Bridgeton has a long and uneven history. Its contact with and settlement by Europeans dates back to the days of the French Illinois Territory. Etienne de Véniard de Bourgmont traveled the area in 1724, on a trail which eventually became the main route between St. Louis and St. Charles.
The Spanish gained colonial control in 1768; they remained in control until 1804, when the area was transferred to the Americans. In a 1799 census, the population of Marais des Liards was given as 337 whites and 42 slaves. 
Bridgeton was first platted in 1794, and named Marais des Liards (Cottonwood Swamp). It was also known as Village à Robert, named after Robert Owen, its founder, who had received a land grant from the Spanish government. In a Spanish census two years later it had a population (including slaves) of 77 males and 47 females. As the area received more and more English-speaking settlers, the village's name became Owen's Station.
Because of its location, including its proximity to a ferry across the Missouri River, it was a stop along the way from St. Louis to St. Charles. Meriwether Lewis passed through on his way to meet what became known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It was granted a state charter in 1843; throughout the next few years it was a stop along the way for emigrants seeking the major trailheads to the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails.
By 1950, Bridgeton's population was 276, lower than it had been in the late 1790s and early 1800s. The city expanded in size during the decade, growing through annexation, to sixteen square miles. This led into its period of greatest residential growth in the 20th century, the 1960s, during which nearly 8000 single-family homes were built. Denser development was strong during that decade as well, at nearly 2000 units. Unlike with single-family development, the multi-family development continued at about the same average pace during the 1970s and 1980s.
While residential construction nearly ended in the 1990s, that decade has seen significant growth in commercial development. Levee-protected floodplains of the river together with good access to interstate highways, rail, and the airport have translated into continued growth for Bridgeton and nearby communities, and a diversification of the city's tax base.
The airport has been a mixed blessing. Starting in 1995, an expansion plan for the airport, centered around a new runway plan called W-1W, has been fought by the city in what appears to have been a lost battle. The new runway has led to the elimination of 2000 homes in the city, undoubtedly playing a significant role in the city's recent population decline.
The census of 2000 shows that the city's population continues to decline. In 1980 there were 18,445 people in the city, which declined to 17,779 in 1990 and 15,550 in 2000.
In 2000, the city included 6,251 households and 4,206 families. The population density is 412.1/km² (1,067.1/mi²). There are 6,729 housing units at an average density of 178.3/km² (461.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 86.47% White, 9.05% African American, 0.21% Native American, 2.27% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.69% from other races, and 1.30% from two or more races. 2.22% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 6,251 households in the city, with an average of 2.43 members. Of these households:
- 27.9% have children under the age of 18,
- 52.3% are married couples co-habitating,
- 11.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and
- 32.7% are not family-based.
26.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average family size is 2.95.
The median age of the city's residents is 40 years; distributed as follows:
- 22.1% under the age of 18,
- 8.0% from 18 to 24,
- 27.9% from 25 to 44,
- 26.4% from 45 to 64, and
- 15.7% who are 65 years of age or older.
For every 100 females there are 93.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 89.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $49,216; it's greater for families, at $57,797. Males have a median income of $41,250 versus $28,175 for females. The per-capita income for the city is $23,955. 4.9% of the population and 3.2% of families live below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 4.7% are under 18 and 6.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
The area has long been influenced by its proximity to important local transportation routes, dating back to Native American trails established by the Osage Nation. Many of those trails served as the routes for the first roads in the area, such as Natural Bridge and the historic St. Charles Rock Road, which date back to the days of Spanish, French, and early American settlement. The influence continues today, with the recreational American Discovery Trail passing through the area, and the intersection of I-70 and I-270 adding to air and rail access to make the area a good base for transportation-dependent industries.
According to the Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.2 mi². 14.6 mi² of it is land and 0.7 mi² or 4.4% of it is water. <googlemap lat="38.760776" lon="-90.400658" width="700" controls="large">38.75535, -90.40674, Bridgeton, MO</googlemap>