This drawing by Nathaniel Currier was used by many publications across the country reporting on the Great Fire in St. Louis. The fire began about 10 p.m. May 17, 1849, on the steamboat White Cloud, which was moored at the north end of the city’s landing (the site is at today’s Laclede’s Landing, roughly beneath the Martin Luther King Bridge). Flames from the White Cloud spread to the steamboat Edward Bates, moored next to it on the downstream side. The Bates broke free and drifted, eventually spreading fire to 23 steamboats. Flames spread to freight stacked upon the landing and jumped Front Street into the riverfront commercial district. Crews on a few steamboats were fortunate to have steam up in their boilers and paddled away, but a strong wind out of the northeast pushed any drifting boats back into the firestorm. At least two moored boats blew up when fire reached cargoes of gunpowder. The official death toll was three, but historians believe more died on the steamboats. (Missouri History Museum)

This drawing by Nathaniel Currier was used by many publications across the country reporting on the Great Fire in St. Louis. The fire began about 10 p.m. May 17, 1849, on the steamboat White Cloud, which was moored at the north end of the city’s landing (the site is at today’s Laclede’s Landing, roughly beneath the Martin Luther King Bridge). Flames from the White Cloud spread to the steamboat Edward Bates, moored next to it on the downstream side. The Bates broke free and drifted, eventually spreading fire to 23 steamboats. Flames spread to freight stacked upon the landing and jumped Front Street into the riverfront commercial district. Crews on a few steamboats were fortunate to have steam up in their boilers and paddled away, but a strong wind out of the northeast pushed any drifting boats back into the firestorm. At least two moored boats blew up when fire reached cargoes of gunpowder. The official death toll was three, but historians believe more died on the steamboats. (Missouri History Museum)

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