Judicial history exhibit at Supreme Court teaches about early Missouri commerce

2 November 2001

Judicial history exhibit at Supreme Court teaches about early Missouri commerce

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Visitors to the Supreme Court of Missouri now can view an exhibit featuring cases that helped shape the history of the Missouri territory and helped mold modern legal concepts. The eight panels are part of "The Verdict of History" exhibit and are on loan to the Court for a limited time from the Missouri State Archives.

"We have selected these panels to raise interest in the history of early Missouri," Supreme Court Archivist Joe Benson said. "Exhibiting these panels is part of a conscious effort to educate the diverse citizens of this state about the rich history of the judicial system in Missouri and the role it has played in American history."

Part of the exhibit now on display is devoted to a dispute over salt, which was a valued commodity throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1816 territorial case Becknell v. Robidoux, one of the founders of the Santa Fe Trail, William Becknell, sued St. Joseph fur trader Joseph Robidoux for failing to properly house Becknell's salt. Becknell accused Robidoux of violating their contract by allowing Becknell's load of salt to remain "expoused to the inclemency of weather." The Howard County Circuit Court held a trial in a private home in Cole's Fort, which was the original Boonslick settlement on the south bluff of the Missouri River in what is now the eastern part of Boonville. The court awarded Becknell the then-hefty sum of $2,000 in damages.

The exhibit -- which also features vigilante justice, a benevolent bequest establishing the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, women's rights, and the tensions between the Native Americans and early French settlers -- will be on display through December 31, 2001. To schedule a guided tour of the exhibit and the 97-year-old Supreme Court Building, visitors should call 573-751-4144. More than 19,000 visitors toured the Court during the last year.