Missouri Penitentiary Library, Jefferson City, Missouri

Early 1900’s Missouri Penitentiary Library Card

Early 1900’s Missouri Penitentiary Library Card (front)
Early 1900’s Missouri Penitentiary Library Card (back)

Missouri Penitentiary Library

Missouri Penitentiary, Jefferson City, Missouri (Public Domain, Pre-1923 postcard)

Called the “Bloodiest 47 acres in America,” the Missouri Penitentiary in Jefferson City opened in 1836.  It was Missouri’s primary maximum security prison and the oldest operating penal facility west of the Mississippi River when it closed in 2004.  

Inmate mugshot, Thomas J. Barker (Inmate Photograph Collection, Missouri State Archives, no known copyright restrictions)

Library Rules

  1. Write on Library Card at least twenty numbers precisely as they appear in catalogue.  For example:  4-25, 29-30, 37-9, 54-5 denotes that there are several copies of the same book in library.
  2. In moving, each man must take all books charged to him to new cell. 
  3. Each cell will be furnished with a catalogue.
  4. Each man will be charged and held responsible for all books received.  Changing books from cell to cell is forbidden.
  5. Each man is entitled to one book each week
  6. The librarians will note any injury done to books and report the same at once to the chaplain.  The man to whom the book is charged will be held responsible.
  7. Books will be changed once each week, as follows:





  1. Mechanical and special books from No. 5816 to No. 5950 are issued to those only whose positions in the institution make it necessary.
  2. Reference books from No. 5951 to No. 6083 do not go out of library except by special permission.
  3. Each man will be furnished with a Bible and such school supplies as may be necessary on application.
  4. The library is under the control of the Chaplain.

W. R. Painter

From the 1917 Mexico Weekly Ledger, Mexico, MO

William Rock Painter (1874-1947) served as Prison Chaplain and Librarian from 1901 to 1908.  He served as Missouri State Lieutenant-Governor from 1913 to 1917, and Interim Warden of the penitentiary in 1917.  As Warden, he advocated education to combat illiteracy and abolished “silent meals” in the cafeteria, believing that silent meals should only be used as punishment and not a rule of behavior for inmates.  Painter went on to become a leader in the Democratic Party in the Missouri State Senate serving from 1917 to 1929.

Hugh Stephens

Hugh Stephens (1877-1960) was an American businessman, heir to the Tribune Printing Company and publisher of the Daily Tribune. His wife, Bessie Miller Stephens, along with members of the Tuesday Club, a literary club founded in 1895, helped establish a subscription library in Jefferson City, and later, with the help of a grant from the Andrew Carnegie fund, a free library.

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