Alton, a southern Illinois city in Madison County, is 25 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri. It is located on the Mississippi River, about four miles from its confluence with the Missouri.
The first settlement on the site was made in 1783. In the early years of the 19th century, there was a trading post. Col. Rufus Easton established a town which he named Alton after his son. Alton absorbed two neighboring towns and was incorporated as a city in 1837. A riot of anti-abolitionist elements in Alton later that same year resulted in the death of a resident who was defending his presses and is memorialized with the Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument, in Alton's cemetery.
The last debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas over the question of slavery took place in Alton on October 15, 1858, just weeks before the election for the U.S. Senate, which Lincoln lost.
The first Illinois state prison was established in Alton in the 1850's but abandoned after the Civil War, when it was superseded by the prison at Joliet.
Shurtleff College was organized in Collinsville in 1827 and moved to Alton in 1831. It was closed in 1957 and its campus was absorbed by Southern Illinois University. Alton is served by Lewis and Clark Community College, established in 1970 in nearby Godfrey.
The Alton Museum of History and Art is located in Loomis Hall, one of the earliest buildings on the former Shurtleff College campus. It includes an exhibit about Robert Wadlow, who was born in Alton and grew to a height of almost nine feet before dying at the age of 22.
The Armed Forces Museum has a large collection of military vehicles. The heritage of nearby Wood River is preserved in its downtown Wood River Museum and Visitors Center.
Alton Memorial Hospital was built with donations from the estate of the founder of Illinois Glass Company and opened its doors in 1937.