St. Louis Mercantile Library Special Collections

The special collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library consist of over 400 individual collections with archival materials numbering in the millions, including over 100 historic newspaper titles, presidential letters, early travel diaries and civil war era letters, fur trade records and the newspaper and printing morgue of the St. Louis Globe Democrat, some of which is available digitally. The M-Series of collections represents the core of the Mercantile's holdings. Finding aids and descriptions can be accessed from the library's website through the Mercantile Special Collections Directory.
St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis

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M-170: Dick Lemen Collection of St. Louis Photographs
Dick Lemen, river enthusiast and historian, utilized his skills in photography to preserve the fading memory of America’s inland waterways. Both a collector of historic images, and a photographer himself, Mr. Lemen actively worked to document the boats and people of the river. To show the rich detail in images, he often enlarged sections of photographs, emphasizing an intricate ships rail, or a single child playing. His photography work was exhibited at several institutions, including the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and the St. Louis Mercantile Library. Richard Lemen, a life long resident of the Moline, IL area, died June 13, 2001 at the Illinois Veterans Home, in Quincy. Originally the images were captured on glass plate negatives by photographer Charles Clements Holt (1866-1925) and his staff in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Negatives of these images were collected in the later part of the century by Dr. William G. Swekosky, as part of his work to document St. Louis’ historic houses facing demolition. In the early 1960s, a friend and fellow photographer, Dick Lemen arraigned with Dr. Swekosky to borrow the glass plates to make prints, later purchasing the negatives. While Dr. Swekosky had obtained the images as documents of structures, Mr. Lemen focused on the residents and details of everyday life of St. Louis, and brought the streets to life. In the 1980s Mr. Lemen donated the images he printed from these negatives to the St. Louis Mercantile Library. Other portions of Mr. Lemen’s personal papers and photograph collections are located to the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa. www.rivermuseum.com
M-367: St. Louis Memories Public Photographs
This collection of photographs was assembled in 2014 by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for the publication of a book titled St. Louis Memories: A Look Back. The book included images from several institutions as well as the general public. Private individuals and organizations were invited to have their photographs scanned by the contributing institutions. M-367 represents those photographs contributed to the project by the public that were scanned at the St. Louis Mercantile Library. The physical photographs still belong to the individual owners, but the scanned images were contributed to the library.
M-171: St. Louis Views and Images
The St. Louis Views and Images Collection visually documents the history of St. Louis though various printed media--photographs, lithographs, engravings, illustrated newspaper tear sheets from Leslie's and Harper's, maps, postcards, advertisements, broadsides, and posters, as well as some original drawings. The materials provide images of St. Louis from the 1760s to the 1970s, however the largest amount of material in the collection dates from the nineteenth century. The physical collection is made up of six series, divided according to medium and then arranged chronologically within the series. Materials added after initial sorting are out of sequence. The series include (1) Publications, (2) Photographs and Prints, (3) Postcards, (4) Edward Thias Drawings, (5) Advertising, and (6) Broadsides & Posters. There is an additional series of various boxes of materials. An inventory of the different series can be found in the collection's finding aid.
M-010: Augustus A. Blumenthal Letter
The St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad Company
To Augustus A. Blumenthal Dr.
1864 October 1st
To have my --- Time, thru there carelessness demolished and to totaly destroyed and my driver killd. ----- $200.00
To Dr. Karnsby ---- attendens on the man runnet over $10.00
To Dr. Starkloff for the same $10.00
$220.00
my Attorney John N. Stra-t is hereby authorized to recipt this Bill in my name Aug. A. Blumenthal
M-306: Early Account of Pearl Harbor Bombing
This typescript is one of the first detailed accounts of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The account was written on December 8, 1941 by the Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay to the Commandant of the Fourteenth Naval District, and then forwarded on to "All Stations, Ships, and Units Concerned with Aircraft" on December 16th.
M-393: Sale of Real Estate Broadside and Manuscript
I Jno. K. Walker Sheriff as hereby certify that caused to be put up at the following named places a copy of this advertisement twenty days before the sale -- before the 30th day of March 1831 at the court house doors, at Fashnughty Barber Shop, at the Missouri Hotel at the city Hotel, at the Green Tree Tavern in the city of St. Louis, at Phillys Tavern in Bonhomnic, at Blacksmith Shop 5 miles east of Manchester, at -- Store in Manchester, at Lamisi Store in same place, -- McDonald's Mill in St. Ferdinand Township at Owens Station at Thomas Shop, at Connelly Grocery in Florissant, and at I. Aubuchon's -- same village, one at H. Jofo Tavern on Florissant Road -- at Darny -- Loc -- -- in St. Louis Township. Ten of the most public places in the county. Shff cost $5.00 Jno. K. Walker Shff.
M-097: George Washington Collection
The collection dates from 1780 to 1799. Subjects of letters range from government to gardening. Documents are one discharge paper of Robert Wherry and one military pass for Mr. Tobias Lawrence. Names of addressees include James Madison, Landon Carter, Esq., William Hunter, Reverend Thorton Fleming, Valantine Cooke, William McLenaham, Jabez Huntington, and Hon. James Wood. (Most have been authenticated by Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.)
