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COLLECTION Identifier: bMS 715

Vetter, Herbert. Papers, 1896-2006.

Papers of Unitarian minister Herbert Vetter, relating to his work on the Harvard University Ingersoll Lectures. The papers include biographical material on the lecturers and research on the immortality and the history of the lectures. The papers span 1896-2006.


  • 1896-2006.


There are no restrictions on access to this collection.


4 linear feet (4 boxes)

The first of the Ingersoll Lectures on Human Immortality at Harvard University was given in 1896. The funding for this series of lecturers came from the bequest of the estate of Catherine Haskell Ingersoll in honor of her father, George Goldthwait Ingersoll, an alumnus of Harvard University. From 1896 to 1912 the lectures were published by the Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston and New York. From 1914 to 1935 Harvard University Press published each lecture. Since then, the lectures have been published in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin.

This collection consists of the materials collected by Vetter in order to create a website that would provide information about the Ingersoll Lectures. Currently the website includes the year, title, and name of each lecturer: Vetter intended to include more information about the lectures, but his project did not receive sufficient funding in order to do this.

The bulk of this collection is found in the first series, which is arranged chronologically by year of presentation and contains biographical information on each of the Ingersoll lecturers. Materials in these files include copies of the lecture (when available), pictures and encyclopedia articles on the lecturer, and publications by or about the lecturer. Some of the lecturers described are William James, Kirsopp Lake, Howard Thurman, Paul Tillich, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Marian Wright Edelman, and Jean-Luc Marion. The second series includes research materials on the subject of immortality. These materials include journal, newpaper, magazine and encyclopedia articles, and lists of books on immortality. This series also includes project proposals, progress reports, correspondence with potential publishers, and essays and dissertations written about the history of the Ingersoll Lectures.

Biographical / Historical

Herbert Vetter (1923-) was born in Baltimore, Maryland and married Dorothy Hagquist. They have a daughter and two sons. Vetter attended the Chicago Theological Seminary and also studied at Harvard University. Vetter was ordained Minister at the First Church in Sharon, Massachusetts, and has served as minister of the Unitarian Congregation of Franklin, New Hampshire and the Main Line Unitarian Church of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He returned to Massachusetts to serve as the temporary minister of the First Parish in Milton. After returning to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1967, Vetter became a minister of the First Parish in Cambridge and began the Cambridge Form, the longest running public affairs series broadcast by National Public Radio. For his work with this project, Vetter received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the Meadville Theological School in 1983. For several years, he also served as a member of the United Ministry at Harvard and Radcliffe and as the Director of the Harvard Square Library, which he founded. On August 31, 2011, Vetter concluded his forty-four years of Ministry-at-Large at First Parish in Cambridge. He is the author of Joyful Power (1998) and the editor of several books including: Speak Out Against the New Right (1982); The Heart of God: The Prayers of Rabindranath Tagore (1997); Prayers for Today (2000); Catholic Power vs. American Freedom (2002); and Notable American Unitarians (2005).


Organized into the following series:
  1. Series I. Biographical information on lecturers
  2. Series II. Vetter’s research on immortality and the history of the lectures

Acquisition Information

Gift of Herbert Vetter, 2010.

General note

The number after the slash in each entry in the following list indicates the box number, and the number in parentheses is the folder number.

Processing Information

Processed by Carol Filip, 2011.
Link to catalog
Vetter, Herbert. Papers, 1896-2006: A Finding Aid.
Andover-Harvard Theological Library

Repository Details

Part of the Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School Repository

Special Collections at Andover-Harvard Theological Library preserves and makes accessible primary source materials documenting the history of religion and theology, with particular historical emphasis on American liberal religious traditions. Though the historical strengths of the collections have been in the field of Christianity, other religious traditions are increasingly reflected, in step with Harvard Divinity School's evolving focus on global religious studies.

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