It was an old-fashioned newspaper exposé of old-fashioned corrupt city politics. The Post-Dispatch nailed it, case closed. The September 10, 1935, election victory for the $7.5 million bond issue for the city’s share of the cost of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial reeked with fraud. Any judge with any sense of fairness would toss it out and schedule a new vote where honest guards kept
close watch over ballot boxes. But the exposé came too late to matter.
With screaming headlines in its September 8, 1936 issue, the Post-Dispatch declared it had discovered cases of false counts in fifteen of the city’s twenty-eight wards. After asking residents to come forward with more evidence of foul play, the paper upped the number of wards with counts that didn’t smell right to nineteen.
Edward Schnurr, a barber and Republican election clerk in the 23rd Ward’s 8th Precinct, signed a statement that he had seen a precinct official stuff about 150 ballots in a ballot box. One precinct voted 505 to nothing in favor. Considering that the citywide vote count in favor was 70.9 percent—not much higher than the 66.7 percent required for victory—the fraud likely made the difference in the outcome. Without that fraudulent election victory, there may not have been a riverfront memorial to Thomas Jefferson or a Gateway Arch.
It’s one of the stories from my book, The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch. It’s available in bookstores or from Amazon.com. Or you can get it sent to your house for less than Amazon by mailing a check for $21.50 made out to Jim Merkel to Jim Merkel’s Books, 4216 Osceola St., St. Louis, MO. 63116.
You can buy each of my other two books, the 2nd Edition of Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side, and Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans.
Whatever book you choose, it’s the perfect Christmas gift.