History, it is said, is a game of inches. Details count. Personality quirks and offhand comments change the shape of realities to come.
Yesterday, in conversations with local St Louis business leaders, I came across one of the crazier facts I’ve seen: They almost put Walt Disney World in Saint Louis – not Florida. Disney was from Missouri and he was partial to an Old St Louie theme for what would have been called “Disney Riverfront Square.”
What changed it all? Disney came to town to finalize plans. The night before they went to contract, August “Gussie” Busch (of beer fame) was overheard loudly proclaiming at a cocktail party that any man would wanted an attraction in St Louis not to sell beer “ought to have his head examined.”
Disney, his business acumen and values insulted, left town without signing the deal.
Speaking as a man living here, I’m imagining this town when it was two generations closer to straight Bavarians, full of people who had the right to drink beer at work. Busch was kind of right, in an anthropological sense. But a single brutish comment on the matter changed the future of St Louis economic development forever.
A game of inches.
Check out what it would have looked like in the video.