On some days in the early 1900s, you could walk out to the railroad tracks near the Iowa border and watch rail cars full of horses moving in and out of Missouri. Occasionally, also in those cars are elephants, lions and monkeys.
Missouri businessman William Preston Hall is trading in horses for wars and exotic animals for circuses. He hires his neighbors in Lancaster to care for the animals, supply the feed and more. It’s not uncommon to see an elephant wander by your kitchen window.
Hall becomes one of the richest men in Missouri, calling himself the “horse king of the world.” His fashionable appearance earns him the nickname Diamond Billy. That’s not how he started out, though. Hall’s story begins as an illiterate orphan.
Diamond Billy’s rise from rags to riches is only destined for so long, though.