M-8-2 Thomas Hart Benton Collection
A collection of documents and images from Thomas Hart Benton, a 19th Century Missouri politician, US Senator and US Representative.
M-365: Latta-Hord Laundry Company Photograph
This collection consists of a single photograph purchased from Ian Brabner Rare Americana. It's a circa 1909 photograph of the Latta-Hord Laundry Company in St. Louis, Missouri. The building has clean new signs advertising "We Want Your Work". The company's employees include various women posed together at the corner of the building and men who stand to the sides next to the company's horse-drawn carriages. Others peer out of the second story windows.
M-051: Thomas Jefferson Collection
This collection consists of two pieces of correspondence by Thomas Jefferson, former President of the United States.
M-002: John Jacob Astor Collection
This collection contains two letters written by the New York fur trade executive John Jacob Astor to Charles Gratiot of St. Louis in July of 1811 and to Anthony Charles Cazenove in July of 1813. Both have been transcribed.
M-112: St. Louis Globe-Democrat
Acquired by the Mercantile Library in 1986, when the 137 years old St. Louis Globe-Democrat newspaper ceased publication, this vast collection covers the history, culture and life of the St. Louis region and the state of Missouri. The two largest series, the article clippings and photographs cover a wide array of topics, from individuals, to events, to a multitude of other subjects. The clipping files are known as the newspaper "morgue" and contain over 10,000,000 separate articles cut out and filed by the newspaper staff between the 1920s and 1980s. The clipping files also include material preserved from various competing newspapers (Post and Star), giving this newspaper morgue unusual depth. Currently the library is compiling an on-line database of clipping envelope headings, with more headings added each day. Also, a special listing of banks and financial institutions located within the collection is available. Filed in a separate series are over 225,000 photographs and approximately 700 glass plate negatives dating from the 1920s through the 1980s.
M-322 Dr. Allen B. and Helen Shopmaker American Political Collection
The Shopmaker Collection contains over three thousand items ranging from a George Washington token dated 1789 to buttons and textiles endorsing candidates in the 2008 election. The variety of objects reflects the changing tastes of the American public and the available production technologies, ranging from 19th century brass jewelry and clothing buttons embossed with candidate's names and party symbols to today's modern, mass-produced buttons, and from porcelain plates embellished with a portrait of First Lady Helen Taft to Nancy Reagan paper dolls. With artifacts representing nearly every American election, the Shopmaker Collection provides the viewer with a broad look at how candidates have used images, slogans and symbols to woo the public, and how the public has expressed its own, often outspoken, opinions on both individuals and issues.
M-058: Little Shield Sketchbook
This series of sketches, a visual autobiography of "Little Shield, Chief of the Arrapohas," shows his exploits of valor and historical enemies in pictographic form. Little Shield's figure is riding a horse into battle in each sketch. This journal is one of the earliest extant examples of Plains Indian ledger art, this series of sketches was created by Little Shield, an Arapaho Chieftain, who recorded his own exploits in a pictorial journal sometime in the 1860s. The work contains 23 pencil sketches, colored on lined tablet paper.
M-111: John Mason Peck Collection
This collection brings together works collected and produced by the Baptist missionary John Mason Peck. Peck founded many of the first Protestant churches and organizations in the St. Louis area, and he held deep connections throughout the continent tied to social issues of temperance, abolition, and education during the time known as the Second Great Awakening. The collection covers Peck's many educational endeavors and comprises an excellent picture of a frontier intellectual's interests through the cultivation of a rare and extant mid-nineteenth century personal library. His collection contains some of the earliest known copies of many Illinois newspapers as well as many other rare frontier Midwestern imprints. The collection holds original manuscripts and ledgers on such subjects as the development of Rockspring Theological Seminary, the first institution of higher education in Illinois, as well as important annotations and manuscript commentaries throughout. Most of this working library was composed of books from Peck's adult life, many of which are excessively rare today, and dates concentrate from the 1820s through the mid-nineteenth century.,

A case could be made that John Mason Peck (1789-1858) was the greatest of the pioneers who set foot in early St. Louis. Writer, Baptist missionary, educator, humanitarian, Peck set about the process of bringing the civilization he knew and loved to the Mississippi Valley. In the 1820's, he founded one of the first Protestant churches west of the Mississippi, the first college in Illinois, and ordained the first African-American clergy in St. Louis. He also established the first schools for slaves in St. Louis. He was a great publicist for the region and encouraged settlement back east through his famous gazetteer for Missouri and Illinois, and wrote many other books which celebrated the pioneer spirit and history of the area.
Peck was a great book collector, and member of St. Louis' first library-the Mercantile-to which he bequeathed his collection at the time of his death. This important early acquisition was very strong in American history and literature, and helped to set the pace for the early development of the Library's special research collections in this field.

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Mercantile Library Collections Directory

Mercantile Special Collections Directory

Barriger Library Collections Directory

Barriger Special Collections Directory

Pott Library Collections Directory

Pott Special Collections Directory