Missouri News

Bicentennial edition of pictorial history book being released Monday

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 2, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Mar. 2, 2019 11:00 pm

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Steve Chou's pictorial history book, "Hannibal: Bluff City Memories," was released in November 2002.

Loaded with 232 black-and-white photos spread across 128 glossy pages, the book offered a colorful glimpse into Hannibal's past by drawing upon Chou's vast collection of historic photographs and postcards.

Now, more than 16 years later, Chou's book has been updated and will be re-released Monday as part of Hannibal's yearlong bicentennial celebration.

The updated volume, which bears the same title but with a "Bicentennial Edition" appendage, is a bigger, better version of the first.

Arcadia Publishing, which put out the first book as part of its "Images of America" series, invited Chou to expand the volume by giving him 32 additional pages to work with. Chou dug into his archive and produced more than 60 extra photos that now fill two additional chapters.

Chou also updated many of the captions appearing under photos in the original book by providing new information he unearthed over the years.

"I have the advantage of 16 years of additional research," said Chou, who regards himself as a "student of history" with a special passion for Hannibal's past.

Chou will talk about the updated book, answer questions and meet the public during a book-signing event from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal.

Copies of the book, priced at $21.99, will be available not only at the museum but also at Mark Twain Books and Gifts and Becky's Old Fashioned Ice Cream Emporium. Copies also can be ordered through Amazon.com.

Chou, who grew up in the St. Louis area, has been a Hannibal fan for years. He spent most of his boyhood summers at his grandparents' home just outside of Hannibal and came to know and love the town.

In the summer of 1969, while Hannibal was celebrating its 150th anniversary with a series of special events, Chou, then 12, noticed many downtown merchants were putting historical displays in their windows.

"That was when I first became intrigued with Hannibal's history," he said.

Then in 1976 -- the year of the nation's bicentennial celebration -- Hurley and Roberta Hagood published a local history book, "The Story of Hannibal." Chou was enraptured by that book.

"It really fanned the flame of my interest in local history," he said. "Hurley and Roberta Hagood were my inspiration, and they were a tremendous encouragement to me."

Chou started collecting anything he could find related to Hannibal's history -- especially photographs and postcards with images from the past. His enthusiasm for collecting gained additional steam after Chou and his family moved to Hannibal permanently in 1986.

"I consider Hannibal my adopted hometown," he said.

By 1994, Chou had amassed enough photos to publish his first pictorial history book about Hannibal: "From Riverboats to Ribbons of Concrete."

As his photo collection continued to grow -- with images now numbering in the thousands -- Chou had more than enough photos to fill the first "Bluff City Memories" book as well as the expanded version now being released.

Chou says vintage photographs not only show how Hannibal has evolved over the years but also shine a spotlight on some of the noteworthy people, places and events from the city's past.

For example, one of the oldest photos in the book is a portrait of Capt. George W. Bates, son of Moses D. Bates, who founded Hannibal in 1819. The photo was taken around 1861 during the Civil War while Capt. Bates was serving in the Missouri State Guard.

Other intriguing images include a picture of a Hannibal police car shot up by notorious gangster John Dillinger and his henchmen in 1934; a photo of a Hannibal street scene in 1919 when a small biplane had crashed and burned, killing the pilot, who had been dropping leaflets around town; and a picture of President Teddy Roosevelt standing amid a large crowd while speaking at the old Union Depot in 1903.

Some of Chou's newly added photos include pictures of the new Mark Twain Memorial Bridge being built in 1999 and the old Mark Twain Memorial Bridge being demolished in 2001.

Another new photo shows the long-gone Park Opera House, which opened in Hannibal in 1882. During its heyday, the venue featured performances by many top Vaudeville stars and national celebrities, such as magician Harry Houdini, Wild West character Buffalo Bill, comedian W.C. Fields and band leader/composer John Phillip Sousa.

Chou, who works in technology for the Hannibal School District, said he enjoyed putting together the bicentennial edition of "Bluff City Memories" and hopes it serves as a lasting tribute to his adopted hometown.

"It's been a fun project to work on," he said.



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