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M-107: Robert Campbell Family Collection

DATE: ca. 1830s-1920s

CREATOR: Campbell, Robert (1804-1879). Irish immigrant, fur trader, businessman, and resident of St. Louis. His home is now preserved as the St. Louis local Campbell House Museum. 

SCOPE: The contents of this collection includes primary materials on the activities of Campbell, his friends, associates, business partners, and adversaries. Campbell's life in the Rockies, and later in the rapidly developing frontier town of St. Louis, is covered.

Business correspondence, company ledgers, copy books, financial reports, and family letters form the bulk of the collection, which spans the period from the early 1830's to the 1920's. The bulk of the collection is comprised of Robert Campbell's business records from 1832-1879, the year of his death.

EXTENT: 35 linear feet of manuscripts and archival records.

HISTORY & PROVENANCE: Robert Campbell was one of the most widely-known and influential business leaders of the American West of his day. Born in 1804, in Aughlane, County Tyrone, Ireland, references to Campbell can be found in the journals and letters of a host of correspondents of the early American fur trading period, in which venture he participated as one of the archetypal "mountain men" of the independent Rocky Mountain fur companies.

These papers offer a glimpse of one of the most important participants of this age. Campbell's life, intertwined as it was for a half century with events in the West and in St. Louis, illustrates the story of the economic development of half a continent, and why St. Louis was important as a crossroads to trade, empire, and the western movement.

This collection, acquired through donation in 1985, long after these papers were thought to have been lost after the death of the last Campbell heir in the late 1930's, reflects the era of St. Louis' greatest activity and involvement in the trapping and trading ventures of the far west, in which this same region became for the first time an American economic province, and was poised for territorial expansion.

SEE ALSO: The Campbell House Museum maintains the home, furniture, fixtures, carriage, personal letters and other records of the Campbell family as well as a database of the collections.  The Missouri History Museum holds Robert Campbell's 1833 Rocky Mountain journal and other papers related to the fur trade.

ACCESS: this collection is available for on-site use only in the Rare Book and Manuscripts Reading Room. Some of the material in Special Collection M-107 may be photocopied, digitally scanned or photographed, subject to condition. For collections marked limited access, researchers are advised to contact the library at least three business days in advance of their visit to submit a request to view the physical material.

A published finding aid for this, special collection M-107, is available: A Guide to the Robert Campbell Family Collection of Historical Papers in the St. Louis Mercantile Library, 1986; The collection has been microfilmed as Part 3 of Research Collections of the American West: Papers of the St. Louis Fur Trade; (Bethesda: University Publications of America, 1994), and a useful guide to the microfilm edition exists under the same name. Some of the collection may be photocopied, digitally scanned, or photographed, depending on condition.

Researchers are advised to call ahead concerning changes in hours due to University intersessions and holidays. The St. Louis Mercantile Library is located on levels one and two of the Thomas Jefferson Library building.

In observance of security procedures, certain services may not be available shortly before the daily closing time.

Preferred Citation: When citing the material from this collection, the preferred citation is: From the Special Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.