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Missouri, state in central United States, considered part of the Midwest; bordered by Iowa to the north; the Mississippi River and Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee to the east; Arkansas to the south, and Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska to the west.

Land and climate

Missouri's 4 land regions reflect a unique blending of North, South, East, and West. The state's southeastern corner is part of the rich Mississippi Alluvial Plain. The flattest, lowest, and most fertile part of the state, it recalls the Deep South. The forested Ozark Plateau, in central and southern Missouri, is the state's largest land region. This area of poor, stony soil but great scenic beauty resembles the hill country of eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. The Osage Plains region in western Missouri is a relatively flat prairie area much like the Great Plains. The upper third of the state is part of the fertile Dissected Till Plains region, which is part of the Midwest's Corn Belt. The nation's 2 largest rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri, enrich the state's soil and make it an important waterway, railroad, and highway hub. Missouri's climate is humid, and the weather is extremely changeable. Summers are long and winters are brisk. Principal cities are St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield.


Missouri's main industries are agriculture, manufacturing, aerospace, and tourism. Soybeans, corn, wheat, and cotton are the main crops. Missouri is a leading beef-cattle state; other important livestock products are dairy cattle, hogs and pigs, sheep, eggs, turkeys, and chickens. Chief manufactured products are transportation equipment, food products, chemicals and related products, and electrical machinery and equipment. The most important mineral resources are lead, crushed stone, limestone, sand and gravel, coal, zinc, and silver.


Missouri's present constitution was adopted in 1945. The governor serves a 4-year term. The state legislature, called the General Assembly, consists of 34 senators serving four-year terms and 163 representatives serving two-year terms. In the U.S. Congress, Missouri is represented by two senators and nine representatives.


Native Americans known as Mound Builders lived in Missouri long before the first whites, French explorers Marquette and Joliet, arrived in 1673. France claimed the entire Mississippi Valley after La Salle's voyage down the river in 1682. The U.S. acquired the area in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. In 1812, Congress created the Missouri Territory. By 1815, fighting between Indians and settlers ended in treaties that followed further white settlement. Most new settlers were slave owners from the South, which caused problems when Missouri requested statehood. After three years of controversy, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state in 1821. Missouri became known as the “Gateway to the West” as thousands of settlers left from Independence to travel west on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails and St. Joseph became the starting point of the Pony Express. During the Civil War, Missouri was bitterly divided; heavy fighting took place there. Postwar recovery was slow. Since about 1830, manufacturing, rather than agriculture, has been the state's chief source of income. World War II brought new industries. Missouri battled urban problems during the 1970s and a farm crisis and financial problems in the 1980s.



Additional topics

21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Mississippian to Mud hen