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-001: John Quincy Adams Letter
This letter, by former President John Quincy Adams, is in response to a request by the Mechanical Library Association of Baltimore for Adam’s to speak at their facility at some future date. This association was connected to and an outgrowth of the Baltimore volunteer Mechanical Fire Company, formed by the company for member’s self education. Adams is informing them that he will not be able to speak at the Association’s venue on the date requested. For a full description see the collection page.
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-006: John Bell Letter
John Bell was an American statesman, a U.S. Senator from Tennessee. This letter is written to Rolfe Saunders, Tennessee, concerning legislation.
M-009: General Daniel Bissell Papers
This collection contains 31 hand-written letters bound in a single volume. The correspondence covers the years 1800-1820. Correspondents include Gen. James Wilkinson; Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike; Gov. William Henry Harrison; Henry Dearborn; William Clark; Frederick Bates; Gov. Meriwether Lewis; and Auguste Chouteau
Immediately after the Louisiana Territory was ceded by France to the United States, Gen. Daniel Bissell (1768-1833) was appointed Commandant of the U.S. Military Department of Missouri. He built, by government order, the contanment at Bellefontaine, just north of St. Louis. As Commandant, Bissell officially welcomed the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to St. Louis. After his military career ended, Bissell retired to a large tract of land on the Bellefontaine Road near St. Louis.
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-011: Daniel Boone Letter
Letter to Colonel William Cristen concerning plots of land., Reproduction of original letter dated 1785-08-23.
M-012 Botts, John
One letter, autographed, signed, and dated 26 January, 1867, from John Botts; American congressman, lawyer, and author. Leader in the Whig party, called to Washington by Henry Clay to aid in the Constitutional Compromise of 1850.
M-013 Maryland Land Grant
Royal land grant to Richard Brooks pertaining to 22 acres in Maryland.
M-015: William Cullen Bryant
American poet and newspaper editor William Cullen Bryant wrote this letter to S. N. Holliday, Esquire, concerning the poem "Thanatopsis".
M-016: Buchanan, James
Letter to A. C. Cazenove, Esq. concerning Nicolas Basler, by James Buchanan., 1.0 Comments: James Buchanan (1791-1868) was the 15th President of the United States (1857-1861). He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor, and the last president born in the 18th century. He was a U.S. Congressman and Senator for Pennsylvania and later served as Minister to Russia under Andrew Jackson. Buchanan was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 1844. He became Secretary of State under President James K. Polk (March 1845 - March 1849 - through all of Polk’s Presidency). The two most important international events during his tenure was the settling of the Oregon Territory boundary with Canada and the Mexican War (1846-1848). (This is the period in which this letter was written.) After he turned down an offer for an appointment to the Supreme Court, President Franklin Pierce appointed him minister to the Court of St. James's. Buchanan was nominated and elected President in 1856. He was viewed as a compromise between the two sides of the slavery question. His election victory took place in a three-man race with John C. Fremont and Millard Fillmore. As President, he was often called a "doughface", a Northerner with Southern sympathies. He battled with Stephen A. Douglas for the control of the Democratic Party. Buchanan's efforts to maintain peace between the North and the South alienated both sides, and the Southern states ultimately declared their secession in the prologue to the American Civil War in December of 1860 in the last days of his presidency.
M-021: Henry G. A. Caspers Journal
Henry G.A. Caspers was corporal, later promoted to sergeant, in the artillery company of Capt. Fischer, organized in St. Louis, Missouri. At Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, the company was mustered into the service of Col. Kearney. Most of Casper's military service was served in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the time of the Mexican War. This journal dates from June 13, 1846 - December 1848. Caspers included lists of company members; duties and battles; plus references to Col. Doniphan's victory at Chihuahua, Mexico; General Kearney's march to California; and the murders of Santa Fe Governor Bent in Taos, New Mexico., 1 small leather-bound, handwritten volume. 34 pp.
