St Louis has several nicknames, including Mound City, Pain Court, and Rome of the West.
With a city as old as St. Louis, it’s bound to have garnered multiple nicknames. The Missouri city is around 258 years old.
Each of these nicknames holds special meaning for the second largest city in Missouri.
1. Mound City
During the 1800s. St. Louis has earned its Mound City nickname. This name was derived from the city’s abundance of mounds. These mounds were man-made by Native American tribes.
The indigenous groups built ritualistic temples and earthwork mounds to live in. The mounds were erected on both sides of the Mississippi River. The central mound was named after the Cahokia tribe.
Interestingly, the Cahokia mounds are enlisted as one of the cultural World Heritage List in the United States. On top of that, the historically significant mounds are the largest archeological site in the country as it extends over an impressive 4,000 acres.
Approximately 40,000 people resided in these mounds. Having said that, the mounds within early St. Louis were brought down as the city began its stages of development as streets were built.
Nevertheless, some mounds remained to this day. Two dozen mounds are still present and located in the northern part of St. Louis.
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Vide Poche was a nickname specifically given to Carondelet, which is now a neighborhood in the southeastern portion of St. Louis.
Now, the early area’s origins were French since it was founded by Clement DeLore de Treget in 1767. He originally resided in Southern France.
This brings us to the old nickname, Vide Poche. It translates to ‘empty pocket’ in French. This etymological background stems from the belief that the region’s residents were particularly poor. The inhabitants would travel to St. Louis to purchase flour but were often unable to pay for it. Alternatively, the term could mean ‘empties pockets.’ In this case, visitors of the area would come and leave with empty pockets.
This could be a more accurate French translation since the citizens of Carondelet were notoriously skilled gamblers. That being so, their card expertise would leave their visitors with empty pockets.
Another meaning of Vide Poche could connote pickpocketing instead. To demonstrate these meanings, a St. Louis citizen asked his friend if he was interested in visiting Carondelet, but his friend replied, “Of what use is a place that empties pockets?”
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St. Louis was also nicknamed the Gateway to the West since it marked the area where settlers during the 1800s started moving westward. The famed Gateway arch in the city further cements its nickname as well.
The arch is also termed the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The structure pays homage to the city’s westward growth. This is especially true since this area was where the Lewis and Clark expedition began.
Having said that St. Louis was almost like a pit stop for the settlers to gather their supplies for a long journey ahead. Accordingly, the city earned lots of profits from these visitors. The area was also characterized as a shipping point for hunters, which boomed the fur trade in the city.
St. Louis has earned its name as the Gateway to the West, as it welcomed numerous settlers to explore new regions in the country.
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With French heritage flowing in the city’s past, it’s unsurprising that it had earned a couple of French nicknames. This particular St. Louis alias is noteworthy since it may have been used as a comeback from the other nickname, “Vide Poche.”
Since Carondelet was yet to be a part of St. Louis, it’s believed that the two separate villages at the time engaged in banter. St. Louisiana called Carondelet citizens “Vide Poche” to insinuate that they’re pickpocketers.
Meanwhile, the people of Carondelet called St. Louisiana “Pain Court,” which translates to “short of bread” in French. This could mean that they’re labeling them as poor. This nickname may have been accurate, as some sources have discussed the alleged shortage of bread in St. Louis.
Fun fact, in honor of the city’s 250th birthday, its mayor, Francis Slay, produced a poll asking people whether they should rename St. Louis, “Pain Court.” The mayor thought it would be a great way to celebrate the French origin of the city, nevertheless, the residents thought otherwise.
Funnily enough, about 51% of the polls answered, “No, and what is the matter with you people?”
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Aside from St. Louis’ French base, the city had a heavily Roman Catholic past, earning its name, “Rome of the West.” The Missouri city coined that term because of the presence of the Archdiocese.
This is a district in church governance that falls under the direct rule of the bishop. St. Louis was granted this title in 1847 by Pope Pius IX. He may have chosen the city’s diocese to be the Archdiocese due to it being the most prominent in the Midwest.
St. Louis was nicknamed the Fourth City due to being the fourth largest city in the United States between the years 1870 and 1920. The city’s flag back was even adorned with four stars representing its size status.
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In 2014, St. Louis was coined the Chess Capital by the senate. The city has given lots of importance to the game and raised awareness of its benefits. Plus, in a historic context, St. Louis hosted a portion of the first World Chess Championship in 1886.
After the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992, approximately 70,000 Bosnian refugees fled to the United States. Most landed in St. Louis, which is why it was dubbed “Little Bosnia.” Most of the Bosnian diaspora reside in southern St. Louis.
That being so, if you’re in the city and looking to take a peek at a different cultural experience, we suggest heading to Bevo Mill.
River City is a nickname widely used for other places to describe a city on a river. In St. Louis’ case, the city sits on the convergence of the Mississippi and Missouri river.
In the 1900s, St. Louis held a large market share in the brewing and footwear industry. Despite these business accomplishments, the city’s Browns baseball team was falling short of similar victories.
This is why residents at the time often referred to themselves as, “first in booze, first in shoes, and last in the American League.”
St. Louis is filled with an extensive historic background which is evident from its multiple sobriquets. From Native American, French, and Roman Catholic backgrounds to emerging Bosnian communities, the city has lots of history to offer.
If you’re a history buff, St. Louis is a must-visit. Not only will you want to explore its landmarks, but the collection of over 21 museums as well.
Jason Dempsey is the CEO and Co-Founder of Home City Living. After abandoning the corporate world in order to indulge his wanderlust, Jason founded Home City Living with his partner Rose to create the premier source of travel information and inside local knowledge on the web to help other would-be global explorers and seekers learn to spread their wings and fly.