Stump Speaking

June 14, 2015 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Please join us in celebrating the opening of the Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker Political Print Gallery. Through the ongoing generosity of Helen Shopmaker, the Mercantile Library will have on continual view a selection of visual arts addressing pressing political issues through time. The reception will take place in the gallery, where visitors can view the inaugural exhibition A Mirror of National Growth and Change: George Caleb Bingham and his Prints of American Frontier Life.

Guest speaker, Robert K. Newman, Proprietor of the Old Print Shop in New York will speak on the Prints of George Caleb Bingham during his presentation Politics and Prints.

This event is free and open to the public. Your RSVP is appreciated by June 10 to Amanda Schneider at 314.516.7248 or

whistle stops

Whistle Stops: Campaigning By Train

On Display through October 30, 2015

With Presidential Campaign season just a few months away, be sure not to miss this exhibition of memorabilia and imagery associated with Presidential Campaigning by train, featuring materials from the Shopmaker Political Memorabillia Collection, the Mercantile Library and the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library.  These rare items showcase the use of trains in campaigning by Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama.


George Caleb Bingham and his Prints of American Frontier Life: A Mirror of National Growth and Change

On Display through June 30, 2015

This exhibition features the major works of George Caleb Bingham in both uncolored and colored proofs.  The major prints show a narrative sequence from pioneer life, to settlement to civic activities to national conflict. The more settled days of villages and democratic institutions were depicted in Bingham’s election series in scenes illustrating excercises in freedom of speech, campaigning, elections and free voting. The collection is growing through the Library’s efforts to build a collection that documents the taste and viewpoints of the early American print viewing public, which was a sizable segment of the nineteenth and twentieth century population, so pervasive were these works of art in many American households of the day. 

These works are on display in the Shopmaker Political Print Gallery, in conjunction with the Shopmaker American Political Collection Gallery that presents a wide array of presidential campaign materials as well as changing exhibitions on presidential and campaign themes.

Plan des Villages

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

On Display through June 30, 2015

The St. Louis Mercantile Library possesses an extraordinary collection of maps, charts, plats and plans, atlases and loose folded sheets spanning the world, some centuries old, and some very recently printed and acquired.  The early merchants who founded the Mercantile Library in young St. Louis were great map collectors, especially of the region, the newly opening American West, and the trade ways to Asia.  James Yeatman, for example, the founder of the Mercantile, was a merchant and investor in many civic trading projects related to bringing the goods of the world to the city’s doorstep, and among the great folios he donated were large atlases of hard to obtain charts and plans spanning the globe.

Maps have a way of reporting accurately a landscape, a town, a city.  They are used of course, for the traveler to find one’s way around, physically.  But even the most detailed, matter-of-fact reference maps, depending on the time they were published or for the place or purpose they described, can have another purpose—to excite the imagination, to influence the world they describe.  Maps document, as well as cause and create change.  St. Louis’s maps were and are no exception to this circumstance, and they help to show where the city has been and where it will be going in the next 250 years.  

Merchants On the Map

Merchants on the Map: Selections of Original Business Records from the Mercantile Library's Special Collections through Time

On Display through August 30, 2015

The connections between where St. Louis business leaders and entrepreneurs established their business and the maps of the region are direct and compelling.  Maps were laid out and drawn, consulted and studied, and promotional views of the city were made often at the initiation and urging of the merchants of the frontier city.  Often businesses printed their own maps or were directly involved with the mapping of the city for business reasons.  The link between merchants and mapping was crucial and in St. Louis explains how the city grew for generations, becoming a great American city.  The maps of the town always gave the merchants marketing information and vision; the maps also provided information for new settlers and thus, future clients.

This is a sampling of some of the most fascinating records which present opportunities for further research here at  a library that was intentionally founded by merchants, in part to preserve their embedded history in the story of a city, a state and a nation, right down to its very rubric, “The Mercantile.”

Proud Pastures

Proud Pastures, Country Chronicles and Rural Rhapsodies: America's 19th Century Illustrated Farm Atlases and Viewbooks

On Display through August 30, 2015

For a ten year period, roughly from the late 1860’s through the late 1870’s a publishing phenomenon occurred in America starting in New England, spreading across New York and Pennsylvania, through the heartland of Ohio and Illinois and stretching out across the Mississippi into Missouri, Iowa into the newly settled states of the wheat belt.  This flurry of book production, the creation of large, celebratory county atlases,  essentially across the trans Appalachian agricultural regions of the Eastern seaboard and especially the  Midwest, focused on the preservation of the local history of these regions and created bedrock town and county histories for much of the new nation in the process .

 Somewhere in between the good and the foibles of these exercises in pride and promotion came the thousands of town and country views—of farms and towns, general stores and banks, stables and milling plants, horse farms, cattle farms and apple farms, lumber yards and ferry landings, birds eye views of great cities and  depictions of a tiny farm village here, a country church yard there.  The landscape of the yeoman American farmer, as Jefferson was so fond of invoking in his vision of America, perhaps never came as close to reality as in these books.  They were at once flights of fantasy and romantic renderings of a homogenously  bucolic Lake Wobegon, and at the same time they were accurate depictions before the widespread advent of photography,  of American farm and town households just at the beginning  of their existence.