History of Hannibal

Hannibal, Missouri is located along the Mississippi River in northeast Missouri, approximately 100 miles north of St. Louis.  The community is intersected by Highway 61 (Avenue of the Saints) and Highway 36 (Chicago to Kansas City Expressway).  Hannibal provides convenient, four-lane highway access to St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Memphis, Des Moines, and Minneapolis.

Founded in 1819 by Moses D. Bates, the river town soon flourished as a principal docking port for steamboats, flatboats, and packet steamers traveling the upper Mississippi. By 1845, Hannibal had achieved city status and by 1860, the population had more than doubled, making it the second largest city and third commercial center in Missouri. 

Early industries influencing the city's growth include pork packing, soap and candle making, coopering, and milling of lumber.  As railroad transportation became less prominent, other businesses ventures took its place, including shoe manufacturing, button making, and cement production.

Hannibal has a proud list of well-known sons and daughters, including William Lear (designer of the Lear jet), Congressman William Henry Hatch, Navy Admiral Robert E. Coontz, sculptor John Rogers, Margaret Tobin (the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown), composer Egbert Van Alstyne, and artist Carroll Beckwith.

Hannibal's most-famous son is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known worldwide as Mark Twain.  At the age of four, Sam's family moved to Hannibal from his birthplace in Florida, Missouri, about thirty miles to the southwest.  Many of the popular characters featured in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and other famous works, were based upon people Sam had known while growing up in Hannibal.  Today, visitors can still tour Mark Twain’s boyhood home, the Becky Thatcher house, and the famous Mark Twain Cave.

Today, Hannibal is a community of approximately 17,000 people.  Hannibal is a wonderful place to live, work, shop, or simply visit.  Hannibal has a number of local industries, including General Mills (ranked 69 out of the 100 best companies to work for by Fortune magazine for 2008), Watlow Electric, Buckhorn Rubber, Cosmoflex, Spartan Metal, Enduro Industries, Continental Cement, Hannibal LaGrange University, Hannibal Regional Hospital, the Hannibal Clinic, and nearby BASF.  Hannibal also has a Collegiate League Baseball franchise, the Hannibal Cavemen, who play in the Clemens Field in downtown Hannibal.

Today, Hannibal has a modern, Home Rule Charter form of government.  The city offers a full range of public services which include police, fire, parks and recreation, public works, streets, inspections, tourism, library, and airport.  Three separate fire stations are strategically located throughout the community.  Hannibal has more than 20 public parks scattered throughout, and an ever-growing multi-use trail system.  Community facilities are complimented by the Admiral Coontz Armory (for recreation), boat docks located on the Mississippi River (operated by the Parks & Recreation Department), and an aquatic park within walking distance from downtown Hannibal.

Aside from Hannibal’s unique historic district, the community has grown into a thriving haven for artisans, and is included along the famous 50 Miles of Art corridor. The 50 Miles of Art corridor includes a scenic drive along Highway 79, and focuses on the growing art communities of Hannibal, Louisiana, and Clarksville, Missouri.  Hannibal is home to numerous world-class artists and craftsmen.  There are two studio tours each year (Spring and Fall) that highlight artists and their studios.

Thinking of visiting Hannibal? We've got you covered with loads of fun for young and young at heart. Hannibal is a wonderful tourist destination for thousands of visitors each year.  Start your visit at The Mark Twain Museum or any of the many other local Mark Twain attractions, shop in the beautiful historic district downtown, take a ride to Sawyer's Creek, explore the Mark Twain Cave Complex, or tour many of Hannibal's beautiful historic homes - including a number of bed & breakfasts. Be sure to visit us over the fourth of July when Hannibal celebrates National Tom Sawyer Days for three full days - a family and area tradition for over 50 years.  Check out the Convention & Visitor's Bureau for other Hannibal activities.  And feel free to contact us with any additional questions.

Welcome to America's Hometown!