Widespread professional operatic activity in the heartland of America in the late nineteenth century formed the hub of social and cultural life in many communities. In the spring of 1869, Kansas City hosted its first professional opera performance when the Brignoli Italian Opera Company presented Gaetano Donizetti's Don Pasquale, in Italian. A new chapter in the town's cultural history began in 1870, with the opening of the Coates Opera House, a fully equipped theater with ample seating capacity. Located at what became the intersection of Tenth Street and Broadway, the opera house was situated across the street from the city's finest hotel, also erected by Coates, on the edge of town. The new place of amusement ensured its popularity by catering to female patrons. Aware that women had rarely attended theatrical events in Kansas City prior to 1870, the management of the Coates encouraged female attendance by introducing matinees for women and children. Soon the Coates Opera House became a gathering place for Kansas City society and remained the community's premier theater until the end of the century.
As a thriving commercial center, St. Louis attracted nearly all the major organizations and prominent singers who toured across America. By 1886, grand opera was firmly established as a staple in the city's cultural diet, there having been visits by one or more professional troupes in every year since the close of the Civil War. The operatic engagements of 1886 capped an unbroken succession of annual visits to St. Louis by professional companies stretching back fully twenty years. These visits continued with regularity for the remainder of the century. St. Louis patrons showed great enthusiasm for opera, as evidenced by the amount of attention paid to the art by the press and public, not to mention the generous number of engagements accorded the city by the troupes themselves.
Articles from Missouri Historical Review and Missouri Times
- Baker, Olive "Life and Influence of Danville and Danville Township."
Missouri Historical Review 7 (July 1908): 200-302.
- Barmann, Lawrence F. "The London Times and the St. Louis World's Fair"
Missouri Historical Review 66 (October 1971): 93-100.
- Bidstrup, Dudley J. "The Background of Public Speaking in Missouri, 1840-1860."
Missouri Historical Review 36 (January 1942): 133-159.
- Bowen, Elbert R. "The German Theatre of Early Rural Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 46 (January 1952): 157-161.
- Bremer, Jeff "Mothers of Commerce: Antebellum Missouri Women and the Family Farm."
Missouri Historical Review 104, (July 2010): 187-197.
- Burt, Huron "Vanbibber Tavern."
Missouri Historical Review 7 (January 1913): 106-107.
- Caldwell, Dorothy J. "Christmas in Early Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 65 (January 1971): 125-138.
- Castlio, Iantha "A Folk Tale of Johnny Appleseed."
Missouri Historical Review 19 (July 1925): 622-629.
- Clark, Thomas D. "Manners and Humors of the American Frontier."
Missouri Historical Review 35 (October 1940): 3-24.
- Culmer, Frederic. "The Leonard-Berry Duel of 1824."
Missouri Historical Review 49 (July 1955): 357-359.
- Duncan, Lucy R.B. "Early Days in Phelps County."
Missouri Historical Review 19 (October 1924): 99-104.
- Eckey, Lorelei F. "Shades of Empire: Beach-De Haven Home Talent Shows in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 79 (January 1985): 192-208.
- Goodrich, James W. "Few Men but Many Widows: The Daniel Fogle Letters, August 8-September 4, 1867."
Missouri Historical Review 80 (April 1986): 273-303.
- Graham, Margaret Baker "Stories of Everyday Living: The Life and Letters of Margaret Bruin Machette."
Missouri Historical Review 93 (July 1999): 367-385.
- Haswell, A. M. "The Story of an Ozark Feud."
Missouri Historical Review 20 (October 1925): 105-109.
- Hoyt, William D., Jr. "A Clay Countian’s Letters of 1834."
Missouri Historical Review 45 (July 1951): 349-353.
- Jennings, Harlan "Grand Opera in St. Louis, 1886: A Championship Season?"
Missouri Historical Review 85 (April 1991): 304-320.
"The Early Days of Grand Opera in Kansas City. 1860-1879."
Missouri Historical Review 95 (July 2001): 349-371.
- Jordan, Samuel M. "A Country Boy."
Missouri Historical Review 51 (October 1959): 12-17.
- Kirkpatrick, R. L. "Professional, Religious, and Social Aspects of St. Louis Life, 1804-1816."
Missouri Historical Review 44 (July 1950): 373-386.
- McCarty, Mary L. "Recollections of Kansas City, 1866-1916."
Missouri Historical Review 45 (October 1950): 35-46.
- McCurdy, Frances L. "The Genius of Liberty."
Missouri Historical Review 57 (July 1963): 331-343.
- McDermott, John Francis "Culture and the Missouri Frontier."
Missouri Historical Review 50 (July 1956): 355-370.
- Meyer, Duane "The Ozarks in Missouri History."
Missouri Historical Review 73 (January 1979): 143-149.
- Naglich, Dennis "Rural Prairieville during Reconstruction."
Missouri Historical Review 87 (July 1993): 387-402.
- Owen, Mary Alicia "Social Customs and Usages in Missouri During the Last Century."
