Monday, August 2, 2010

A Capital Idea

Last Saturday we went to St. Charles to see the first state capital in MO. We have had three. The day was warm, but I prayed hard that I would be able to go with out fainting and the Lord heard me! The capital building is actually just the tops floor of three shops. The one with the flag. We walked right by it without knowing it was indeed the place we came to find. Missouri has an interesting past. It petitioned for statehood in 1820, but was denied due to it being a slave state. The government wanted a free state to even things out. They re petitioned in 1821 and were brought into the US. They were still a slave state, the majority of the slaves were Native American. Northern MO was anti slavery and this caused quite a rift.
From St. Charles
this back view was originally the front, the street that runs behind it was where the river was in 1820. The building is quite clever because it had passage through to the street in front of the building from the back. They were covered so goods could be kept dry during unloading. The senate had the best room. All the Senators were literate and there were only a few of them; conversely the House had several Reps, but most were illiterate. The rooms were also used as a court room and for other meetings. They used ink made of black walnut shell and water and it took a half hour to dry on its own so they used sand to quick dry documents. There were sand boxes around the room which doubled as spittoons, but the rule was once a session started you could not get up until it ended. So the men in the middle rows spat on the floor. I can't imagine how gross it was.
The Governor had his office on the other end and he didn't have quite the authority that he does today. As many of these Representatives were quite rough men fights often broke out during the sessions. one such fight brought the Governor out from his office to quell the anger and he was promptly shut in his office for interfering!
It was a most enjoyable tour, and thankfully not too long. We ended in a room that was a typical house of the time. It was bigger then most houses and everyone lived in one common room which served as kitchen, bedroom, parlor, etc. As there were various taxes on luxuries, but not on art, the people became quite creative. Painting on a mirror or clock saved them from a tax. Turning a table into a chair was also a tax dodge. Also many single men, trappers and traders would stay in Mo. so there was a Bachelor tax as well to encourage them to move on! They found out that by boiling down horns it would unravel and become translucent, this was then used instead of glass in lamps. There was even a fold-out couch bed. They used to have it unfolded, but someone jumped on it and tore the hundred year old fabric. Ouch! Lizzy loved the little rocking horse.
There is a garden out back that has native plants, the hops were particularly pointed out since most of the water was unsafe to drink and so beer and wine were the beverages of choice. I guess it was the lesser of two evils? In the dry goods store on the bottom they told us about how a beaver top hat cost $40 which would buy a house in those days. The Hatters used Mercury to bind the hats together which made them go mad. Hence the phrase: "Mad as a Hatter." The skunk pelts were not thought highly of, but they are and were quite abundant in Mo. so they were sold as Alaskan Sable instead for a higher price.

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