SUMMER, 2020

News of the Mercantile Library

Welcome Sara Hodge, Pott Curator

Sara Hodge is the new curator of the Herman T. Pott Inland Waterways Library. She joined us on July 1, 2020 after an extensive search. Previously, Sara worked at the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site in St. Charles, MO where she has been the assistant site administrator since 2018. Sara has also worked at the Missouri Historical Society and on the Soldier’s Memorial Revitalization Project. She has extensive collections management, educational programming and cataloging experience. Sara holds a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Antiquities from Missouri State University. Currently she is working on digitizing our newest acquisitions, developing a virtual school outreach program, and getting acquainted with the various collections that make up the Pott Library. She and her family live in St. Louis and enjoy outdoor recreation, particularly hiking and kayaking.

Sara Hodge, Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways
Library Curator and Special Collections Librarian
What's New in the Galleries 
In preparation for welcoming back visitors to the Library, we have installed new exhibitions in several of our galleries. In the Atrium – Meier Gallery we have Two Great Engravers in Wood & Steel, which showcases the famous election series by Missouri’s preeminent 19th century artist, George Caleb Bingham, along with works in American narrative art by his contemporary American artist, Winslow Homer. These two artists each explored the intricacies of everyday life, from Bingham’s depictions of the actions of individuals participating in the political process to Homer’s views of work, school, vacation, and life on the home front of the Civil War. Displayed in our Level 2 Entrance Gallery is All Aboard! A Look at the American Railroad Timetable. This exhibition features a broad range of timetables from the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library. Although primarily informative, providing detailed schedules by which travelers planned their trips, whether local or coast-to-coast, the timetables are also valued for their artistic merit. From charming 19th century scenic vignettes to modern tour de force graphics, the variety of designs is in itself a tour of the history of American art and design. When not tucked neatly in a jacket pocket or tote bag, the timetables unfolded to reveal a route, a region, or even an entire nation on the lucky traveler’s lap.

In the Level 1 Bates Gallery, Wing 1, is Indiana & Transportation: The Thomas Hoback Collection. The Barriger Railroad Library collections are rich in visual materials that complement and enhance the archival, manuscript, and publication collections. The Thomas Hoback Collection is one such resource, comprising historic large-format photographs of numerous modes of motorized transportation from the state of Indiana, itself a central states transportation hub. In Level 1 Bates Gallery, Wing 2, we have Mapping the Changing Mississippi. According to Mark Twain, writing in Eruption, “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise.” The challenge of the ever-changing river is legend for river boatmen, and the need to accurately map it continues to today. This series of rare, colorful, century-old maps designed by Army Corps of Engineers cartographer Harold Fisk in 1938, document the changing course of the Father of Waters over time, and are a unique printed view of the Mississippi River unlike any other.

Lastly, in the Level 1 Bates Gallery Cases is Rare River Panoramas. The format of the panorama, the 19th century version of moving pictures unrolled from one giant spool to another across torch-lit stages flanked by curtains, was uniquely suited to river scenes, allowing the verdant green shores and the river towns – whether sleepy or burgeoning – to flow past the viewers as if they were actually travelling the river by boat. The panorama format became popular in all sizes, often as fold-outs in travel books. The selection of river panoramas shown here are rarely ever seen treasures from the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library collection.