Missouri Historical Review 15 (October 1920): 176-190.
- Rader, Benjamin G. "'My Girl': Bill French Goes a Courtin' - The Old and the New in Missouri Ozark Courtships, 1908-1913."
Missouri Historical Review 109 (July 2015): 254-267.
- Renner, G. K. "Prohibition Comes to Missouri, 1910-1919."
Missouri Historical Review 62 (July 1968): 363-397.
- Shoemaker, Floyd C. "Clay County: A Southern Heiress on the Western Frontier; Land of Culture, Legend, and Romance."
Missouri Historical Review 52 (October 1957): 25-34.
"Hermann: A Bit of the Old World in the Heart of the New."
Missouri Historical Review 51 (April 1957): 235-244.
"Kennett: Center of a Land Reborn in Missouri's Valley of the Nile."
Missouri Historical Review 52 (January 1958): 99-110.
"Missouri: Heir of Southern Tradition and Individuality."
Missouri Historical Review 36 (July 1942): 435-446.
"Missouri's Tennessee Heritage."
Missouri Historical Review 49 (January 1955): 127-142.
"Shelby County, Home of Experimentation, Progress, and Good Citizenship."
Missouri Historical Review 50 (April 1956): 259-270.
"Six Periods of Missouri History."
Missouri Historical Review 9 (July 1915): 221-240.
- Smith, Joe E. "Early Movies and Their Impact on Columbia."
Missouri Historical Review 74 (October 1979): 72-85.
- Stephens, E. W. "The Grand River Country."
Missouri Historical Review 17 (October 1922): 22-27.
- Stevens, Walter B. "The Missouri Tavern."
Missouri Historical Review 15 (January 1921): 241-276.
- Stokes, Durward T. "The Wilson Letters, 1835-1849."
Missouri Historical Review 60 (July 1966): 495-517.
- Switzler, William F. "Missouri Old Settlers’ Day Tales."
Missouri Historical Review 2 (July 1908): 296-302.
- Tyler, Robert Llewellyn “Occupational Change, Culture Maintenance, and Social Status: The Welsh in a Missouri Coal Town, 1870-1930.”
Missouri Historical Review 109 (October 2014): 18-40.
- Welsh, Donald H. "The Butterfield Overland Mail Centennial in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 53 (January 1959): 132-140.
"Travel by Stage on the Boonslick Road."
Missouri Historical Review 54 (July 1960): 335-340.
- Westfall, Ruth Rollins "La Grange: Home of the James S. Rollins Family."
Missouri Historical Review 73 (January 1979): 218-236.
- Williams, Helen Davault "Social Life in St. Louis from 1840 to 1860."
Missouri Historical Review 31 (October 1936): 10-24.
"Schuyler Letters from Mowry Collection."
Missouri Historical Review 8 (October 1913): 44-53.
"Two Letters from St. Charles."
Missouri Historical Review 55 (October 1960): 30-34.
Many of the State Historical Society of Missouri's holdings are included in the SHSMO online catalog. Numerous titles can be found by typing the keywords "daily life," "customs," and/or "social customs" into the catalog search bar.
The State Historical Society of Missouri's manuscript collections contain personal papers and other materials, which either report or depict daily activities, social customs, and other aspects of social interaction at all levels of society. Examples of such collections include the Ula Sharon Robinson Bergfeldt Papers offering personal and professional materials of a professional dancer, teacher, producer, and founder of the Kansas City Dance Theatre that outline social life in Kansas City, and the Cornett Family Papers providing letters and records that document the agricultural background of northern Missouri.
View All Social Customs and Daily Life Manuscript Collections
Beginning with the July 26, 1808, issue of the St. Louis Missouri Gazette, SHSMO’s newspaper collection offers researchers a wealth of information about the day-to-day lives of Missourians and the political, cultural, economic, and religious events that have influenced them. Available in 1,270 bound volumes and on over 56 million pages of microfilm, these Missouri newspapers document events and public opinion from the state’s rural environs to its largest metropolitan areas. A dynamic collection, some three hundred current newspapers, from every Missouri county, are added to the collection each week.
Several State Historical Society of Missouri oral history collections document the daily life of Missourians.
View All Oral History Collections
- Missouri Lives Oral History Project - Interviews with a wide array of Missourians who have had an interesting personal history and life.
- One-room Schoolhouse Oral History Project - Interviews with people who attended or taught at one-room schoolhouses.
The images in the State Historical Society of Missouri photograph collections provide a striking visual documentation of Missouri's people, places, and events. Explore a small portion of the photograph collections online.
- 417: Springfield's Lifestyle Magazine. Springfield, MO.: Whitaker Pub. [H268.04 Sp84f]
- Ozark Hills & Hollows. Exeter, Mo.: Exeter Press. [F586 Oz161]
- St. Louis Life Magazine. St. Louis, MO.: Mesa Marketing. [H235.04 Sa24Li2]