Saint Charles (commonly abbreviated St. Charles) is a city in, and the county seat of, St. Charles County, Missouri, United States. The population was 65,794 at the 2010 census, making St. Charles the ninth-largest city in Missouri. Situated on the Missouri River, St. Charles, Missouri is a northwestern suburb of St. Louis. Founded circa 1769 as Les Petites Côtes, or "The Little Hills" in French, by Louis Blanchette, a French-Canadian fur trader, when the area was nominally ruled by Spain following the Seven Years' War, St. Charles is the third-oldest city in Missouri. For a time, it played a significant role in the United States' westward expansion as a river port and starting point of the Boone's Lick Road to the Boonslick. St. Charles was settled primarily by French-speaking colonists from Canada in its early days and was considered the last "civilized" stop by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804, which was exploring the western territory after the United States made the Louisiana Purchase. The city served as the first Missouri capital from 1821 to 1826, and is the site of the Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne shrine.
St. Louis () is the second-largest city in Missouri, United States. It sits near the confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers, on the western bank of the latter. As of 2020, the city proper had a population of around 301,500, while the bi-state metropolitan area, which extends into Illinois, had an estimated population of over 2.8 million, making it the largest metropolitan area in Missouri, the second-largest in Illinois, the seventh-largest in the Great Lakes Megalopolis, and the 20th-largest in the United States. Before European settlement, the area was a regional center of Native American Mississippian culture. St. Louis was founded on February 14, 1764, by French fur traders Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent, Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau, who named it for Louis IX of France. In 1764, following France's defeat in the Seven Years' War, the area was ceded to Spain. In 1800, it was retroceded to France, which sold it three years later to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase; the city was then the point of embarkation for the Corps of Discovery on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In the 19th century, St. Louis became a major port on the Mississippi River; from 1870 until the 1920 census, it was the fourth-largest city in the country. It separated from St. Louis County in 1877, becoming an independent city and limiting its own political boundaries. St. Louis had a brief run as a world-class city in the early 20th century. In 1904, it hosted the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the Summer Olympics. A "Gamma" global city with a metropolitan GDP of more than $160 billion in 2017, metropolitan St. Louis has a diverse economy with strengths in the service, manufacturing, trade, transportation, and tourism industries. It is home to nine of the ten Fortune 500 companies based in Missouri. Major companies headquartered or with significant operations in the city include Ameren Corporation, Peabody Energy, Nestlé Purina PetCare, Anheuser-Busch, Wells Fargo Advisors, Stifel Financial, Spire, Inc., MilliporeSigma, FleishmanHillard, Square, Inc., U.S. Bank, Anthem BlueCross and Blue Shield, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Centene Corporation, and Express Scripts. Major research universities include Saint Louis University and Washington University in St. Louis. The Washington University Medical Center in the Central West End neighborhood hosts an agglomeration of medical and pharmaceutical institutions, including Barnes-Jewish Hospital. St. Louis has three professional sports teams: the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball, the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League, and the St. Louis BattleHawks of the newly formed XFL. In 2019, the city was awarded a Major League Soccer franchise, St. Louis City SC, which is expected to begin play upon the completion of a 22,500-seat stadium in the city's Downtown West neighborhood in 2023. Among the city's notable sights is the 630-foot (192 m) Gateway Arch in the downtown area. St. Louis is also home to the St. Louis Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Garden, which has the second-largest herbarium in North America.
Alton (US: AWL-tən) is a city on the Mississippi River in Madison County, Illinois, United States, about 18 miles (29 km) north of St. Louis, Missouri. The population was 27,865 at the 2010 census. It is a part of the Metro-East region of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area. It is famous for its limestone bluffs along the river north of the city, for its role preceding and during the American Civil War. It was the site of the last Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debate in October 1858. The former state penitentiary in Alton was used during the Civil War to hold up to 12,000 Confederate prisoners of war.