The Civil War in Missouri

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The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.

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Exterior of the Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair

St. Louis Mercantile Library

The Western Sanitary Commission’s biggest fund-raising event was the Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair (MVSF). The two-week, carnival-like affair served the dual purpose of providing a distraction to keep civilian morale high during the war and netting more than $550,000 to benefit the WSC’s efforts. There was something for everyone: adults could browse the various booths, have lunch at the café, and participate in contests, and children could enjoy such activities as roller skating and fishing. The fair raised money by raffling items donated from across the country and locally, the most valuable prize being the 500-acre Smizer Farm, a property confiscated by Union military authorities and offered by the St. Louis County Court. Other funds came from articles such as flower arrangements, clothing, and food that were sold in the fair’s various departments. By the end of the war the WSC had received more than $770,000 in cash donations and $3.5 million worth of sanitary supplies.