M-022: August Chouteau Journal
Auguste Chouteau (1749-1829), one of the founders of St. Louis, Missouri, was also a fur trader, territorial judge, and patriarch of the most influential French family in early St. Louis history. Written in English, Spanish, and French, the documents relate to exclusive trading rights among the Osage, including receipts; relationship between the Spanish and Chouteau; and treaty of peace with Great Britain and suppression of Indian hostilities. The journal is a fragment of Chouteau's "Narrative of the Settlement of St. Louis." It is the only eyewitness documentation on the activities surrounding the founding of St. Louis. A literal translation from the original manuscript by J. Givin Brown and J. Wilmer Stith was published by the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association in 1857 in the 12th Annual Report and again in 1989., 1 journal ca. 1810-1820, unsigned but in Chouteau's handwriting on ledger paper, 14pp. [in French]
M-023: Henry Clay Letters
Two letters written by Henry Clay, American Statesman, Speaker of the House of Representatives and a U. S. Senator from Kentucky. The letters concern peace with Great Britain and cholera.
M-051: Thomas Jefferson Collection
This collection consists of two pieces of correspondence by Thomas Jefferson, former President of the United States.
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-060 Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
One letter, autograph letter signed, dated 25 November 1878 from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1887-1882) 19th century American Poet, to a Miss Whiting concerning literary references.
M-069: Osceola Poem
This manuscript poem, written by Osceola, a Seminole Indian Tribe Leader (1804-1838) was written to Mr. Wilson Price Hunt.
M-078: Quincy Library [Illinois] 1841-1857
Handwritten record of books purchased by Quincy Library [Illinois], date and price, 1841-1857.
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-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.
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-113: St. Louis Imprints Collection
The St. Louis Imprints Collection at the St. Louis Mercantile Library contains approximately 8,000 items documenting the printing history of St. Louis, from its beginnings in 1808, to the end of World War II in 1945. Formats include books, broadsides, pamphlets, serials, prints and maps. The collection covers the widest array of topics, from history and law, to art and literature, and includes important first printings, such as the first book printed in English west of the Mississippi, The Laws of the Louisiana Territory (1808), and long runs of rare periodicals and newspapers for this region. M-113: St. Louis Imprints Collection is also indexed within the special collections directory of the St. Louis Mercantile Library.
M-114: Records of the Saint Louis Lyceum
The Saint Louis Lyceum was a public forum for lectures and debates in early St. Louis. It was founded in 1838 in the spirit of the Lyceum Movement, a national effort towards self-improvement and community led education for adults. It maintained and built upon the library of the city's first subscription library, the St. Louis Library Association, which was founded in the early 1820s. The Lyceum overlapped in activities and collections with the Young Men's Lyceum and the Mechanics' Institute of St. Louis. The archives and books of these early libraries were bought by the Mercantile Library in the early 1850s, and became a cornerstone bibliographic collection at the Mercantile. This collection was reassembled from the stacks of the Mercantile through study of the original accession records concerning the acquisition in 1851. The larger collection consists of approximately 500 printed books and pamphlets from this early book collection, some with association annotations, original ownership marks, or bookplates. Most of the scanned materials relate to the week to week meeting minutes, circulation records, and founding documents.
M-117: Archives of the St. Louis Mercantile Library and the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association
The Archives includes historical records of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association, and of its subsequent history as an affiliated institution with the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Included are accession records, which run from 1846-1950; selected early circulation records and membership roles, letters, minutes and financial records, 1846-present. For a more complete list of the 600 linear feet of papers, ledgers, and printed materials across 26 sub-series, see the collection's finding aid.
M-169: The Emil Boehl Collection
Emil Boehl was a St. Louis photographer who primarily focused his camera on St. Louis streets, buildings, and locales. Born in Calvoerde, Germany, in 1839, Boehl immigrated to St. Louis in 1854. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, Boehl returned to St. Louis in 1864 and opened a photography studio with Lawrence Koenig that spring. With Koenig focusing on portraiture, Boehl became one of the most prolific St. Louis scenic photographers active in the latter half of the 19th Century. The Boehl/Koenig partnership lasted until 1897. Boehl retired from photography in 1919 and died later that year on the 12th of December. The Emil Boehl Collection consists of three series. The collection contains images dating from 1850 to ca. 1906. The collection’s archival materials include photographic prints and negatives. According to historians Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn, Boehl’s career was from 1864 to 1919, and he was known to sell prints of Thomas Easterly’s daguerreotypes. In light of those facts, some dates in the Boehl Collection may be labelled incorrectly and/or some images may not be Boehl’s.
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-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-172: John O'Fallon Letter
One letter, dated May 2, 1828, to the Honorable James Barbour, regarding the recommendation of Thomas McNight for the appointment of superintendent of the Upper Lead Mines.

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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