ALTON, a city of Madison county, Ill., U.S.A., on the Missis sippi river, about 5m. above the mouth of the Missouri and 25m. N. of St. Louis. It is on the Mississippi valley highway; is served by the Chicago and Alton, the Big Four, and the Alton and Eastern railways, and for freight also by the Burlington and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas; and has connections for freight through the Illinois Terminal railroad with all the railways entering East St. Louis. The business streets are on the bottom lands, but the residential part of the city lies on picturesque bluffs which rise to a height of 25o feet. The population in 1g2o was 24,682, of whom 1,707 were negroes and 1,67o were foreign-born whites; and was estimated 30,151 in 193o.
Transportation facilities, cheap coal, unlimited water, abundant building material, and hydro-electric power have favoured indus trial development. The value of the products manufactured in 1927 was p19,bo9,o62, and there are also important establishments near by in the surrounding country, including several large oil refineries, to which crude petroleum is brought by pipe lines from Texas and Oklahoma. The leading manufactures are glass bottles, brick, ammunition, flour, petroleum products, lime and stone, pig lead, iron and steel, box board and paper. Shurtleff college (Baptist, founded in 1827), at Upper Alton, 1-sm. N.E. of Alton, and Monticello seminary for girls, at the village of Godfrey, 51-m. N. (founded 1835), were among the earliest educational institutions in the Mississippi valley.
The first white settler here was Jean Baptiste Cardinal, who built a loose rock shelter in 1783, but was soon taken prisoner by the Indians. Just south of Alton, Lewis and Clark camped through the winter of 1803-04. The town was planned in 1815 by Col. Rufus Easton of St. Louis, who gave it the name of one of his sons. In 1833 it was organized as a town, and in 1837, when the population was about 4,000, it was incorporated as a city. The first State institution in Illinois, a penitentiary, was located here in 1827. Later the prisoners were transferred to Joliet, and during the Civil War the buildings were used as a military hospital and prison. Intense excitement was caused throughout the coun try in 1837 by the persecution and finally (on Nov. 7) the killing, by a pro-slavery mob, of Elijah P. Lovejoy (b. 1802), the editor of an abolitionist journal. In 1897 on the 6oth anniversary of his death a monument, erected by the State and the citizens of Alton, was dedicated to his memory.