Kansas City’s most important cultural attractions is the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. It holds a comprehensive collection with pieces from around the world, but with a particular emphasis on East Asian art. On the museum grounds is a sculpture garden that everyone can appreciate, without even having to enter the building.
Silver Dollar City in Branson combines a major theme park with crafts and the preservation of 1880’s Ozark culture. Craftsmen in the park can be seen demonstrating glassblowing, basket weaving, blacksmithing, pottery, candy making, and candle making. The park also has rides and attractions, shops, restaurants and live shows. Marvel Cave is part of Silver Dollar City. It carries on the tradition of the 1880’s mining town, which once stood at the entrance to the Cave. The cave was first discovered by the Osage Indians in the 1500’s, and since that time has attracted explorers looking for the Fountain of Youth, miners of marble and bat guano, and archaeologists.
5,400 Union troops and 12,000 Confederates fought on the site of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield on August 10, 1861. The Confederates were victorious but this battle led to more fighting in Missouri. On site is the Wilson’s Creek Civil War Museum housing artifacts which include the sword belt and sash of Arkansas General Patrick Cleburne.
The Mark Twain Boyhood Home was built by Samuel Clemens’ father in 1843. The author lived here from the ages of 7 to 18, and the restored home has been decorated in period. The adjoining museum consists of two buildings that contain Twain memorabilia such as first editions of his books, photographs, original manuscripts and his desk where he sat to write “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.
Historic and artistic objects are displayed at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence. Truman’s career and United States history covering the period of 1945 to 1953 is the main focus of the museum. A replica of Truman’s office in the White House is on display, and President and Mrs. Truman’s graves are in the courtyard.
Personal income is taxed in ten different earning brackets, ranging from 1.5% to 6.0%. Missouri’s sales tax rate for most items is 4.225% with some additional local levies. More than 2,500 Missouri local governments rely on property taxes levied on real property (real estate) and personal property.
Most personal property is exempt, except for motorized vehicles. Exempt real estate includes property owned by governments and property used as nonprofit cemeteries, exclusively for religious worship, for schools and colleges and for purely charitable purposes. There is no inheritance tax and limited Missouri estate tax related to federal estate tax collection.