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Historically, Missouri played a leading role as a gateway to the West, St. Joseph being the eastern starting point of the Pony Express, while the much-traveled Santa Fe and Oregon trails began in Independence.
Missouri is a land of fertile plains, rolling hills, well-watered prairies and historic rivers. Two of this country's greatest waterways, the Mississippi River on the state's eastern border, and the Missouri River, which winds across the state, helped Missouri become a supply center for many of the westward-bound settlers of the nation's early years.
Missouri's economy is highly diversified. Service industries provide more income and jobs than any other segment, and include a growing tourism and travel sector. Wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, and agriculture also play significant roles in the state's economy.
Missouri is a leading producer of transportation equipment (including automobile manufacturing and auto parts), beer and beverages, and defense and aerospace technology. Food processing is the state's fastest-growing industry. Missouri mines produce 90% of the nation's principal (non-recycled) lead supply. Other natural resources include iron ore, zinc, barite, limestone, and timber.
The state's top agricultural products include grain, sorghum, hay, corn, soybeans, and rice. Missouri also ranks high among the states in cattle and calves, hogs, and turkeys and broilers. A vibrant wine industry also contributes to the economy.
Tourism draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to a number of Missouri points of interest: the country-music shows of Branson; Bass Pro Shops national headquarters (Springfield); the Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion (St. Louis); Mark Twain's boyhood home (Hannibal); the Harry S. Truman home and library (Independence); the scenic beauty of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways; and the Pony Express and Jesse James museums (St. Joseph). The state's different lake regions also attract fishermen and sun-seekers from throughout the Midwest.
Missouri's capital is Jefferson City. The four largest urban areas are, in descending order, St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia. Missouri was originally acquired from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase and became defined as the Missouri Territory. Part of the Missouri Territory was admitted into the union as the 24th state in August 10, 1821.
Missouri is known as the "Show Me State". The 'Show Me State' expression may have began in 1899 when Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver stated, "I'm from Missouri and you've got to show me." In 1904 a man named Richard Blechyden introduced the world to iced tea. Another man showed them the ice cream cone. An ice cream vendor ran out of cups and asked a waffle vendor to help by rolling up waffles to hold ice cream. In 1889, Aunt Jemima pancake flour, invented at St. Joseph, Missouri, was the first self-rising flour for pancakes and the first ready-mix food ever to be introduced commercially.
The first train of the Atlantic-Pacific Railway, which became the St.Louis-San Francisco Railway, or "Frisco," arrived in 1870. Jefferson City, Missouri, the state's capital, was named for Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. President Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar, May 8, 1884.
The "Madonna of the Trail" monument in Lexington tells the story of the brave women who helped conquer the west and is one of 12 placed in every state crossed by the National Old Trails Road, the route of early settlers from Maryland to California. This route later became Route 66.