John Menown, member of the bar and prominently known as a musician, composer and writer of short stories, although now making the practice of law his life work, was born in St. Louis, December 17, 1876, and has always remained a resident of this city. His father, John Menown, was born in Ireland of Scotch parentage but when quite young crossed the Atlantic to the new world and at the time of the Civil war commanded a company of Confederate forces under General Johnston, being a lieutenant in that company. He won prominence in business affairs by establishing the largest coffee and tea importing house west of New York and thus became a leading factor in the commercial circles of St. Louis. His wife, Mrs. Edith Menown, was born in Virginia and was a great-granddaughter of Martha Custis, while her uncle Healey was one of America’s greatest portrait painters.
John Menown, pursuing his education in St. Louis, attended the Divoll school, also the Central high school and then entered the Washington Universty. He early displayed musical talent of superior order and as a boy soprano sang with Gilmore’s band. He was also on the stage for four years as a singer and producer and has been the tenor soloist in leading church choirs, having for seven years been associated with Alfred G. Robyn at the Church of the Holy Communion and with Professor Poppen in the United Hebrew congregation. As a composer of songs his name is known from coast to coast, his compositions including: A Real Live American Man, That Old Flag So True, When the Band Played Yankee Doodle in Berlin, Let’s Finish the Job and Buy, Let’s Make a Job for Every Fighter, Down the Golden Sunset Road that Leads to Home, Shine on Pretty Irish Moon, Every Night is Lover’s Night in Some Old Land, Oriental Love, and Last Night the World was Born Again. Nor have his original productions been confined to music, for he is also the writer of various short stories, of lyrics and of poems. He studied piano with Charles Galloway, the noted organist. He produced the first annual municipal outdoor minstrel revue given in the Municipal Theatre at Forest Park under Park Commissioner Nelson Cunliff, in which Mayor Kiel was the interlocutor and has been active in having soloists sing in the parks with the bands. He was on the music committee of the Pageant and Masque given in Forest Park. Americanization of music is one of his hobbies, as is having St. Louis become a center for music publishing interests.
At the present time, however, Mr. Menown is making literature and music somewhat subservient to his law practice. Having prepared for the bar, he began practicing with the firm of Carter & Sager in 1899 and later was associated in office with F. H. Bacon, Charles Claflin Allen and D. W. Roberts. He is now specializing in theatrical and copyrighted music law and his practice of this character is extensive and important. He wrote and advocated a law requiring the owner and driver of automobiles to have his photo on his license which was adopted by Chicago and St. Louis in their service car ordinances.
Mr. Menown was a member of the Missouri Home Guard with the rank of corporal and during the World war was one of the Four-Minute speakers, also a community singing leader. Patriotism has ever been one of his marked characteristics, evidenced in all of his utterances and his writings and by his active support of many well defined plans and projects for the public good. In national politics he has always been a republican. He belongs to the St. Louis Bar Association and his religious faith is indicated in the fact that he is a communicant of St. George’s Episcopal church.