HISTORY: From the beginnings of the Mercantile Library in the 1840s, there has been a strong institutional interest in the collection and preservation of historic newspapers, so much so that it was the first library or historical society in Missouri to create such a collection, which remains today one of the state's largest and the broadest in scope of such material.
SCOPE: This collection is national in scope, from the eighteenth century to the present. Colonial, as well as early federal-era papers, early state imprints for neighboring Illinois (the Mercantile holds the only copies of the earliest Illinois newspapers), and several western states are represented. Missouri and especially St. Louis newspapers are strongly represented, from 1808, when The Missouri Gazette, the first paper, began printing, to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Particularly strong holdings include files from the Civil War era, and office, final edition files for the Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and for local neighborhood Journal newspapers. Special interest and minority newspapers are available and present opportunities for the study of African-American and local gay and lesbian rights issues, and women's studies.
HOLDINGS: Approximately 150,000 single issues in 150 major titles, with numerous minor files; over 4000 linear feet.
In conjunction with Missouri Digital Heritage, the State Historical Society of Missouri, the St. Louis Public Library, the Missouri History Museum and the Missouri State Library, digital copies of the St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, years 1861 - 1869 have been made available.
ACCESS: Significant portions of Special Collection M-126 are microfilmed and the Mercantile Library participates in the Missouri Newspaper Project supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and administered by the State Historical Society of Missouri. Portions of the collection are otherwise catalogued and on-site inventories exist, along with standard union lists of holdings. Very selective portions only of files of hard-copy format newspapers may be digitally scanned or photographed due to tremendous fragility, and are available when all ancillary microform resources are exhausted, and under direct supervision of staff, including, but not limited to, the turning of pages, and staff-assisted transcriptions.