Also on Display:
Level 1 Fine Art GalleriesSelections from the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum
Level 2 Entrance HallsThe Bruce & Barbara Feldacker Labor Art Collection
Atrium – Shopmaker Print GalleryAbraham Lincoln: The Changing Face of an American President
George Caleb Bingham, The County Election, 1854, Engraving and Mezzotint by John Sartain.
Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Art Museum.
Great Northern Railway Timetable
Collection of the Barriger Railroad Library 
Harold Fisk, Lower Mississippi River
Early Stream Channels
, 1938
Collection of the Pott Waterways Library
The Ever-Growing Digital Library 
When the Library shutdown in March, we were glad to be able to keep staff and student workers busy working from home to upload a backlog of scanned images onto the UMSL Digital Library. The images were from a variety of collections and included paintings and drawings by St. Louis artist Angelo B. M. Corrubia and botanical plates from The North American Sylva by François André Michaux from the Mercantile Library Art Museum. Another major addition was to the Barriger Railroad Library’s gallery of photographs. 
The COVID-19 crisis radically altered how the Mercantile Library performed its work during the Spring and Summer of 2020. The entire staff was sent home and began to work on tasks that could be done from their computers. The Digital Library became one of the few things all staff were able to work on from their home. This allowed staff to upload material that had been scanned but needed further processing before it could be uploaded. The largest collection of this material consisted of photographs from the John W. Barriger III Scrapbooks. Barriger Curator Nick Fry, Aubash Assistant Curator Alyssa Persson and Truman State University Summer Intern Polly Rekittke all worked to upload images from the first two of the over 30 scrapbooks in the collection. More images will be uploaded over time. You can view the current newly added images here
Angelo B. M. Corrubia (1881-1943), Old St. Louis, oil on Masonite, 1935. Gift of Thom Pegg. Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum.
Plate 48, Dogwood (Cornus florida), lithograph after a painting by Pierre-Joseph Redouté.  Anonymous gift. Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum.
Ann Arbor Railroad-Photo 2, 1921
Barriger Collection, St. Louis Mercantile Library
Santa Fe Railroad Tracks, not dated
Barriger Collection, St. Louis Mercantile Library
Behind-the-Scenes Activities at the Mercantile Library
Although the Mercantile staff has been primarily working from home, there were several infrastructure projects happening in the building over the summer that will continue into the fall semester. The largest project involves the weeding and relocating of the TJ Library’s Government Documents collection that was previously housed on Level 1 behind the Mercantile Library and the University Archives office. This area is being renovated as part of a restructuring of Library spaces to maximize storage. The new installation will provide 25,000 linear feet of compact shelving that will accommodate over 100,000 bound books and journals, including some 5,000 linear feet of Mercantile book and serial collections. Shown here is a scene of the area being prepped for the installation of the shelving.

Art collection is part of two behind the scenes projects still underway.  Earlier this year the Mercantile received more than 300 framed works and sculptures as part of the Feldacker Labor Art collection. This influx of artwork required a serious reconsideration of the Mercantile’s art storage options and, thanks to the support of the Dean of Libraries and the TJ Library staff, the Mercantile was allocated a secure space to store this collection. Over the summer work continued on the art conservation activities funded as part of a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. Twelve paintings and one sculpture will be cleaned and conserved under this grant, which also funds photography of selected works of art, new gallery lighting, and a second edition of 160 Years of Art at the St. Louis Mercantile Library: A Handbook to the Collections. This substantially updated edition will be retitled 175 Years of Art and will highlight works added to the collection since the first edition was published in 2007. The new edition will be available in 2021 as part of the celebration of the Library’s 175th anniversary.
Renovation of the former Government Documents area in preparation for installing new compact shelving.
Portrait of Joseph Charless, Jr. is wrapped for transporting to the conservator.
Treasure from the Archives 
by Alyssa Persson
Throughout my first several months as the Aubash Collections Access Fellow, I have encountered many fascinating items within our collection. An item donated by Sherry Moseley which struck me is a beautiful deep purple, velvet autograph book, owned by a young woman known only as Emily. Throughout the 1880s, Emily’s friends and family from as near as Kansas City and as far away as England signed her book. Some wrote short poems; others drew her impressive illustrations. She included a charming miniature Christmas card in the front of the book as well. As I sifted through the pages, I noticed a rather touching theme. In the years that followed her book being filled, Emily had gone back to make note of when each friend had died. I felt as though I had been given a glimpse into an incredibly personal memorial, even though little is known about Emily and her life. To Emily, this autograph book was a lifelong treasure commemorating love and friendship. 
An inside illustration
Union Pacific Grant - Preserving Missouri’s Railroad Heritage
In July, the Union Pacific Foundation awarded the Library a $10,000 grant to support the library’s digitization efforts. This year, being Missouri’s Bicentennial year and the lead up to the Mercantile Library’s 175th Anniversary, the Barriger Library will be focusing its digitization efforts on Missouri’s railroad heritage. The Mercantile’s space on the Missouri Digital Library already is a significant collection of Missouri railroad materials, and this project will continue to add more material to this collection to help celebrate the history of railroads in Missouri and their role in the development of the state. We are grateful to the Union Pacific Foundation and the Union Pacific Corporation for their continued support of the library and for their support of this project to celebrate the history of Missouri.
nota bene: The Mercantile Library is tremendously grateful to all of our donors this past spring and summer, including major contributions from the Herman T. and Phenie R. Pott Foundation, support for collection preservation from the Berry Foundation, as well as continued support for the Oliver M. Langenberg Reference Curatorship by the Pershing Trust. The Mercantile also thanks all of its members and supporters for their continuous generosity as we grow through the adversity which current events of the pandemic have caused. 
The Legacy of Ruth Ferris, River Historian

