The city of St. Louis, Missouri, is known as the “Gateway to the West.” It has this nickname because it was the starting point for the westward movement of settlers in the United States during the 1800s. It was a traveling hub for many settlers, hunters and others migrating west. The Gateway Arch in St. Louis symbolizes the city’s nickname.
St. Louis plays a major role in U.S. history. Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark started from St. Louis in 1804 to explore and chart the Louisiana Territory. They were sent by U.S. president Thomas Jefferson to investigate the Louisiana Purchase, land that the U.S. had bought from France. Many pioneers, hunters and adventurers followed the trail of Lewis and Clark from St. Louis to the new frontier of the West.
When heading west, St. Louis was the last big city that many settlers encountered. The so-called "Gateway to the West" was where these travelers could load up on supplies before venturing further. Many entrepreneurs made their fortunes in St. Louis, selling products to the people heading into the western part of the country. St. Louis sits on the banks of the Mississippi River and just south of the Missouri River, so it also was popular for explorers who used the rivers to travel. Travelers could go up the Missouri River to the northern sections of the uncharted West during the years when that area of the U.S. was being colonized.
The Gateway to the West was the center of the fur trade in the U.S. during the early 1800s. Trappers and hunters used the "Gateway to the West" as a stopping point before going out on their hunts, and they used it as a shipping point. The two large rivers near the city supplied them with the means to send their furs and other goods back east to be sold.
The Gateway Arch, also known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, is a 630-foot tall (192-meter tall) metal structure built in St. Louis to symbolize the city being the "Gateway to the West." It commemorates the large part that the city of St. Louis played in westward expansion. The Museum of Westward Expansion is housed in the Gateway Arch. It has artifacts from the Lewis and Clark expedition and exhibits that teach of the pioneers who traveled through St. Louis to help build the American West during the 1800s.