A Guide to Researching St. Louis History | UMSL

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A Guide to Researching St. Louis History

"The first time ever I saw St. Louis I could have bought it for six million dollars, and it was the biggest mistake of my life that I did not do it." - Mark Twain (Life on the Mississippi)

Researching St. Louis history can be a fascinating journey. All you need is a light to steer your research by. While this brief guide cannot illuminate all available resources, it will help you get started. For additional assistance, please stop by or call our reference desk: (314) 516-7247.


  • Encyclopedia of the History of Saint Louis by William Hyde & Howard Conard, 1899. A four-volume set providing concise articles on the citizens, commerce, government, and cultural history of St. Louis. MERC REF & TJ REF: F474.S2 H9
  • History of Saint Louis City and County from the Earliest Periods to the Present Day by J. Thomas Scharf, 2 vols., 1883. Highly detailed history with an emphasis on biographical sketches and institutions. MERC REF & TJ REF F474.S2 S3
  • Lion of the Valley: St. Louis, Missouri, by James Neal Primm, 2nd ed., 1990. The standard history of the city.MERC CIRC& TJ REF:F 474.S257 P75 1990
  • Saint Louis: a Chronological and Documentary History, 1762-1970, by Robert Vexler, 1974. Reproduces the text of some of the city’s important documents and provides a chronology of its most significant events. TJ REF: F474.S2 V49
  • Saint Louis: an Informal History of the City and its People, 1764-1865by Charles Van Ravenswaay, 1991. A detailed, well-illustrated history of the city’s first century. MERC CIRC, TJ, & TJ REF: F474.S275 V36 1991
  • St. Louis, the Fourth City, 1764-1909 by Walter B. Stevens, 3 vols., 1909. Vol. 1 is"a narrative of the rise and progress of St. Louis;" volumes 2 & 3 provide detailed biographical sketches of prominent turn-of-the-century St. Louisans. MERC REF, TJ F474.S2 S846. See also the detailed index to Vol. 1 by Pauline Pfeifer:MERC REF F474 .S2 S846 1960
  • This is Our Saint Louis by Harry M. Hagen, 1970. General history of the city; a useful source for photographs and illustrations.MERC ARCH & TJ REF: F474.S2 H15
  • Discovering African-American St. Louis: a Guide to Historic Sites by John A. Wright, 1994. Concise descriptions of over 300 African-American historic homes, institutions, and places. MERC REF, TJ REF, TJ F474.S29 N4 1994
  • History of St. Louis Neighborhoods by Norbury Wayman, 1978-81. A series of19 booklets on individual St. Louis neighborhoods covering topography, parks, schools, and industries. Cataloged individually, check Merlin for names of neighborhoods covered.
  • Lafayette Square Restoration Committee Records. An extensive collection of photos, clippings, and other documents about this historic Victorian neighborhood.MERC Collection M128
  • St. Louis: Its Neighbors and Neighborhoods by Robert E. Hannon, 1986. Historical sketches of neighborhoods in the city of St. Louis and nearby Missouri and Illinois. MERC NONCIRC, TJ REF F474.S257 S8 1986
  • St. Louis Landmarks and Historic Districts by Carolyn H. Toft, 1988. A look at the best of St. Louis's cultural and historic sites. This author has also written insightful ethnic histories of four St. Louis neighborhoods: Carondelet, the Hill, Soulard, and the Ville.MERC NONCIRC F467.S2 T5 1988
  • Where We Live: a Guide to St. Louis Communities, Tim Fox, ed., 1995. Concise background information on landmark sites, buildings, and thirty St. Louis neighborhoods. Authoritative bibliographies.TJ, TJ REFF474.S23 W48 1995


The Mercantile Library has an extensive collection of 19th and 20th century St. Louis newspapers, including St. Louis Suburban newspapers such as the South Side Journal. Consult staff at the Mercantile Reference Desk for titles and dates. Thomas Jefferson Library has the following newspapers in microfilm on level 5:

  • St. Louis Argus, 1915-45; 1947-82; 1984 - current. AN.S2 A7
  • St. Louis Daily Globe, 1872-1875. AN.S2 G52y
  • St. Louis Daily Times, 1867-1879 (in Mercantile Library)
  • St. Louis Democrat (Daily Missouri Democrat), 1853-1875. AN.S2 G53y
  • St. Louis Globe Democrat, 1875-1986. AN.S2 G54y
  • St. Louis Dispatch, 1874-1877. AN.S2P58y
  • St. Louis Evening Post, 1878. AN.S2P59y
  • St. Louis Post Dispatch, 1878 - current. AN.S2P6
  • St. Louis Weekly Reveille, 1844-1846 (in Mercantile Library)

A complete listing of St. Louis newspapers for different periods is available online from the St. Louis Media History Foundation.  Some Missouri newspapers, including are available on Missouri Digital Heritage, and some St. Louis stories are found in national newspapers available through the Library of Congress' Chronicling America project.

