James Erwin Yeatman (August 27, 1818 – July 8, 1901) was a St. Louis banker born in Bedford County, Tennessee and moved to St. Louis in 1842. He was the owner of an iron foundry and founder of the Merchants’ Bank. He also founded the Mercantile Library in 1846, and served as the library’s first president. In the 1850s, Yeatman was inspired by a teacher of the blind named Eli W. Whelan to found the Missouri Institute for the Education of the Blind. In 1853, along with Dr. William Greenleaf Eliot, he founded Washington University in St. Louis.
A patron of art and music, Yeatman founded and became president in 1859 of the St. Louis Philharmonic Society. He then founded a Provident Association to integrate the city’s charities. He made it a policy to investigate people to determine whether they should receive relief.
During the Missouri secession crisis Yeatman and other city leaders met with the mayor and decided that General Nathaniel Lyon was endangering the city and state with his actions at Camp Jackson. They chose Yeatman to send to Washington in order to convince President Lincoln to remove Lyon—a task in which he was unsuccessful. Yeatman was an ardent Unionist. During the Civil War he helped to found and became president of the Western Sanitary Commission. The commission established hospitals around the region and raised money to provide care to wounded soldiers. In 1862, Yeatman again headed to Washington to speak to Lincoln. This time he was advocating the banishment of Rev. Samuel McPheeters of the Pine Street Church in St. Louis for his Southern sympathies. Yeatman was more successful this time as Lincoln upheld McPheeters’s banishment, but cautioned that the U.S. government should not take over and run any churches. After the war, Yeatman served on the first board of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital and of Bellefontaine Cemetery.
Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.
Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.
If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or firstname.lastname@example.org. (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)
Acquisition Note: Source: Gift of James E. Yeatman. Originally laid in E458 Y4 v.2
Preferred Citation:Name of the Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections