Hannibal, the metropolis of northeast Missouri, is a substantial and beautiful city of 16,000 inhabitants. Here in 1846 was held the first public meeting west of the Mississippi River to promote the building of a railroad between that great river and the Pacific ocean. In 1865 the Hannibal & St. Joseph railroad was opened for through traffic, and Hannibal began its continual growth. In 1870 the Wabash railroad was built to Buffalo. In 1871 a bridge across the Mississippi river was finished, and the same year the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railway was completed, thus giving to Hannibal a through line to the east, to central Missouri, to Texas, and the Gulf of Mexico. In 1878 the St. Louis and Hannibal railway was opened to traffic, giving to the city two independent passenger and freight lines to St. Louis and the south.

The site of Hannibal was not selected by accident. It is located along the river, and on the north slope of a fertile valley and the surrounding hills. The neighboring farming counties are reached from Hannibal by extensive systems of free rock and gravel roads. The drives in the city are famous. One, overlooking the Mississippi river and the great valley beyond, leads to the famous “Mark Twain” cave in which “Tom Sawyer” lost his way. Another to the north, one-half way between the water and the hill top, brings into view the noble river, here and there studded with green isles, with the Illinois heights rising from its opposite shore.

The city was a pioneer in municipal ownership of public utilities. In 1887, it established the first municipal electric light and power plant in Missouri. Cheap electric power is supplied to manufacturers, and all comers are offered this remarkable inducement. The tax rate is low in Hannibal, being for city purposes but 60 cents on the one hundred dollars valuation. The United States Circuit Court, and the United States District Court for the Eastern Judicial District of Missouri, hold each two terms a year in Hannibal. The city is well organized municipally with a non-partisan board of public works and the machinery necessary to good government. Its positive receipts indicate its commercial expansion. In four years they have grown over thirty per cent. Within four years, four important mail trains, two rural free delivery routes. and two sub-stations have been added to the post office facilities.

Hannibal is strong financially, not having had a bank failure in twenty years. Her four banks have a capital stock of $230,000, have gained in surplus and undivided profits over  45 percent in fourteen months, and over 18 per cent in deposits. Hannibal citizens, as a rule, own their own homes. Four prosperous building and loan associations have helped to this good end. The assessed valuation of four million dollars, or an actual valuation of ten million dollars, indicate the worth of Hannibal property. In 1900, according to the federal census, the city had a population of 12,790; while in June, 1903, the population is shown by actual count to be 16,529 a gain of over 30 per cent in two years.

The topography of the site is such as to afford the best possible natural surface drainage, which has been aided by a complete system of sewerage, that drains into the Mississippi river, and insures freedom from accumulating refuse. There are many miles of splendidly paved streets and avenues, in the construction of which the natural drainage has been systematically aided, insuring at all times a remarkably clean city. To the exceedingly favorable climatic conditions prevailing at Hannibal, the abundant supply of good water and good drainage, is attributable the exceedingly low death rate and the almost total absence of typhoid fever and similar diseases.

The water supply at Hannibal is taken from The Mississippi River, the water plant being owned and operated by a private corporation. The pump station is located on the river but one mile above the city, with filtering appliances and storage reservoirs. The plant has a pumping capacity of eight million gallons daily, and a storage capacity of seventeen and one-half million gallons. There are 21 miles of delivery pipes and 160 miles of double fire hydrants. The water as delivered to the consumer is clear and wholesome and the water rates reasonable.

The Hannibal gas plant to owned by a private corporation. The gas which it furnishes for fuel and light is at the ordinary rate in cities comparatively situated. The Hannibal Railway and Electric Company, a private corporation, operates four and one-half miles of electric road, affording rapid transit for all principal parts of the city, and enabling men of moderate means to occupy homes in the suburbs.

Hannibal has the advantage of being located on the Mississippi river, that great regulator of freight rates, and enjoys the distinction and the benefits of having more railroads and better passenger and freight traffic facilities than any other city located on the Mississippi river between St Louis and St. Paul. Hannibal, as a railway center, possesses numerous advantages not enjoyed by any other city of equal size and Importance in the west. With the exception of St. Louis, there to not a city of 10,000 Inhabitants and upwards, that is anything like so favorably located. This city is practically on the same rate basis to all points as St. Louis. It has the same rates as St. Louis, to all points In the out and northeast. to the north and northwest, to the west and southwest, and practically the same to the lower Mississippi valley and the southeast. There are four different systems entering the city, with five trunk lines  leading in every direction.

The river transportation is in Important factor, boats plying regularly between Hannibal and St. Louis, and Hannibal and all river towns and cities north, to and including St. Paul. On account of the river grade of the St. Louis, Kansas and Northwestern. It is possible to haul longer trains and with less expense than is possible on any other railroad in the State. For this reason, the freight rates between St. Louis and Hannibal are the lowest in the State and considerably less than that fixed by the Missouri statutes.

There are one hundred and twelve factories In Hannibal, besides the great Burlington and other railroad shops, which are factories of a most profitable and desirable character. The employee of these concerns number over four thousand, and are paid in wages annually a sum in excess of three and a half million dollars. The wonderfully rapid growth in the number factories in Hannibal, the capital invested in them, the value of the annual output, the number of employees and the annual pay roll was over one hundred per cent during 1902 and 1903, yet the growth has been of a substantial and permanent character, and the year 1904 promises even greater gains, as is indicated by the new buildings and extensions already under way.

