Pictorial St. Louis was compiled over a number of years in the early 1870s by Richard J. Compton and his employees. Individual sketches of buildings were worked into 110 lithographic plates by the artist Camille N. Dry. Each plate was numbered and mapped to a key showing St. Louis in perspective with the land fading over the horizon past Grand Avenue. These plates were displayed in the original book in pairs, not as one continuous canvas. When a building was cut off by the edge of an illustration, it was drawn in its entirety in the adjoining plate. Because of this, the pieces of the landscape do not fit seamlessly together.
Pictorial St. Louis is also a city directory. It contains descriptions of the various schools, railways, banks, insurance companies, and residents of St. Louis. Each description is mapped to the plates where they were physically located. Some of these original descriptions have been preserved here in this interactive exhibit. If possible, the original text from the book is displayed when you click on the red dots to learn more about buildings.
To learn more about the way the Pictorial St. Louis was constructed, it is helpful to read the book's preface.