Alexander DeMenil

Emilie and Nicolas' Son, Civic Leader and Proponent of Literary.

“He was of another day and kind than ours…his spirit and mind were of another period when many men were given to pure thought and when a scholar and a thinker was greater than a mere builder and doer.” -Missouri Historical Society Obituary, December 1928


 Alexander Nicholas DeMenil, although overlooked by historical scholarship, remains a pertinent component in the history of St. Louis that reverberates national sentiment. The sheer immensity of his endeavors shows that his well-heeled status did little to impede on his lifelong scholarship and intense involvement in literary, political, historical, and fraternal organizations. A.N. DeMenil’s place in local history is cemented so ubiquitously that he becomes as integral to the story of late 19th and 20th century St. Louis as his ancestors were to its founding.

His abhorrence of ragtime culture and authors such as Mark Twain and Walt Whitman assert the conviction that, indeed, “the pen is mightier than the sword”. A.N. DeMenil created a literary journal entitled: “The Hesperian: A Western Quarterly Illustrated Magazine” (1894-1917), which touted itself as the most serious scholarly criticism in the West, that “seeks for Truth, and accepts literary dogmas only in so far as they may be correct.”His involvement and contribution to local politics spanned a quarter of a century and his political convictions will be explored in depth. He was the president and vice-president of a plethora of organizations ranging from the Missouri Historical Society, Belgium Relief Fund, and the Select Knights of America.

We will trek the murky waters of historical research to answer such probing questions as: How did his political views contribute to his, at times, scathing remarks on literature? Were his views of Jazz Age America inherently shaped by his politics and upbringing, fueled by a longing for the past, or simple chauvinism? He was considered a foremost historian of Missouri and St. Louis, but how does the validity of his assertions stand up to historical acuity and scholarship today? Was Alexander affiliated with freemasonry? What were his views on unionization, suffrage, and morality?