Anyone who studies river history knows the name of Ruth Ferris. During her 35 years at the Community School, first as a teacher and then as assistant principal, Ruth built her curriculum around her love of the river, utilizing her ever-growing collection of river artifacts and manuscripts. Her collection of over 10,000 photographs, 300 books, numerous artifacts, manuscripts, prints, and ephemera is the core and foundation of the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library. The scope and magnitude of the collection is all the more remarkable when one considers the cultural, curatorial, and collecting ceilings Ruth broke as a young woman who built trust with the very male-dominated river community as she interviewed captains, photographed deck hands, and collected troves of archives intended for the education and enjoyment of St. Louis children.

When the Missouri History Museum was planning their Mighty Mississippi exhibition that is on view now through June, 2021, it was natural for the Mercantile to collaborate with them by providing artifact loans and research support. Because of the importance of the Ferris Collection and Ruth’s lifelong dedication to children’s education, we suggested a children’s book about her and the river. The outcome was the forthcoming book Ruth’s River Dreams written by Elizabeth Pickard and published by the Missouri Historical Society. This charming children’s book uses illustrations from Ruth Ferris’ letters and manuscripts in the Pott collection to illustrate a story about her life-long interest in the river. The book will be available September 1 through the Missouri History Museum gift shop. The Mercantile and Pott Library staff are continuing Ruth’s educational mission with new river-themed curricula for K-12 schools prepared to launch, appropriately, with this book honoring Ruth’s history. How proud Ruth Ferris would be to see these exciting projects reconnecting St. Louis children with the American rivers she so dearly loved.
Ruth Ferris with steamboat model
Ruth's River Dreams by Elizabeth A. Pickard
Missouri Historical Society
Inner bookplates
The Mercantile Library Reopens!
We’re back! The UMSL Thomas Jefferson Library Building and St. Louis Mercantile Library reopened on August 17, 2020. In order to help protect patrons and staff, the library is going to be operating a bit differently than it was before. 
  • First, we’re all going to be practicing safe physical distancing procedures. Everyone should do their best to maintain six feet of space between each other when possible. We’ve already set up our reading and study tables to help with that.
  • Additionally, the Thomas Jefferson Library Building, along with the rest of the buildings at UMSL are operating under an occupancy restriction of 25% of each building’s capacity. 
  • Our staff and patrons are also being asked to wear face masks inside the building. 
  • When you enter the library and when you enter the St. Louis Mercantile Library, you will see many helpful directional and informative signs to help prevent any confusion.
  • We encourage you to wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds. We also have many hand sanitizer stations located around the library for your use.
  • And finally, the St. Louis Mercantile Library and the UMSL Library staff encourage our patrons to utilize our interlibrary loan, distance reference services via phone and email and Digital Library services when requesting material for use. Appointments are highly encouraged if you need to view library material in person.
You can view our collection guides and contact us here:

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