A Look Back at St. Louis’ Shortest-Serving Mayors

By on March 20, 2017

From St. Louis Magazine:  This month we bid farewell to Francis G. Slay, St. Louis’ 45th and, at 5,845 days, longest-serving mayor. Sixteen years is a long time to occupy any job, to say nothing of the constant pressure of being the top executive of a city of more than 300,000. Though no previous mayor held up for as long, some came closer than others.

Arthur Barret, our 22nd mayor, only made it one week. Barret was originally from just outside Springfield, Illinois, but attended Saint Louis University and went on to raise livestock on a farm near Hermann, Missouri. Eventually he married into St. Louis high society and became a leader in the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association in the years just after the Civil War. He ran for mayor four times, losing the Democratic primaries in 1869, 1871, and 1873 (with the last two defeats coming by a combined four votes). Barret finally broke through in 1875, winning by a wide margin.

At the time, the city that Barret was to preside over was on the rise. Work on the Eads Bridge—as well as O’Fallon, Tower Grove, and Carondelet parks—was just wrapping up. The grand Forest Park was also on its way. More than a few locals believed that St. Louis should be the nation’s next capital.

But alas, on Saturday, April 17, 1874—just four days after he was elected—Barret began complaining of a mysterious stomach condition. “They couldn’t figure out what was wrong,” says Andrew Wanko, public historian at the Missouri History Museum.

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