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-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.
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.
M-244: African American Images
This collection is comprised of images pertaining to the social and political lives of African Americans. The collection is divided into four series: Political, Lifestyle, Advertising and Entertainment. The majority of the images are of 19th century origin and were published in major magazines at the time, such as Harpers Illustrated, Puck and Ladies Home Journal. Major artists include Nast and Sheppard.
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-322: Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. 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-355: Thomas T. Kerslake Overland Journal from Canada to New Zealand
Thomas T. Kerslake writes of his travels from Ontario, Canada to New Zealand in 1877. He leaves Plattsville, Ontario, Canada on September 29, 1877. Traveling across the United States by rail, he gives accounts of large and small cities (Chicago, Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Omaha, Promontory Point, San Francisco) and of the landscape and wild life on the plains and the Mississippi River. At San Francisco he boards the boat "City of Sydney" sailing across the Pacific Ocean, stopping in the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands before landing in Wellington, New Zealand in early November 1877.
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-366: Savanna, Illinois Town View
This collection consists of a single photograph purchased from Ian Brabner Rare Americana. It's a circa 1910 photograph of the town of Savanna, Illinois.
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-368: Ronald Reagan "A Time for Choosing"
This early draft of Reagan's speech, "A Time for Choosing" is a signed mimeographed manuscript, 12 pages in length. The speech contains five annotations and deletions by Reagan. Although the final version of "A Time for Choosing" was given on October 27, 1964, this earlier draft was created sometime in 1963. The draft bears little similarity to the final version, although Reagan's small government philosophy is on display in this draft.
M-369: Manuscript Cookbooks Collection
This collection contains manuscript works about cooking, including recipes and tipped-in content about homemaking., The preferred citation for this collection is "From the collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri - St. Louis."
M-370: German Sisters Captivity Letter
This retained manuscript copy of an autograph letter by Thomas Neill to the sisters Sophia and Catherine German, was an attempt to secure their release from Cheyenne Indians that had captured the girls., John and Lydia German, as well as their seven children, were moving by wagon via the Smoky Hill Trail to Colorado when they were attacked by a hostile Cheyenne war party. Both parents and three of the seven children were killed and scalped. Four girls were taken captive. The two youngest girls, Addie and Julie, aged 5 and 7 respectively, were rescued in a military raid in November 1874. After the rescue of the two youngest girls, a letter was written, addressed to Sophia, aged 12, and Catherine, aged 17, by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Neill. The letter advised the sisters to read it Grey-Beard or Stone-Calf to secure the sister's release and for the Cheyennes to submit themselves to the mercy of the government. The sisters were rescued in March 1875 and reunited with their sisters at Fort Leavenworth.
M-378: Eugene A. Atwater St. Louis Tornado Photographs
This collection consists of four photographs which document the damage inflicted by the 1896 tornado which hit Saint Louis, Missouri on May 27, 1896. Although the date listed on each of the photographs is consistent with the date of the storm, the photographs may have been taken at a later date. Other photographs documenting the storm damage show a greater amount of debris than is visible in this collection. These photographs were taken by St. Louis photographer Eugene A. Atwater. Two of the photographs document the damage on Lafayette Avenue and Mississippi Avenue in what is today St. Louis’ Lafayette Square neighborhood.
M-380: Franz Liszt Score of Hungarian March
Hungarian March for orchestra composed for the coronation of Francis Joseph I, Emperor of Austria, as King of Hungary in 1867
M-380: Hungarian March
Framed musical score for Franz Liszt's Hungarian March, composed for the coronation of Francis Joseph I, Emperor of Austria, as King of Hungary in 1867.
M-389: Falstaff Brewery Collection
The collection consists of some items relating to 20th-century advertising from the Falstaff Brewing Company. The oldest artifact is an undated oversize (about 2 feet by 3 feet) cloth hanging advertisement that makes fun of Germans and German terms. The most recent dated artifact is a 1964 aerial shot of a Falstaff plant located in New York. Bulk of the collection runs from 1957-1960, meticulously documenting various cans, bottles and cartons. Frustratingly, several oversize photos are included in which NO person's name is recorded. Also an original full-color cartoon.
M-391 Ramsay Crooks Fur Trade Ledger
Ramsay Crooks had immigrated into Canada from Scotland in 1803 but soon moved to Northern Michigan as clerk to a fur trader named Robert Dickson. In 1810 he was persuaded by Wilson Price Hunt, who was John Jacob Astor's agent in St. Louis, to join Astor's projected overland expedition to the mouth of the Columbia River. Prior to that, perhaps during the short period when he was in an unsuccessful partnership with Robert McClellan, he was trading on the Upper Missouri. Each entry in this notebook is headed by the native name of the individual tribesman involved, and lists each item traded, against which are shown symbols (mostly "0" or "1") each of which must indicate a specific number of pelts received in exchange. Most of the items traded are guns, ammunition, knives, beaver traps, tobacco, tomahawks and "half axes." Some rough penciled notes in a different hand towards the end of the little book, which are not attached to the name of any particular hunter, make a short list in French of various animals. Most likely a French-Canadian who worked with Crooks.
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-435 Cunningham, Jane
Letter from Jane Cunningham to her cousin in response to a request for genealogical information. Cunningham discusses her father, uncles, and brother, with significant detail on their involvement in the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in North Carolina (June 20, 1780) and conflict with Native Americans in Tennessee.
M-441 William J. and Helen S. Dixon Collection
The collection of railroad executive William J. and his wife Helen Dixon. Mr. Dixon worked for the Baltimore & Ohio and Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroads during his career. He was also a notable collector of railroad documents, books and ephemera.
M-453 Historic Pets Collection
A brief collection of historic images on postcards and portraits.
M-514 Early St. Louis Glass Plate Photograph Collection
This collection of glass plate negatives depicts scenes of St. Louis at the turn of the 20th century including the construction of the 1904 World’s Fair in Forest Park, the newly built Compton Hill Water Tower, the Cathedral Basilica, the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts and Brookings Hall at Washington University, a variety of farm houses and homes around the city, steamboats along the riverfront, and families enjoying various activities, picnicking, shopping, etc.
M-529 McCleave, Samuel Correspondence
Letters written by miner Samuel McCleave (1854-?) to his wife, Emma (1871-?). The letters, written in 1893 and 1894, reveal McCleave’s discontent with his situation as a wandering miner, which he describes as “getting worse every day.” They also reveal his desperation to remain in contact with his wife, telling her “I have been fretting so much about you that I could not eat nor sleep”. The letters provide insight into McCleave’s struggles as a miner looking for work.
M-534 Fort Huachuca Army Surgeon Correspondence
Letter written by an Army surgeon stationed at Fort Huachuca in the Arizona Territory. The letter is addressed to a fellow doctor, possibly a medical school classmate, and provides insight into the author's experiences at the fort.


Mercantile Library Collections Directory

Mercantile Special Collections Directory

Barriger Library Collections Directory

Barriger Special Collections Directory

Pott Library Collections Directory

Pott Special Collections Directory