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414 Walnut St. 11th Story
Cincinnati, OH 45202

(513) 621 - 0717

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A Gathering Place for Readers & Writers Since 1835.

Since 1835, The Mercantile Library has collected books and continuously sought out dynamic lecturers and experts on a wide array of subjects — politics, art, literature, science, religion, and more.

This is a library built out of necessity. At the time of our founding — before the creation of public libraries — access to books was limited to people of considerable wealth. Nearly all the books were in university libraries and in big mansions. Because people were desperate to learn, membership libraries were founded in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and all along the Eastern seaboard. And here in Cincinnati.

Emerson 4.11.18772
60s mercantile logo

Our founders were merchants and traders and shopkeepers — smart and scrappy but lacking formal educations. They were 45 young men who were desperate to learn and wanted to "democratize knowledge." Forming this library seemed like the only reasonable option to get the job done. So they did it. Yes, they had moxie.

They rented rooms, bought books, and subscribed to newspapers & magazines from all over the world. Self-improvement was one of their goals (fiction wasn't allowed in the collection until 1872), but they also wanted a place to discuss books, business, and politics. They were early adopters of technology and business practices. All the while knowing they'd be better together.

Cincinnati's Chamber of Commerce was born here in 1839. The first telegraph machine in the city was in the Mercantile Library. Oldest consistent landline number? Ours.

Everything we do today is still informed by our founders' ideals.

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