Preetorius arrived in St. Louis in 1854, and engaged for a while in mercantile pursuits. When the Civil War broke out, he devoted his time and means to organizing German regiments and sending them to the field. In 1862, he was elected to the Missouri state legislature on the radical emancipation ticket, and positioned himself as an “immediate emancipationist.” In 1864, he resumed business pursuits, became editor of the Westliche Post, and took an active part in the presidential campaign. In 1872 he identified himself with the Liberal Republicans. Preetorius was a crisp, clear writer, and a logical and convincing speaker. His lectures on aesthetics, philosophy and history attracted much attention, not only among Germans, but among speakers of English as well. His direction placed the Westliche Post in the front rank of American journalism.
When the Westliche Post merged with the Anzeiger des Westens in 1898, he and Carl Daenzer, the latter the editor of the Anzeiger, both retired. Preetorius died at his home at 2013 Park Avenue in St. Louis. The year before his death, influenced by his son, Edward L. Preetorius, he had refused a decoration from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. He had also refused decorations from the Kaiser in years past. He never went back to Germany saying that when he would have gone back he could not, and when he could have gone back, he would not.
The Naked Truth, unveiled in 1914, was a gift to the city of St. Louis by the German-American Alliance in honor of Carl Schurz, Emil Preetorius and Carl Daenzer, editors of the Westliche Post. (sculptor Wandschneider)