Mystery of Forest Park Cannon Solved; Spanish Gun Arrived in St. Louis in 1900
|Ruhrwein and the Spanish cannon.|
The 80-year-old Ruhrwien works as a volunteer guide at the park, giving walking tours to hundreds of visitors each year. Until last month, Ruhrwien never had much to say about one particular landmark: the copper, green cannon near Lindell Avenue.
Etchings on the gun in Spanish reveal the word "Examinador" and tell that it was forged in 1783 for King Charles III of Spain. Beyond that, little else was known about the gun.
Last September, Riverfront Times chronicled Ruhrwien's quest to learn more about the mysterious cannon. We even tried researching it ourselves. No one with the city or park department could tell us the history of the weapon, and a library search turned up only one vague newspaper clipping. In January of 1900 the now-defunct St. Louis Republic reported that Missouri Congressman Charles Edward Pearce had procured a Spanish cannon and that the gun was on its way to town.
Was that our cannon? Maybe. Maybe not.
|King Charles III of Spain|
And while many people could speculate about the cannon -- suggesting it was perhaps seized during the Mexican-American War [1846-48] or Spanish-American War  -- no one could say for sure.
So it was that last month Ruhrwien again found himself at the Missouri Historical Society Library on Skinker Boulevard. As he did last year, Ruhrwien once again asked archivist Dennis Northcutt to help him research the artillery. This time around, Northcutt was now armed with a research tool that would crack the mystery.
Beginning a few months ago St. Louis County Library now offers users an online database of archived clippings from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for the years 1874 to 1922. And unlike old microfiche machines, the newspaper clippings are searchable by keyword.
Northcutt put in the words "cannon" and "Forest Park" and voila! Two articles -- from 1901-- about the cannon "Examinador."