Literary St. Louis: A Research Guide | UMSL

Common Searches

Literary St. Louis: A Research Guide

How many times I saw my western city

Dream by her river…

"Sunset (St. Louis)," Sara Teasdale

St. Louis enjoys a rich and enduring literary tradition. From poet and dramatist Zoe Akins, who claimed her home state didn't influence her work, to T. S. Eliot, on whom "the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers made a deeper impression than any other part of the world," St. Louis has been the birthplace or home of many writers. A crossroads for the literary arts as well as our country’s westward expansion, St. Louis has also been the setting or subject of many novels, short stories, poems, and plays. Whether you are researching a specific author's work, charting the evolution of St. Louis as seen in frontier writers' impressions, or comparing or contrasting literary themes or styles of several St. Louis authors, this guide offers a helpful beginning. For further assistance, consult the St. Louis Mercantile Library Reference Desk (314-516-7247).


1.) Literary St. Louis: Noted Authors and St. Louis Landmarks Associated With Them, by the Associates of St. Louis University Libraries & the Landmarks Association of St. Louis: MERC PN846 .S2 L6, brief biographies of 31 St. Louis-born or visiting authors and a tour map (with addresses) of the homes or sites associated with them.

2.) Missouri Writers: a Literary History of Missouri, 1780-1955, by Elijah Jacobs and Forrest Wolverton: MERC: On Order This survey, the most comprehensive yet published, covers frontier literature, fiction, poetry, literature of the Civil War, history, and biography. A "List of Professional Missouri Writers" includes living (1955) Missouri authors and the city with which they are most closely associated.

3.) St. Louis Book Authors, by Alexander De Menil, MERC: PS285.S2 D4 1999De Menil, the founder of the Society of St. Louis Authors, provides 30 short biographies of resident St. Louis writers (1925) of both fiction and non-fiction.

See also in this Guide: #7, 14.


Consult Merlin, the Library's online card catalog, to locate books in our collection by and about St. Louis authors; search by author and name of author as subject.

4.) MLA International Bibliography(database: access through Library Web page; campus & dial-up accounts only) provides indexing to scholarly journal articles, books, and proceedings on literature and language from 1963 onwards.

5.) St. Louis Globe-Democrat Archives(ask for help with this collection at the Mercantile Reference Desk), provides newspaper clippings about and photographs of many St. Louis literary lights.

6.) St. Louis Imprints(ask for help with this collection at the Mercantile Reference Desk) From the early 19th century, St. Louis was a recognized center of the printer's trade. St. Louis Imprints, a special collection of the Mercantile Library, is comprised of hundreds of nineteenth and twentieth century books and other materials printed in St. Louis, many of which are of literary interest. The collection includesReedy's Mirror, William Reedy's weekly political-literary magazine published in St. Louis. Dubbed the "Literary Boss of the Middle West," by Edgar Lee Masters, Reedy introduced the work of many St. Louis authors including Fannie Hurst, Sara Teasdale, and Zoe Akins. (Reedy's Mirroris partially indexed in the Mercantile Library's copy).


ConsultMerlin, the Library's online card catalog to identify novels in the collection about St. Louis; search "Saint Louis (Mo.) - Fiction." For additional titles, checkWorldCat (access through Library Web page; campus & dial-up accounts only).

7.) "A Century of Missouri Literature," by Alexander De Menil in Missouri Historical Review (TJ F461 .M59) XV:i, October 1920 pp. 74-125. A biographical survey of the state’s leading writers (fiction and non-fiction) living and dead with many St. Louisans represented.

8.) "Development of Fiction on the Missouri Frontier (1830-1860)," by Carle B. Spotts in Missouri Historical Review (TJF461 .M59) Parts 1-6; XXVIII:iii-iv; XXIX:I-iv; April 1934-July 1935. A detailed study of the literary forms and styles of the period with many references to St. Louis-related writings.

9.) Important Firsts in Missouri Imprints, 1808-1858, by Viola A. Perotti:MERC REF Z209 .M69 P6 1967. Much of Missouri's and the western frontier's early printing was done in St. Louis; this book records Missouri publishing firsts, many of them of literary interest.

10.) "Literature," in Missouri and Missourians by Floyd C. Shoemaker: TJ F466 .S58; vol. 2; pp. 691-717. A useful developmental survey of Missouri’s literary accomplishments from frontier days to 1940, citing many St. Louis-related titles.

11.) Missouri, a Guide to the 'Show-Me' State, by the Writers' Program of the Works Projects Administration: MERC F466 .M47 1941; TJ F466 .W85. This classic text provides two concise, though dated (1941), surveys of Missouri's literary and theatrical landmarks, many of which relate to St. Louis. See also the bibliographies on "Travel and Description" (pp. 599-601) and "Stories with a Missouri Background" (pp.609-611).

12.) "Missouri in Fiction: a Review and Bibliography," by Joe W. Kraus: Missouri Historical Review (F461 .M59) Part 1: (XLII:iii; April 1948), pp. 209-225; Part II: (XLII:iv; July 1948), pp. 310-324. The author organizes this bibliography by city (St. Louis entries: #167-206).

13.) "Missouri Literature Since the First World War," by Minnie M. Brashear:Missouri Historical Review (TJF461 .M59) "Part 1: Verse" (XL:I; October 1945), pp.1-20; "Part 2: Drama, Juvenilia & Non-Fiction" (XL:iii; April 1946), pp.330-348; "Part 3: Novel" (XLI:iii; April 1947), pp. 241-265. A series of bibliographical essays citing many St. Louis-related titles.

