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One of the most amazing maps of a city ever created was Compton & Dry’s “Pictorial St. Louis,” drawn in 1875 and published in 1876. Using this incredibly detailed cartographic masterpiece as its backdrop, the Missouri History Museum developed A Walk in 1875 St. Louis, a 6,000 square-foot exhibition that explores the collective life of 1875 St. Louis through photographs, artifacts, news, writings and first hand accounts of the day.
The Museum’s exhibit staff wanted to create an exhibition that looks so closely at one single year in St. Louis’ history that people could imagine they were actually there. Compton & Dry’s ‘Pictorial St. Louis’ provides the perfect visual stage to create this immersive experience for visitors.
In 1874, Richard Compton, a St. Louis sheet music publisher, and Camille Dry, a wandering mechanical draftsman, teamed up on a task that sounds impossible – draw every single home, building, street, and even tree in St. Louis in accurate perspective. The result was “Pictorial St. Louis,” the largest pictorial map of any city in the 19th century. The entire map at its original size requires 300 square feet of space to lay out.
In A Walk in 1875 St. Louis, the maps are blown up at a scale never before seen, allowing visitors to walk amongst Gilded Age St. Louis in their minds and see everything from the lavish opulence to the crowded tenements.