The Kirksville Mercantile College and Writing Institute

200 Block E Washington

Kirksville, MO

Thirteenth Annual Catalogue of the Kirksville Mercantile College and Writing Institute, 1892-93. Kirksville: Journal Printing Co, 1893.


Mr and Mrs William J Smith came to Kirksville, Mo., on July 11, 1880, full of determination.  On the 23rd of July they secured the first scholar in the penmanship department, a young man named George Ballew.  The writing desk was a dry goods box and the seat a trunk.  For this lesson Mr Ballew paid ten cents.  But the immediate results were not only the fruits of this lesson, for the young man recommended his teacher to his friends, and other students were added from time to time, each new student being a self-constituted advertising agent.  The dry goods box gave way to a plain writing table, and the trunk was displaced by chairs and the new teacher was forced to move further down town to a small house.  Here the Kirksville Mercantile College was really begun.  They remained here until April 1st 1881, when they removed to a brick building near the central part of town.  The called their school a Writing Institute and it grew so rapidly that in a few months they entered the largest building they could get and there added a commercial department, employing two additional teachers. 

In March 1882, Smith began the fulfillment of his long cherished plan. He suggested erecting a college building which would be an honor and an ornament to the city.  One hundred memberships were sold and in November 1883 the college was ready for occupation.  It is a three-story brick edifice, 50×80 feet in size and includes departments for plain and ornamental penmanship, book-keeping and actual business, with a capacity sufficient for five hundred students.  The opera hall above, designed for the use of lectures and various entertainments has a seating capacity of six hundred and fifty, and is conveniently arranged for this purpose.

An important step in the history of the College was taken in March 1892 by the incorporation of the Mercantile College Company with a capital stock of $20,000. 

(abstracted from “History” in The Catalogue)

Faculty, 1892-93

G. M. Barrett, Principal

Law, Arithmetic, Bookkeeping

J. M. Mumma

Actual Buisness

J. W. Wright

Shorthand, Typing, Telegraphy

William J. Smith


Genevieve (Curtis) Smith


Etta Curtis

Assistant, Penmanship

Lillian Curtis

Assistant, Shorthand

Students, 1892-93

Faculty & Students
Spring 1893 photo

1:25 & 1:31 – Kirksville Mercantile College Students & Faculty

Kirksville Mercantile College students & faculty are posed on the steps of the school at 210 E Washington (corner Washington & High).  The College was founded in 1881, occupied this building from 1882 till 1894, and closed in 1897. Frank M Harrington purchased the building in 1894 and later remodeled it as the Harrington Theatre (aka The Opera House). GM Barrett, seated center front, was Principal when this photo was taken.

Ladies' Residence
Spring 1893 photo

1:8 – W J Smith House, 210 E Washington

Also known as the Kirksville Mercantile College Ladies’ Residence, the home of President W J Smith was part of the school’s campus.  Mrs Smith oversaw the residents and apparently served meals to all students as well (the sign over the entrance says “Welcome Eaters”).  Helen (Mallett) “Ma” Scott later operated a rooming house for Normal & ASO students in this home.

Student Roster

To view the student roster of the 1892-1893 graduates of the Mercantile College follow the link below.

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