Missouri (abbrev: MO) became the 24th state of the United States of America on August 10, 1821, a mere 18 years after having been thrown in as a lagniappe with the Louisiana Purchase. President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory from France in 1803, a win-win situation for the United States, France, and Spain. The United States doubled its size, France got rid of an annoying distraction in the New World so Napoleon could focus on conquering Europe, and Spain could stop pretending it owned the place. As a result, Missouri is absolutely nuts over Thomas Jefferson and France, going so far as to name its capital after Jefferson and its 2nd biggest city after St. Louis, the only canonized king of France. There's even a statue of Thomas Jefferson at the capitol building.

Missouri is about as close to the center of the United States as one can get without actually being Kansas (a distinction no state really wants). Its borders are like so:

Nebraska   Iowa   Illinois
Nebraska   Iowa   Illinois
  Kansas Missouri Illinois
  Kansas Missouri Illinois
Oklahoma Arkansas Kentucky
Oklahoma Arkansas Tennesee 

The Mississippi River marks the border between Illinois and Missouri, as it does between all proper states up until Minnesota, which has so many lakes it never even noticed that the Mississippi was inside of it until someone pointed it out to them. Rather than admit their mistake, they found the source of the river and declared a state park around it.

Being the most central, Easternmost point in the Louisiana Purchase, Missouri became known as the "Gateway to the West", basically an admission that the state is really just an area to pass through on your way to more interesting places. Oddly enough, it's also known as the bizarrely hyphenated "Show-Me State", although what there is to see in Missouri is still unknown. To commemorate the millions of people who have passed through St. Louis without stopping longer than necessary to gather fresh supplies, they built the Gateway Arch in 1965. For its location, they chose the starting point of the Lewis and Clark expedition, historically the first people to leave Missouri as quickly as possible to go find something more interesting. Later, in 2003, Missouri honored Lewis and Clark's triumphant return in the design for their state quarter, as this is the only recorded instance of someone actually coming back to Missouri after having left.

LaggedyAnne informs me that the phrase refers to the stubborn nature of Missouri natives, who refuse to simply take another person's word and must be shown before they will accept it. Thanks!

Like much of the Midwest, Missouri is mostly rural and is overwhelmingly Christian, mostly Baptist and Catholic. Politically, it's considered a swing state, albeit a second-tier swing state with 11 electoral votes to be won by the candidate who can lie the most convincingly. http://www.areaparks.com/ reports no national parks in Missouri despite the prominent link to said site on Missouri's home page.

People born in Missouri, who left as soon as possible and then became famous: Daniel Boone, Jesse James, President Truman, Samuel Clemens. If you would like to leave Missouri, it has two major airports for your convenience, positioned on opposite sides of the state: Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and Kansas City International Airport. If you prefer to drive, you'll find it nearly impossible to enter or leave the state without passing through St. Louis, as every major highway (Interstates 55, 70, and 44, and "Blues Highway" 61) radiates outward from it like wheel spokes.

kthejoker informs me that Jesse James also returned to Missouri when he decided he no longer wanted to be famous. The implications of this fact are clear.

Missouri sometimes tries to play sports with the other states, but with the exception of baseball more often than not just winds up embarrassing itself.

Of course, you can't really get a feel for what a state is like without comparing it to one of the others. It's statistically provable that Ohio is the baseline example for a minimally livable state (although the proof of this is outside of the scope of this article). One is tempted to compare Missouri to Illinois, but it wouldn't be fair to expect St. Louis to compete with Chicago.

                             Missouri   Ohio
                 Population: 5,841,713  11,478,006
          Per-capita income: $31,231    $31,860
           Earnings per job: $39,387    $41,630
               Poverty rate: 13%        11.7%
25yo completing high school: 81.3%      83%
    Area devoted to farming: 67.9%      55.6%
Top agriculture commodities: Cattle     Soybeans
                             Soybeans   Corn
                             Corn       Dairy Products

Clearly, Ohio is much better than Missouri.

http://www.ers.usda.gov/StateFacts/MO.htm
http://www.ers.usda.gov/StateFacts/OH.htm

    Top 20 cities in Missouri
    (alphabetical order)
  1. Blue Springs
  2. Cape Girardeau
  3. Columbia
  4. Farmington
  5. Independence (Starting point in the game Oregon Trail)
  6. Jefferson City (capital)
  7. Joplin
  8. Kansas City (biggest city)
  9. Lebanon (Lebanon is a country, not a city, you ignorant hicks)
  10. Macon
  11. Mexico (see also: Lebanon)
  12. Nevada (They ran out of good city names that fast?)
  13. Park Hills
  14. Perryville
  15. Poplar Bluff
  16. Saint Charles
  17. St. Louis (2nd biggest city, and don't spell it "Saint")
  18. Springfield (the "Smith" of city names)
  19. Trenton
  20. West Plains

Random facts I didn't know what else to do with:

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