St. Louis Mercantile Library | UMSL

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The UMSL Thomas Jefferson Library Building and St. Louis Mercantile Library are open.

In order to help protect patrons and staff, The Thomas Jefferson Library Building, along with the rest of the buildings at UMSL are operating under an occupancy restriction of 25% of each building's capacity. Face mask use and maintainng a physical distance of 6 feet between individuals is also required inside the building. The St. Louis Mercantile Library and the UMSL library staff encourage our patrons to utilze our interlibrary loan, distance reference services vis phone and email and Digital Library services when requesting material for use.

Information Regarding the Coronavirus Response at UMSL:

UMSL Coronavirus Updates

Community Updates are posted on the right hand side of the page.  Please check for updates.

About the Library:

Established in 1846 by civic leaders and philanthropists, the Mercantile exists today as a vibrant community and cultural asset. It is the oldest library west of the Mississippi and the grandparent of St. Louis cultural institutions.

The task of the Mercantile Library as a research library is to make its collections, which have come to concentrate on Western Expansion and the history, development, and growth of the St. Louis region and of the American rail and river transportation experiences, available to the widest number of local and national users.

View the latest edition of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Newsletter here!

New Online Exhibition: 

Missouri in the News: The Birth of the State of Missouri as Covered in the National Intelligencer.

This online exhibition of digitized issues of the National Intelligencer covers the debates surrounding the admission of Missouri into the Union in 1820-1821.  We will be adding new pages on the bicentennial of that day's issue.  Read along as Congress debates the issue and follow the creation of the Missouri Compromise in 1820.


This excerpt comes from the National Intelligencer’s February 17, 1820 edition.
While many congressional arguments centered on the imbalance of power between free and slave states, some congressmen highlighted their moral opposition to Missouri’s admission as a slave state. An example can be seen in this excerpt of a speech by Congressman John W. Taylor of New York.  He believed that Congress had “a moral and constitutional right” to prevent the spread of slavery to Missouri, which many feared could lead to slavery’s continual spread through the United States’ western territories. Congressman Taylor’s speech featured here ominously predicted that should slavery be allowed in Missouri, Congress’ inaction would torment future generations of Americans.

Read John W. Taylor’s Congressional Biography
It is essential to note that during the Civil War, the Mercantile Library was the site on which the Emancipation Proclamation was ratified; thus resolving a forty year delay in freeing Missouri to grow without slavery. 
Follow the full debate in the issues of the National Intelligencer

Library Tours:

To help insure the safety of our docents, patrons and staff during the pandemic, we are not scheduling group tours at this time. If you would like to subscribe to our mailing list to receive immediate updates, please email your request to


For Research Inquiries:


Mercantile Library Research Request Form

Phone: 314-516-7240

The UMSL Digital Library

The UMSL Library Catalog, which includes items from the Mercantile and its collection.