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


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-008 Thomas Hart Benton Collection
Created by Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858); early senator from Missouri who served six terms equaling thirty years in office. Included are the handwritten lecture, "Progress of the Age," delivered at the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association, 1850; 1 letter from 1829; and 2 letters from 1858, one from J.B. Brant concerning Benton's health. Senator Benton was among the first of many illustrious figures to speak at the St. Louis Mercantile Library on November 14, 1850. This particular speech, presented to the Library by Senator Benton, himself, and several letters make up the Mercantile's small collection of primary materials by or concerning Thomas Hart Benton
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-115: World War I Pamphlet Collection
Special Collection M-115 is arranged alphabetically by author/title within Series 1 and 2. Within Series 3, the papers are not organized alphabetically, but there is an alphabetical list that can be used to access different papers. A published exhibition catalog exists: Words at War: The World War I Propaganda Pamphlets in the St. Louis Mercantile Library. An inventory list also exists for Series 2 and 3, Series 1: This topical collection includes anti-German tracts published in Great Britain and France on such subjects as long-range German plans for world dominion, the holocaust in Armenia; destruction of Belgium; Red Cross relief efforts, and war conservation efforts. These materials span the war years, 1914-1918. Series 2: This topical collection includes propaganda tracts and booklets regarding topics such as the American Red Cross, British and German ideals, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These materials span the years, 1914-1921. Series 3: This topical collection includes foreign newspapers, written mainly in French, regarding WWI. These materials span the years, 1914-1919.
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-121 Early American Sheet Music Collection
The collection dates from the 1840s through ca.1875, and includes numerous local pieces, as well as many St. Louis and regional imprints. Many pieces include color engravings and color lithographs for covers that depict various aspects of the American scene and life in the nineteenth century. EXTENT: Approximately 1000 pieces. HISTORY & PROVENANCE: For many years in the nineteenth century, the Mercantile Library promoted concerts and other musical performances in its auditorium, and the earliest collections of music stem from the need for reference copies for such performances. The collection gradually grew and was bound into indexed volumes of songs and other scores. The collection continues to grow to this day through donation.
M-164 St. Louis Fairs and Exhibitions Collection
The collection concerns the Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair of 1864 and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. It includes photographs, official fair newspapers, a typescript history, brochures, and other ephemera of two of St. Louis's most noteworthy and historic celebrations.


Mercantile Library Collections Directory

Mercantile Special Collections Directory

Barriger Library Collections Directory

Barriger Special Collections Directory

Pott Library Collections Directory

Pott Special Collections Directory