St. Louis was not a "frontier" city in the 1850s, let alone the 1890s.
In the late 19thC it was a metropolis with 450,000 inhabitants and many
more outside the city limits--the fourth-largest city in the US in both
population and industrial output, and the junction of more railroads
than anywhere else in the country. 1894, the date mentioned by the
original poster, was 20 years after the completion of the Eads Bridge--a
feat of engineering that was celebrated worldwide.
There was a substantial Jewish population, many of whom had been there
since before the Civil War. They were largely German, of course, but
word would undoubtedly have leaked out to Jews elsewhere. People in
Eastern Europe would have known about it >from relatives, neighbors who
received mail >from their emigrant kin, landsmanshaften and the various
aid societies that existed then.
Speaking of which, many of those heading to the Golden Land came through
Germany, especially Hamburg. The Jewish aid societies there that helped
transients would undoubtedly have dispensed a little advice along with
In short, one did not have to be particularly enterprising to look
beyond the East Coast, especially to the large Midwestern cities. If
memory serves, even Tevye the milkman was headed to Chicago.
Marian Merritt wrote:
My mother's father always said our immigrant ancestors were afraid if they stayed
in New York, they'd have to work in a sweat shop. Going to "frontier" cities like
St. Louis probably appealed to those with an entrepreneurial spirit.