The business men of Hannibal, anticipating the growth of manufacturing in the central west, and especially in the cities on the Mississippi river, and further anticipating the rise in value of Hannibal real estate, took advantage of a liberal offer to sell, made by the owners, and purchased a tract of land of 33 acres, situated within six blocks of the Union Station, for the purpose of giving it away as sites for factories desiring to locate in Hannibal. The tract of land has a frontage of 2,000 feet an the main line of the great Burlington railway system, and 4,000 feet on the main line of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railway, and is accessible to the Wabash and other roads. Splendid switching facilities, in connection with these great railways, can be had. Several large manufacturing plants have recently located on this tract of land and are prospering. The board of directors of the Business Men’s Association, holding the title to the land, will be glad to entertain a proposition from any firms or individuals desiring to locate a new factory, or contemplating moving factories now in operation elsewhere, to the city.

Among the notable manufactories of Hannibal are flour, boots and shoes. cigars, lime, and cement. Hannibal has long been famous for the rare quality of its flour. The Roberts, Johnson & Rand Shoe Company, The Bluff City Shoe Company, and the Hannibal Shoe Company sent out last year 1,500,000 pairs of shoes. The first named, with the addition under construction, will be the largest shoe factory in the west outside of St. Louis, having an annual capacity of 2,000,00 pairs of shoes. There are 12 cigar factories, employing 125 men. The Duffey-Trowbridge Stove Foundry manufactures over 53,000 stoves annually, valued at $350,000; has a yearly pay roll of $120,000 for 225 men. The larger part of the tonnage of the Burlington railway system is carried on car wheels made by the C. A. Treat Manufacturing Company of Hannibal. The Bear Creek White Lime is of marvelous parity. Three firms have a capacity of 50,600 barrels of lime annually. The city is a wholesale center for lumber. There are three large planing mills. The Atlas Portland Cement Company of Pennsylvania has erected at Hannibal the largest and most complete Portland Cement plant in the world, with a capacity of from eight to nine thousand barrels of Portland cement daily, which means that the outgoing freight from this immense industry alone is seventy car loads daily, while the freight received by it, which is mostly coal, will average thirty cars daily. The company employed 1,600 men during 1903 and paid them in wages the sum in excess of $850,000.

Map showing central location of Hannibal and its shipping facilities

Map showing central location of Hannibal and its shipping facilities

On account of the central location and superior shipping facilities which Hannibal enjoys, the wholesale business in many staple lines has long been table, and there are now twenty-one firms doing a wholesale interstate corn business. The following lines are represented: groceries, drugs, paints, furniture, lime and cement, lumber, stationery and blank books, stoves and re, produce, cigars, tobacco and liquor. The retail interests of Hannibal In a flourishing condition. There are now 523 firms doing business in the city, an increase of 53 in two years. Cold storage is a comparatively now venture. A plant recently constructed has a capacity of 50,000 barrels of apples.

The churches, schools, and various public buildings at Hannibal are of the highest order of excellence and efficiency. There are ten well furnished and well equipped public school buildings. The new high school under construction is to be the price of the city. The Evangelical Lutheran Parochial School, the St. Joseph Academy, Catholic, and Hannibal Commercial College, are doing much for education. Hannibal’s Free Public Library was one of the first in the State to be established and maintained from public revenue. The John H. Garth Memorial Library building recently donated to the city, is one of the most complete in the west. All religious denominations are represented by large and aggressive churches or congregations. There are two daily newspapers In Hannibal: the Morning Journal and the Evening Courier-Post. The Standard Printing Company has a large business extending into several States.

Hannibal is particularly rich in fine public buildings. The county court house, which is constructed of unexcelled limestone; Levering Hospital, donated by A. R. Levering, is maintained from public funds: the John H. Garth Memorial Library building is a gem of architecture; the United States Government building was one of the first built in the west. The Park theater is an admirable place of amusement.

There are two commercial clubs in Hannibal, working harmoniously for the promotion of the commercial interests of the city: the Business Men’s Association and Merchants’ Association. The Country Club is a generous patron of amateur outdoor athletics. The Labinnah or “Hannibal Club,” is purely social in character, owns a splendid building, and is influential in the city’s social affairs.

Hannibal is now an important city of manufacturing and industrial activity, having been made so by those who appreciated her superior advantages. In the Immediate future, as the great manufacturing institutions of the east move to the center of population and wealth, which is along the Mississippi river, a movement which is now on, and which will grow in importance in the near future. Hannibal will expand by leaps and bounds as she has never done before. With her natural advantages as a commercial and industrial center, with the spirit of enterprise which permeates and dominates all classes of her citizens, her expansion In the next few years will be on a scale calculated to amaze those who are not familiar with the trend of industrial development in the Mississippi valley, and especially the peculiarly favorable conditions which surround the and commercial center called Hannibal.

Source: The state of Missouri, an autobiography, by Missouri. Commission to the Louisiana purchase exposition.; Williams, Walter, 1864-1935, ed. Publisher [Columbia, Mo., Press of E.W. Stephens] 1904.