St. Louis was once the nation’s leading coffee producer. That is one of the details included in a new free exhibit opening next month at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis.
In “Coffee: The World in Your Cup and St. Louis in Your Cup,” which opens at the Missouri History Museum Oct. 3, visitors will follow coffee’s journey from the plantation to their cup, both in St. Louis and around the world.
The exhibit runs through Jan. 3.
Roughly one-third of the overall exhibit consists of “Coffee: The World in Your Cup,” a traveling exhibit organized by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Wash.
The “St. Louis in Your Cup” portion of the exhibit, which encompasses the majority of the space, was researched and prepared by the Missouri History Museum staff, drawing from the organization’s own collection.
Together these two stories make up the 6,000-square-foot space.
Coffee, one of the world’s most widely traded commodities, affects cultures, economies and environments around the world. Visitors to “Coffee” will learn global stories about how coffee is grown and harvested. An engaging mix of artifacts, images, videos and maps illuminate the fascinating stories behind coffee. Furthermore, visitors will discover the little-known story of St. Louis’ 200-year love affair with coffee.
Many people do not realize St. Louis’ significance in U.S. coffee production history. From the 18th century, when French settlers introduced coffee to the region, to today, when coffee shops and roasters fill the landscape, St. Louis has always been a city in love with coffee.
The city’s location, unique population and dedication to commerce formed the ideal atmosphere for the growth of the coffee trade.
By the time of the World’s Fair in 1904, St. Louis was known throughout the country as a center for the coffee trade. One of the biggest companies was the C.F. Blanke Tea and Coffee Company, owned by Cyrus Blanke. Advertisements for his Faust Coffee ran all over the country, and he had several booths at the World’s Fair, including a concession stand located inside Grant’s Cabin.
By 1920, the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce boasted that St. Louis was the coffee capital of the United States.
The story of coffee in St. Louis would not be complete without a nod to Dana Brown, owner of Safari Coffee and beloved by many St. Louisans. Many of his commercials, which included footage of his travels to Africa and Asia, will be aired in the exhibit, along with several artifacts.
Visitors to the exhibitalso will find out about modern St. Louisans who make their living from coffee and even be able to share their own stories.
Admission to “Coffee” is free. The Missouri History Museum is open Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
People can join in the coffee conversation online with #stlcoffee.
The Missouri History Museum has been active in St. Louis since 1866. Founding members established the organization “for the purpose of saving from oblivion the early history of the city and state.”