Missouri’s Famous Residents

Mark Twain Boyhood Home Museum
Photo credit: Missouri Division of Tourism

Learn about some of Missouri’s famed residents along Highway 36, nicknamed The Way of American Genius.

Along the nearly 200 miles of Highway 36, which runs east-west across northern Missouri, you have the chance to connect with prominent figures, innovators and inventions that shaped Missouri and, in some cases, had an impact on the world.

Hannibal (the easternmost point on Missouri’s Highway 36) is the city where author Mark Twain grew up and drew his inspiration for classic novels like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Visit several Twain-related properties at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. Afterwards, make your way to nearby Mark Twain Cave to see Twain’s signature scrawled on the cave wall.  

From Hannibal, it’s a 90-minute drive west to Marceline, the former hometown of another American icon Walt Disney. He lived in Marceline for a few short years during his childhood, but the community left a lasting mark on the animation pioneer. Main Street, U.S.A. at the Disney theme parks is modeled after Marceline, and Marceline’s Confectionary – a shop where sweet treats are sold – is found inside Disneyland Resort.

The Walt Disney Hometown Museum contains a large assortment of Disney family artifacts and memorabilia. The museum is housed in a former railroad depot, which is fitting, since Disney himself had an abiding love for trains – having ridden one from Chicago to Marceline when his family moved there.

Further west, in the small town of Laclede, the Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood Home State Historic Site pays tribute to one of America’s great military leaders. In his time, Pershing attained the rank of General of the Armies, which made him the highest-ranking officer in the history of the U.S. military. He was born and grew up in Laclede, and the historic site details his life and career, including his rise to international prominence during World War I.

Hit the road to Chillicothe, the city where sliced bread was invented and first sold. In the summer of 1928, bakery owner Frank Bench was on the verge of bankruptcy and needed something to save his business. Enter inventor Otto Rohwedder and his bread-slicing machine.

Bench used the machine to slice up bread and, on July 7, 1928, the Chillicothe Baking Company put the first loaves of sliced bread on the shelves of area grocery stores. Customers loved the pre-sliced bread loaves and the innovation was a rousing success.

Today, you can learn more about the “Home of Sliced Bread” at Chillicothe’s Grand River Historical Society Museum.

The westernmost stop on Missouri’s Highway 36 is St. Joseph, known as the city where the Pony Express began and outlaw Jesse James’ life ended. The largest city on Highway 36, St. Joseph is full of history and has several fascinating museums to explore.

The Pony Express National Museum pays tribute to the brave riders who left from St. Joseph on their journey to deliver mail to the West. The route took 10 days to complete and was a vital communication tool prior to the American Civil War, but the operation folded with the advent of the telegraph machine.

At the Jesse James Home, see where the outlaw lived and met his end. The home is adjacent to the Patee House Museum, which is housed in a building that’s served as everything from a hotel to the Pony Express headquarters. The Patee House offers an in-depth look at regional history and how St. Joseph was the starting point for the “Wild West.”

Driving the Way of American Genius is an excellent way to learn more about Missouri.