Exploring the collections of the Mercantile Library:

Happy High Holy Days!
Rosh Hashanah begins with the traditional sounding of the ram's horn (shofar). 
St. Louis Globe-Democrat photo, Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library
The High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar have begun and that seems a fitting time to wish everyone of our members the blessings of the coming new year (5781 in the Jewish calendar) after the trials all have endured this year; and, to look back at some of the Mercantile’s historic scenes of Jewish life and culture as it blossomed 200 years ago in frontier St. Louis. One of the earliest records of Jewish settlement in St. Louis is preserved at the Mercantile Library, the Joseph Philipson dry goods ledger of the first decade of the 19th century which documents this first Jewish settler’s crucial work in early St. Louis. Philipson and his family arrived in 1807 and created, as seen through his account book, an outpost of exchange and retail interaction that the city had not previously known in terms of convenience and selection. 
As in any frontier community, what must have that store been like?  Probably the Stix, Baer and Fuller, Famous Barr, and Scruggs, Vandervoort and Barney—the great mid-twentieth century St. Louis department stores—all rolled into one gathering place for trade, news and ideas. The accounts reveal the customers—I found Meriwether Lewis’s liquor bills; books for Frederick Bates;  cutlery and dinner plates for McNair, or Clark, or the Chouteau family.  If one could go back in time, one would have seen everyone pass through the new store’s entryway, and would have heard not just simple cracker barrel conversation, but plans for the next trip up the Missouri, news from the new government; troubles with Great Britain and darkening storm clouds with native American tribes; news of inventions; or who was passing down the river on flatboats. Certainly history and imagination combine in treasured documents like this account book.
Below are other scenes from the Globe-Democrat collection of some of the city’s earliest temples, leaders and Jewish life which came in the vanguard of pioneers like Philipson. The first Jews settled in St. Louis near present day 11th and Carr and quickly enlarged their footprint. The magnificent first Shaare Emeth was a St. Louis landmark at 17th and Pine by the 1870’s. Other views of life and past celebrations and observances at United Hebrew Temple and elsewhere follow.
Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia settled after 1900 in the Carr Street at 11th vicinity of St. Louis. St. Louis Mercantile Library Globe-Democrat Collection
Shaare Emeth’s ornate synagogue at 17th and Pine in old, unpaved St. Louis. St. Louis Mercantile Library Globe-Democrat Collection
Temple Shaare Emeth at mid-century in University City. St. Louis Mercantile Library Globe-Democrat Collection
Blowing of the Shofar at Temple Israel, Sept. 10, 1953. St. Louis Mercantile Library Globe-Democrat Collection
A postwar Veterans Day service, November 12, 1954 at Temple Israel. St. Louis Mercantile Library Globe-Democrat Collection
The first Temple Israel was erected in 1888 at Pine and Leffingwell. St. Louis Mercantile Library Globe-Democrat Collection
Balloons released by young students  from the United Hebrew Temple Religious School celebrating the now nearly 190 years of the oldest Jewish congregation west of the Mississippi. St. Louis Mercantile Library Globe-Democrat Collection
Three year old Shlomo Aharon Landa getting his first haircut during a ceremony at Chiffed Synagogue in University City conducted by his proud father, Rabbi Yosef Landa (August, 28, 1986). St. Louis Mercantile Library Globe-Democrat Collection
Saunders Schultz (1927-2017), Maquette for TRIYUD, sculpture created for Temple Shaare Emeth, Creve Coeur, Missouri. Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum
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