Envision a glass pyramid rising above a brilliant collection of Western Americana. The location is not the Louvre in Paris, but on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The collection is that of the St. Louis Mercantile Library, now in its 176th year and thus the oldest cultural institution in continuous operation in St. Louis.
Part library and part museum, the Mercantile offers something for everyone. Early documents written in French describe the beginning of our city. The rich history of the west is appropriately enshrined her in the city which developed this great part of America. The Barriger Collection serves railroad buffs and serious railroad historical scholarship with its broad-based holdings, the largest in the United States. The Pott Library holds the treasured resources of the American waterways for those studying our great river history. The Mercantile Art Musuem continues the Library's early tradition of collecting and exhibiting masterworks by regional Midwest artists, as well as perhaps the Mercantile's greatest single work of art, the complete first edition double elephant folio of John James Audubon's The Birds of America, the only copy signed by the artist, with hand colored prints selected for binding by the great woodsman himself.
The Mercantile Library houses the St. Louis Globe-Democrat clipping and photo morgue and all of the first runs and official file copies of thePost Dispatch. Copies of these newpapers' predecessors are also in the collection, making the Mercantile a veritable time machine for St. Louis' past heritage. We house the photo and film archives of Trans World Airlines, as well as many other corporate and private papers. New collections such as that of the Feldacker Labor Art Collection frequently come to the Library and are presented in fresh programs for our members and the public at large.
Perhaps you remember the Mercantile Library when it was located in the old downtown business district. As you may know we affiliated with the University of Missouri - St. Louis several years ago and our splendid facility in a park like setting is located just twelve minutes from Clayton via the Innerbelt or Hanley Road to Natural Bridge. Our Board of Direction has become an auxiliary board with the challenging and proud responsibility of supporting the Mercantile Library and its collections. We hope to raise awareness of, and friends and funds for, our beloved institution.
The Mercantile Library represents the best of the old and the new. Of late we may be better known and appreciated nationally and even internationally, but the Mercantile has never forgotten its proud local roots and heritage and seeks St. Louisans who want to be part of this tradition.