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, 50x80 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,

Law, Arithmetic,
J M Mumma
Actual Business
J W Wright
William J Smith
(Curtis) Smith

Etta Curtis
Lillian Curtis

Students, 1892-93

Faculty & Students
pring 1893 photo
Student Roster Ladies' Residence
pring 1893 photo


Historical Postscript

By 1895, the College had lost enrollment and was in danger of closing.  A number of Kirksville citizens purchased enough $50 scholarships to allow Smith to meet his financial obligations and honor all scholarships for that year.  He was, however, forced to close permanently in 1897.  The building was sold to Francis M Harrington who operated it as “Smith Opera House” for a couple of years then remodeled and reopened as the “Harrington Theatre” in 1900.

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