  • Index to St. Louis Newspapers, 1975-1979. TJ REF Index Table AI 21 .S22x Provides subject indexing to Focus/MidwestMetro-East JournalSt. Louis ArgusSt. Louis CommerceSt. Louis Globe-DemocratSt. Louis MagazineSt. Louis Post DispatchSt. Louis Sentinel.
  • Index to the Saint Louis Post Dispatch, 1980 - current. A subject and personal name index to the newspaper. TJ REF Index Table AI 21 .S2B4x Search the newspaper full- text from 1989 - current on T.J. Library's Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe database. PostNet, the official website of the Post Dispatch, provides searchable, full-text indexing to its articles from 1988 - current; however, there is a charge for viewing actual article: St. Louis Post Dispatch Archives
  • Saint Louis Globe-Democrat Archives. A unique and valuable research tool on the people and history of St. Louis. Includes many thousands of clippings and photographs arranged by personal name, company, or topic beginning about 1920 and ending with the newspaper’s closing in 1986. Ask at MERC Reference Desk


  • Pictorial Saint Louis – 1875 by Camille N. Dry, 1971 reprint. Detailed views of St. Louis including streets, buildings and other physical features. Also provides brief descriptions of businesses and institutions of 1875. TJ FOLIO, MERC REF G4164 .S4 1875 D7x. High resolution images of the individual plates are also available from the Library of Congress.
  • Saint Louis Illustrated: Nineteenth Century Engravings and Lithographs of a Mississippi River Metropolis by John W. Reps, 1989. Presents over 100 engravings and color lithographs of Saint Louis depicting its growth up to the turn of the century. MERC REF, TJNE954.2 .R47 1989


  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index. A computer-based index to biographical information contained in hundreds of directories and other reference sources. Ask for help with this index at the TJ Reference Desk.
  • The Book of St. Louisans, 1906, rev. 1912. "A biographical dictionary of the leading men of the city of St. Louis" in the early years of this century. MERC St. Louis Imprints E884s B64; TJ REF F474.S2 B69.
  • Death Records from Missouri Newspapers, Vol. 1: 1854-1860; Vol.2: 1861-1865; Vol. 3: 1866-1870. Brief quotations from 20,500 death notices published in over 100 Missouri newspapers.MERC REF F465 .S747 (More Death Records from Missouri Newspapers adds 2900 death notices from newspapers not included in previous volumes along with children's death notices.MERC REF F465 .S77 1985)
  • Death Records of Missouri Men from Newspapers, 1808-1854. Death notices for males aged 12 and older from 61 Missouri newspapers.MERC F465 .W55 1981.
  • Death Records of Pioneer Missouri Women, 1808-1853. Death notices from 51 Missouri newspapers.MERC REF F465 .S7 1984
  • Genealogy in St. Louis (Website) by Dave Lossos. Informative website with links to local, state, and national resources.
  • Old and New St. Louis, by James Cox, 1894. Provides a brief history of the city with biographies of its most prominent citizens, historical and contemporary.MERC REF, TJ REF F474.S2 C87 1894a
  • Old Cemeteries: St. Louis County, Mo. Vols. 2-4, St. Louis Genealogical Society, 1983, 1984, 1987. Lists and indexes burial records by personal name and by cemetery.MERC NONCIRC F472.S3 O43 1983.
  • StLGS Index of St. Louis Marriages, 1804-1876, Vol. 2, St. Louis Genealogical Society, 1973. "An index to official marriage records of the City of St. Louis." MERC NONCIRC F474.S2 S284 1973 v.2.
  • St. Louis & St. Louis County, Mo. Probate Records, Vol 1: 1804-1849; Vol. 2: 1849-1861. A listing of records of probate matters in St. Louis Spanish archives, 1766-1804, estate files and will books. MERC REF F472.S3 S87 1985.
  • St. Louis City Directories. Lists personal and business addresses. 1836-1919 available at MERC REF F474.S2 A18(2); 1920-1961 available at MERC NONCIRC F474.S2 A182.  Some city directories are available online through Washington University, but many more are available in the Mercantile Library reading room.


  • Gateway Heritage, 1980-current. Popular historical publication of the Missouri Historical Society;includes many St. Louis-specific articles. (Index is on order) TJ PER F461 .G25x
  • Missouri Historical Review, 1906-current. Scholarly articles with emphasis on biographical history, many of which are about St. Louis. Indexes issued approximately every 25 years. TJ PER F461 .M59
  • Missouri Historical Society Bulletin, 1944-1979. Scholarly magazine with many St. Louis-related articles.TJ PER F461 .M6226
  • St Louis Magazine. Popular locally-published commercial magazine. 1963-1985: MERC G8845 7S14; 1974-current: TJ PER F474.S2 S295x.


  • Directory of Local Historical, Museum and Genealogical Sources in Missouri, 1998-99, compiled by Ann Rogers & Lisa Auanger, 1998. Addresses, phone numbers, and general descriptions of additional resources: associations, societies, libraries and museums. Arranged by county with name and subject indexes.MERC REF & TJ REF F461.D5x 1998-99
  • A Guide to Resources on the History of Saint Louis by Selwyn K. Troen, 1971. A bibliography of over 2,000 books, articles, and dissertations on St. Louis from 1900–1970 indexed by general subject.TJ REF F474.S2 T695x
  • Saint Louis: an Annotated Bibliography on the City and its Area by Jean E. Meeh Gosebrink, 1991. References over 275 books (most published or re-issued between 1960-1990) on St. Louis history, culture, and society.MERC REF &TJ REF F474.S2 G67 1991

MERLIN Online Card Catalog.

When doing a subject search about Saint Louis on MERLIN, spell out Saint Louis and add Mo. Combine Saint Louis, Mo. with other subject terms to find books of interest, for example:

  • Saint Louis, Mo. – Buildings, Structures;
  • Saint Louis, Mo. – History – Civil War, 1861-1865;
  • Saint Louis, Mo. - Pictorial Works.
  • Some subject headings use the general topic first, followed by the geographical location, eg:
  • Schools - Missouri - St. Louis

Ask for assistance or consult the Library of Congress Subject Headings books for help with specific subject terms.