During the 1930s the population of St. Louis was declining, no doubt in part due to the unhealthy air during the winter months when soft coal was used to heat nearly every building.
In February 1937 a smoke ordinance was passed creating a “Division of Smoke Regulation in the Department of Public Safety”, forcing larger businesses to burn only clean coal and setting standards for smoke emission and inspection. By 1938 emissions from commercial smokestacks had been reduced by two-thirds. (Wikipedia)
Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann, the first Democratic Mayor in decades, put Raymond Tucker in charge of cleaning the air. In 1941 Dickmann lost the race for a third term, defeated by Republican William F. Becker:
Perhaps the most significant development during Becker’s term as mayor was the adoption of a civil service amendment to the City Charter. The amendment enacted a merit system for the hiring of city employees. Prior to that time, a political patronage system prevailed in which all city employees could be replaced with a change of partisan administration. Becker supported the civil service reform and it was approved by the voters in September 1941. Becker also retained Raymond Tucker who had been appointed Smoke Commissioner by Mayor Dickmann, and supported his efforts to reduce air pollution within the city. (Wikipedia)
Becker was killed in a glider accident just two years later, he was succeeded by the Republican President of the Board of Aldermen Aloys P. Kaufmann. Kaufmann was elected to a full term in 1945, he was the last Republican mayor in St. Louis.
I’m glad the citizens of St. Louis in the 30s & 40s took the big steps they did to clean the air. Today I don’t think we have the kind of political leadership that it takes to achieve such change.
— Steve Patterson