14.) The St. Louis Movement in Philosophy, Literature, Education, Psychology by Denton J. Snider (1920): MERC St. Louis Imprints ES668As2. The story of the Hegelian-influenced St. Louis Philosophical Society and its founders, including a detailed analysis of the city's cultural and commercial life: "What, who is this St. Louis of yours? Analyze her a little for us, that we may catch some notion of the original stuff of which she may be composed. As she too must have a soul…"

15.) Short Story Index, 1900-current; TJ REF PN3451 .S47xindexes short stories appearing in anthologies by author, title and subject. For short stories about St. Louis, search under "Missouri - Saint Louis."

16.) Bibliography of Missouri Authors, by F. A. Sampson (Ask for assistance with this book at the Mercantile Reference Desk: Core Rare ZWY 884 S). This bibliography,compiled in 1901, isa vibrant testimonial to Missouri’s intellectual and cultural development in the 19th century and the prominent role St. Louis played in it as a locus for printing. It includes 2,300 titles, both fiction and nonfiction. It does not, however, identify St. Louis authors.


17.) American Theatre Companies, by Weldon Durham; 2 vols, 1749-1887: TJ PN2237 .A43 1986; 1888-1930: TJ PN2256 .A44 1987. Concise histories of U.S .theatrical companies, their major personnel and repertory with bibliographical references and listing of companies by state.

18.) Index to Full-Length Plays, 1944-64TJ REF PN1655 .T47x, vol. 3; andPlay Index, 1949-92: TJ REF PN1655 .P53x bothprovide author, title and subject references to plays in collections and plays published individually. Search under "St. Louis" as subject.

19.) Theatre on the Frontier: the Early Years of the St. Louis Stage, by William G. B. Carson: TJ PN2277 .S2 C3 1965. A detailed history of the companies, plays, actors and theatrical milieu of St. Louis from 1815-1839.

See also #7, 13, 15, 39 in this Guide.


20.) Ain't But a Place: an Anthology of African-American Writings About St. Louis, edited by Gerald Early: TJ F474.S29 N423 1998. An anthology of fiction and poetry, autobiographical writings, historical and cultural documents and essays.

21.) First Harvest: Jewish Writing in St. Louis, 1991-1997, edited by Howard Schwartz and Barbara Raznick: TJ PS508 .J4 F5 1997. Culled from the first five issues of theSagarin Review, as well as additional material, this anthology includes poetry, fiction, autobiographical stories, folklore, and modern midrashim ("re-imaginings" of biblical or rabbinic origin).

22.) A Little Book of Missouri Verse, edited by James Snoddy: MERC CORE RARE Y884P9S67 (Ask at the MERC Reference Desk for Assistance) A selection of the work of over 70 Missouri poets, published in 1897, including more than a dozen St. Louis poets.

23.) Missouri Literature, edited by Richard Jesse and Edward Allen: MERC Z4884 J4; TJ PS571 .M815includes "Lafayette's Visit to St. Louis" by John Darby, William Reedy's tribute to Eugene Field, and a host of other St. Louis-related selections.

24.) Missouri Reader, edited by Frank Luther Mott: TJ PS571 .M8 M6 includes five selections about St. Louis.

25.) Wednesday Club Verse, edited by Mrs. Fred C. Lake, Jr. et al: MERC St. Louis Imprints 2 W377TJ SPEC COLL PS571 .M8 W4an anthology of honor poems from the annual and special poetry contests of the Wednesday Club of St. Louis, 1931.


St. Louis-based literary journals in addition to eight other journals published in Missouri.

26.) DelmarTJ PER PS580 .D4

27.) Natural Bridge: a Journal of Contemporary LiteratureTJ PER PN2 .N38

28.) River StyxTJ PER BL300 .R5x

29.) Two RiversTJ SPEC COLL PS571 .M8 T83

30.) WatermarkTJ PER PS614 .W32x

31.) Webster ReviewTJ PER AP2 .W35x


32.) Key to Missouri Authors, by the Children’s Services Round Table (CRST):BARNES REF PS283 .M8 L3 1991 provides a list with brief biographical notes of Missouri-born or resident children’s authors. St. Louis-related authors are identified within the biographies.

33.) Missouri's Literary Heritage for Children and Youth: an Annotated Bibliography of Books About Missouri, by Alice Irene Fitzgerald; MERC F466.3 .F58 1981 and BARNESF466.3 .F5xThis annotated bibliography of children's and young adult literature covers 301 books (fiction and nonfiction) by 230 authors, many of them Missourians. While St. Louis authors are not always identified, a "Literary Map of Missouri" provides titles for stories of regional interest.


34.) A Bibliographical Guide to Midwestern Literature, by Gerald Nemanic: TJ REF PS273 .B5x. A selective guide to the major literary and cultural highlights of the Midwest including biographical and bibliographical information for 120 Midwestern authors and nine topical bibliographies.

35.) Literature of the Louisiana Territory, by Alexander DeMenil; MERC St. Louis Imprints Z489 D39TJ PS275 .D4 This survey, prepared for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, 1904, includes a list of Missouri authors (many of whom were St. Louisans), a listing of the first printed books by city, a listing of French authors and their work, as well as selections from many authors' works.

36.) Literature of the Middle Western Frontier, by Ralph L. Rusk, 2 vols: MERC ZY89 R89TJ PS273.R8 1975. Published originally in 1925, this critical bibliography remains the standard survey of frontier literature in its many forms: fiction, poetry, drama, newspapers & magazines; travel literature; and controversial writings. Consult the index for St. Louis references. Includes a chronology of dramatic companies' performances for five frontier cities including St. Louis (1818-1840).

Rev. 10/2000