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Missouri (/mɪˈzʊəri/ (About this soundlisten) or /mɪˈzʊərə/) is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2009 estimated population of 5,987,580, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It comprises 114 counties and one independent city. Missouri's capital is Jefferson City. The four largest urban areas are St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia. Missouri was originally acquired from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase and became defined as the Missouri Territory. Part of the Missouri Territory was admitted into the union as the 24th state on August 10, 1821.

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Missouri mirrors the demographic, economic and political makeup of the nation with a mix of urban and rural culture. It has long been considered a political bellwether state. With the exceptions of 1956 and 2008, Missouri's results in U.S. presidential elections have accurately predicted the next President of the United States in every election since 1904. It has both Midwestern and Southern cultural influences, reflecting its history as a border state. It is also a transition between the Eastern and Western United States, as St. Louis is often called the "western-most Eastern city" and Kansas City the "eastern-most Western city." Missouri's geography is highly varied. The northern part of the state lies in dissected till plains while the southern part lies in the Ozark Mountains (a dissected plateau), with the Missouri River dividing the two. The confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers is located near St. Louis. Read more ...

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The history of St. Louis begins with the settlement of the St. Louis area by Native American Mound Builders who lived as part of the Mississippian culture from the 800s to the 1400s, followed by other migrating tribal groups. Starting in the late 1600s, French explorers arrived, and after the French and Indian War, a French trading company led by Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau established the settlement of St. Louis in February 1764. The city grew in population due to its location as a trading post on the Mississippi River, and the city played a small role in the American Revolutionary War. In 1803, the city and the region were transferred to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

After the transfer, St. Louis was an entrepôt of trade with the American West. In the late 1840s, it became a destination for German and Irish immigrants; in response, some residents adopted nativist sentiments. The city's proximity to free states caused it to become a center for the filing of freedom suits, such as the Dred Scott case, the outcome of which was among the causes of the American Civil War. During the Civil War, St. Louis had a small skirmish on its outskirts, but the city remained under Union control.

Both its railroad connections and industrial activity increased after the war, and it had a concurrent rise in pollution. During the early 1870s, the Eads Bridge was constructed over the Mississippi River, and the city established several large parks, including Forest Park. Due to local political and economic disputes, the city separated from St. Louis County in 1876 and became an independent city. During the late 19th century, St. Louis became home to two Major League Baseball teams, while both ragtime and blues music flourished in the city. It also hosted the 1904 World's Fair and the 1904 Summer Olympics. After the World's Fair, St. Louis continued to develop commercially, but during the Great Depression, St. Louis suffered from high unemployment. With the advent of World War II, however, the city became home to war industries that employed thousands of workers.

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Shandi Ren Finnessey (born June 9, 1978; Florissant, Missouri, U.S.) is an American beauty queen, model, television hostess, and actress. She is best known for winning the Miss USA title,[1] as Miss Missouri USA. She previously held the title of Miss Missouri 2002 and competed in Miss America where she won a preliminary award. She placed as first runner-up at the Miss Universe 2004 competition. She is one of three women to have been both Miss Missouri USA and Miss Missouri and the only Missourian to have been Miss USA. Her first runner-up finish at Miss Universe was the best placement in the 2000s and continues to be the best United States placement since Brook Mahealani Lee won the Miss Universe 1997 competition.

She evolved from being a misfit youth who was subjected to verbal bullying to becoming a world-class beauty queen. In 2002, Finnessey authored an award-winning children’s book, The Furrtails, on individuality and disabilities. In the mid-2000s, she was Chuck Woolery's co-host for the game show Lingo on the Game Show Network. Finessey has also hosted PlayMania as well as quiznation and has served as a sideline reporter for the CBS tournament blackjack series Ultimate Blackjack Tour.

Finnessey graduated from Incarnate Word Academy in 1996 and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Lindenwood University in 1999. She has credits toward a masters degree in counseling from the same university.

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  1. ^ "Photo of Shandi Finnessey as Miss USA". Spiegel. Retrieved 2007-09-12.