St. Louis Mercantile Library
|St. Louis Mercantile Library|
|Current home of the library on the UMSL Campus|
|Country||United States of America|
|Location||Thomas Jefferson Library 1 University Blvd. • St. Louis, MO 63121|
|Branch of||Thomas Jefferson Library|
The St. Louis Mercantile Library, founded in 1846 in St. Louis, Missouri, was originally established as a subscription library, and is the oldest extant library west of the Mississippi River. Since 1998 the library has been housed at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. It has 600 feet (180 m) of papers, ledgers, and printed materials currently in 26 departmental or other record groups In 1986 the library received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities because of the collection's cultural importance.
In December 1845 a group of merchants established the library "where young men could pass their evenings agreeably and profitably, and thus be protected from the temptations to folly that ever beset unguarded youth in large towns."
On April 19, 1846 it opened at Pine and Main Streets in what is now occupied by the Jefferson Expansion National Memorial. James E. Yeatman was the first president. Yeatman would go on to be one of the founders of the Mercantile Bank as well as Washington University in St. Louis. By 1847 it had 1,600 volumes and 283 subscribing members. In 1851 it merged with the St. Louis Lyceum.
In 1854 it moved to a new building at 510 Locust Street on the corner of Broadway and Locust streets. The structure included the 2,000 seat Grand Hall, the largest auditorium in the city at the time. The first session of the Missouri Constitutional Convention in 1861 met in the library voting to stay in the Union at the beginning of the American Civil War. Another constitutional convention in 1865 abolished slavery.
In 1884 Robert S. Brookings began a campaign to build a new fireproof building. The older building was demolished in 1887 and a new cornerstone was laid by Henry Shaw (botanist). In 1889 the new six story structure was dedicated on the same site. The new structure had no lecture hall, but did include an elevator.
In 1998 it moved to the current location in the Thomas Jefferson Library building on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The library still maintains its subscription model, but its collections are generally open to the public.
The library offers free art and history exhibits of materials from its collections.
Among the collections:
- John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library - 10,000 volumes, 600 feet (180 m) of railroad documents and photographs
- Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library - River documents, artifacts and artwork 
- Clippings and photo morgue of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat (10,000,000 documents)
- Official file copies of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Photo and film archives of Trans World Airlines
- Signed and complete first edition double elephant folio of John James Audubon's Birds of America
- The purported journal of Auguste Chouteau describing the founding of St. Louis
- Harriet Hosmer's marble sculpture, Beatrice Cenci (1857)
- Four Portraits of Winnebago chiefs by Charles Deas
- Death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte cast in plaster from the original by Francesco Antommarchi
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