Exploring the collections of the Mercantile Library:

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day:
A Tribute to Joseph Charless
On this St. Patrick’s Day, the Mercantile Library salutes the Irishman who gave St. Louis its first newspaper and its first printed book-- the legendary printer, Joseph Charless. 
Father and Son; Left: Portrait by an unknown artist of Joseph Charless, Sr., published in the St. Louis Republic 120 years ago; Right: Portrait of Joseph Charless, Jr. by William Cogswell, oil on canvas, 1859. Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum.
The arrival of Irish-American immigrant Charless on the Missouri frontier with his Ramage press signaled the transformation of St. Louis as frontier trading post and charming village of New France, to  a true settled urban area. Charless (1772-1834) had worked in Pennsylvania and later Kentucky before moving on to St. Louis at the beginning of the 19th century, which he correctly surmised was ready for its first bilingual newspaper, the Missouri Gazette. As the region’s first printer, he published the laws of the territory in the first book of law—indeed the first book— printed west of the Mississippi. He also printed the first almanac in the West. He was a supporter of the earliest educational institutions and his eldest son sat on the board of the young Mercantile Library. 
Missouri Gazette, the first newspaper printed in Missouri.
St. Louis Mercantile Library Special Collections.
Missouri's first printed almanac by Charless.
St. Louis Mercantile Library Special Collections.
Laws of the Territory of Louisiana (St. Louis, 1808), the first book printed in St. Louis, in Missouri, and west of the Mississippi, with a manuscript note attached penned by compiler, Edward Bates, stating the importance of the book as that first “bound” in the territory.
St. Louis Mercantile Library Special Collections.
Charless was the bearer of civilization in this part of the world, with paper, ink and type, just as his forbears preserved Western learning on the Emerald Isle for all of Europe in the Dark Ages. His books are on display at the Mercantile starting in April for A Nation, a City, and Its First Library: Americana as a Way of Life at the St. Louis Mercantile Library for 175 Years.
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