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Events and Exhibitions


Headlines of History: Historic Newspapers of St. Louis and the World Through the Centuries at the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association 

On Level One through 2019

This is the third in a planned tetralogy of exhibitions building to the 175th anniversary of the St. Louis Mercantile Library, and marks the growth and special nature of the collections of the Mercantile by focusing on one of the most used and important holdings at this research center, its newspapers.  This important exhibition features such items as the first known issue of the Missouri Gazette, the oldest newspaper printed west of the Mississippi; and an issue of the Pennsylvania Ledger from July 13, 1776 marking the first printing of the Declaration of Independence in a newspaper.   Future programming will include a Family Day and Director’s and Curators’ Colloquia.  You can view the complete exhibition catalogue here.

permanent collection

Selections from the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum

On Level One

The Mercantile Library has collected and exhibited art since its founding in 1846, making its art collection a key element in its cultural and educational mission. In the fall of 2011, the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum was officially established with an advisory board and the mission to tell the story of Missouri and the nation’s heartland region by collecting, exhibiting and providing a venue for Missouri art and artists and encouraging partnerships between scholars, artists, collectors, and the region’s cultural community.  This exhibition of the Library’s permanent collection celebrates the Library’s ongoing commitment to Missouri art through works from the 18th through the 21st centuries presented in five thematic sections.   

permanent collection

Saunders Schultz: Visionary Abstractions

In the Meier Gallery, June 23, 2019-January 1, 2020

Saunders Schultz (1927-2017) characterized his approach to art in these words: “Art must relate to the natural world and its unlimited manifestations.” Throughout his prolific career, Schultz drew inspiration from nature for the monumental abstract sculptures that can be found throughout the world, as well as in many places in his home town of St. Louis. This exhibition presents examples of Schultz’s drawings, paintings, and sculpture that represent his vision of nature.  The Mercantile Library Art Museum wishes to thank Lisa Schultz and Veronica Slade for their generous donation of Schultz artwork and their support of this exhibition. Learn more about Schultz’s work here:

100 Million Buttons

Campaign Curiosities: Election Artifacts from the Shopmaker Collection

In the Shopmaker American Political Collection Gallery 

From the earliest elections to the present day, candidates and the public have used a wide array of objects to promote their political point of view.   The button, in its many forms, is the most common campaign object, but campaign promoters quickly learned that both necessary and luxury items were effective ways to spread political messages.  As a result, candidates and their slogans appeared on everything from cigars to shot glasses, paper fans to porcelain plates, and from coffee mugs to the cappuccino to put in them.  The ten cases in this exhibition also illustrate the breadth of the Shopmaker Political Collection that continues to grow through donation and acquisition to document the history of American politics.

Lincoln Exhibition

Lincoln: The Changing Face of an American PresidentIn the Shopmaker Political Print Gallery

The changes in Lincoln’s appearance that were manifested over the period of his presidency reflect the rigors of the Civil War and the personal tragedies he suffered with the death of his son, Tad.  This exhibition traces these changes through a selection of images of Lincoln across several media, including prints, photographs, sculpture and textiles.  The portraits tell the story of Lincoln’s rise from young circuit lawyer to inspiring president to icon of American democracy.  



Artists and the River

In the Meier Gallery, January 10, 2020- May 31, 2020

Inland rivers played a pivotal role in the exploration and expansion of the United States, and among the many adventurers who plied the waterways in our nation’s early days were artists, some hired to document the flora and fauna for gentlemen-explorers, others striking out on their own to visually capture the drama and beauty of the American frontier.  For these artists, the river that provided transportation became a captivating subject as well.  Throughout our nation’s history, artists have remained fascinated with the river, even as modern industrial development impacted its appearance and the public’s interaction with it. This exhibition explores how artists have depicted American inland rivers, especially the Mississippi River, and how their vision of the river has changed through the years.  This exhibition complements the Missouri History Museum’s major exhibition Mighty Mississippi, on view November 23, 2019 - April 18, 2021.



Mississippi Movies: The Legacy of Henry Lewis Panorama

In the Lobby Gallery, January 10, 2020- March 8, 2020

An exhibition of paintings, drawings, prints and rare books exploring the work of St. Louis’ greatest panorama artist, Henry Lewis (1819-1904) who created a vision of the mid-19th century Mississippi that attracted thousands of immigrants to our shores. Lewis is well-known for his 1854 publication Das Illustrirte Mississippithal (The Valley of the Mississippi Illustrated) that included images of life along the river and the growth of river towns and cities. This exhibition complements the Missouri History Museum’s major exhibition Mighty Mississippi, on view November 23, 2019 - April 18, 2021.



Inspired by Love: Artwork by Artistic Couples

In the Meier Gallery February 4, 2019-June 16, 2019

St. Louis was home to many artists who were married to artists. This exhibition features works by Gustav and Hazel Goetsch, Fred and Mildred Carpenter, Philip and Mary Gronemeyer, and more.



Audubon and Beyond: Collecting Five Centuries of Natural History at the St. Louis Mercantile Library

On Level One November 6, 2015 - June 2, 2017

Audubon and Beyond told the history of the Library’s contributions to early St. Louis’ scientific education through its imaginative and awe- inspiring primary and original collections, some of the most diversified in any early American library outside of the American Museum of Natural History itself. View the exhibition catalogue here.

map image

Mapping St. Louis History: An Exhibition of Historic Maps, Rare Books & Images Commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Louis

On Level One October 19, 2014-June 30, 2015

The exhibition tracked the city’s development and expansion through maps as important documentary objects and things of beauty as well. Contemporaneous prints, paintings and photographs as well as rare printed histories completed the telling of St. Louis' story.

frontier faces

Frontier Faces: Missouri History in Bronze


View the exhibition catalogue here.

course of modernization

The Course of Modernization in China, Japan and America, 1850-1930: A Study of Three Cities

October 10, 2009-February 28, 2010

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.

lives on the mississippi

Lives on the Mississippi: Literature and Culture along the Great River from the Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association

February 23-May 1, 2010

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.


The West the Railroads Made


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.

history uncorked

History Uncorked: Two Centuries of Missouri Wine


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.

marbled paper

A Snail, A Peacock and a Tiger’s Eye: Historical Marbled Papers in the Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.

adventures and sufferings

Adventures and Sufferings: The American Indian Captivity Narrative Through the Centuries

December 1, 2002- January 15, 2003

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.

art of the frontier

St. Louis and the Art of the Frontier


View the complete exhibition catalogue here.

century of american railway

A Century of American Railway Bridges and Buildings

September 28- November 3, 1991

View the complete exhibition catalogue here.