The Merrill J. Mattes Research Library is a public research library focused on the Overland Trails and the acquisition and settlement of the American West. The collection houses over 3,000 volumes, many of them rare books of Western Americana.
Creation: The collection was begun in 1991 by the late Merrill J. Mattes, co-founder of the Oregon California Trails Association, with the generous donation of his personal library. That original nucleus of 1,350 volumes reflected Mattes’ many years as an award-winning National Park Service historian. It also included work of his authorship, The Platte River Road, and The Platte River Road Narratives. The National Frontier Trails Museum, funded by the City of Independence, has since purchased over 1,200 additional books for the collection.
Holdings: In addition to books, the library houses a large collection of maps, periodicals, photographs, drawings, microfilm, and over fifty cubic feet of manuscripts.
Scope: The scope of the collection covers nearly every subject imaginable in the American West, from Lewis and Clark to the transcontinental railroad. Geographically, the library ranges from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean and covers the years of approximately 1800-1880. The major focus, however, is on the Oregon, California and Santa Fe Trails. To this end the collection includes over 2,300 trail diaries, letters and recollections, including several original diaries and letters.
Policies: While anyone is welcome to use the library free of charge, the books and other materials may not be borrowed because they are for research purposes. Researchers are given a copy of the research policy to read and sign before using the collections.
Hours: The Library is available Monday-Friday by appointment only. For more information please contact the museum at 816-325-7575.