Signature Events

Since 1835, The Mercantile Library has continuously sought out dynamic lecturers and speakers, experts on a wide array of subjects—politics, art, literature, science, religion, music and more. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Rabbi Isaac Wise, John Updike, David Halberstam, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, Robert Caro, David Brooks, Michelle Alexander, Julia Child, Sandra Cisneros, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Claudia Rankine are just some of the lecturers hosted by the Mercantile.

In 2018 we hosted Molly Wellmann, Steve Earle, Susan Orlean, Melissa Clark, Colson Whitehead, Liza Mundy, Jerald Cooper, Luc Sante, and Jennifer Egan.

The Library’s Signature Events are annual lectures, each around a recurring theme. Free admission to Signature Events for Mercantile Library members is made possible by The George and Margaret McLane Foundation.

Annual Meeting & History Lecture

This history lecture, delivered at the Annual Meeting, highlights an aspect of local and regional history.

Words & Music

Words & Music explores the process of songwriting and its parallels to literature.


New for 2019, the Memoir Lecture broadens the scope of authors and stories heard at the Mercantile. The debut author is Sarah Smarsh.

The 1835 Lecture

This history-focused lecture is held on or around the anniversary of the Mercantile Library, April 18, 1835.

Hearth & Home

Typically held late spring, this lecture takes advantage of the bestselling authors and personalities who write about the art of living, art and culture. Topics include food and wine, interior design, and landscape architecture.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Lecture & Award

Lecture by award-recipient whose work best exemplifies “writing to change the world”. The Stowe Lecture is in June of each year, as close as possible to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s birthdate, June 14. Harriet Beecher Stowe spoke at the Library in 1873.

Science & Technology

The Library has a long history of hosting scientists, explorers, and innovators to deliver lectures. This lecture focuses on those personalities past and present.

The 2035 Lecture

With a nod to forward-thinking young business leaders who founded the Mercantile Library, this annual late summer lecture looks at the future of business, design, technologies, and entrepreneurialism and the ways those shape the global economy.

Albert Pyle Urban Lecture

Inaugurated in 2014 to honor former Library Director Albert Pyle’s two decades of service to the library, this lecture features urban thinkers speaking on issues important to the vitality of cities and beyond.

The Modern Novel Lecture

The Modern Novel Lecture invites novelists who are writing at the top of their form and whose work in literary fiction frequently becomes a part of popular culture.

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