The Armour Meat Plant was once at the center of a large conglomeration of stockyards and slaughterhouses. Farmers from all around would visit the stockyards for the buying and selling of cattle and other livestock. In the first half of the 20th century, this was one of the busiest such locations in the United States.
The stockyards were devised to compete with the larger firms already well established in Chicago. The first shipment of cattle had arrived at the stockyards in 1873. By the turn of the 20th century, the stockyards were processing 50,000 animals a week and reaching annual sales of $2 million.
In 1903, the Armour Meat Plant was constructed here. According to some sources, Armour employed some 4,500 people to process the animals from the nearby stockyards. Tours of the facility and its operations were made available to visitors.
Philip Armour had already been established as a baron of meats. By 1883, he had established his own refrigerated fleet of rail cars. His plants were renowned for his large-scale pioneering efforts. Armour & Co. became one of the largest meatpacking companies in America by the 1890s, generating $110 million dollars in revenue in 1893.
Armour & Co. were also one of the first to take advantage of the byproducts of the slaughtering process and make use of what had otherwise been waste products. They sold every kind of product made from animals, from glue to oil, fertilizer, hairbrushes, buttons, and drugs. Armour famously declared that he made use of 'everything but the squeal'.
In 1948, Armour & Co. developed a deodorant soap by adding the germicidal agent AT-7 to their soap. This reduced bacteria on the skin and thereby limited body-odor. The new soap was named "Dial" due to its 24-hour protection against odor.
The stockyards continued to thrive during two world wars, eventually peaking production in 1947. The following decade, however, would see the decline of not only Armour but the stockyards in general. Primarily, the advent of the automobile, the interstate and rising labor costs all combined to bring about the decline of the out-dated stockyard operations and facilities. Meat was now being sold at terminal markets and the stockyards were swiftly becoming obsolete. The industry had shifted from its dependance on the railroads to interstate truck deliveries. Industrial farming had taken over much of the demand as individual farming was on steep decline as well.
Armour, despite being owned by a major national firm with many other plants across the country, closed operations in East Saint Louis in 1959, laying off some 1,400 employees.