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COLLECTION Identifier: bMS 496

Eliot, Samuel A. (Samuel Atkins), 1862-1950. American Unitarian Association Presidential Papers, 1920-1927.


Papers relating to Unitarian minister Samuel Atkins Eliot's tenure as president of the American Unitarian Association.


  • 1920-1927.


70 boxes

Dr. Samuel Atkins Eliot was the president of the American Unitarian Association from 1900 to 1927. During this long term as president, Eliot corresponded with Unitarian ministers from many parts of the country, as well as with many other people. Therefore, this collection is a rich resource of information concerning many Unitarian congregations. Considerable water damage affected the collection while it was stored in the basement of 25 Beacon Street and about 25 percent of the collection was destroyed. In the file of the churches by states, for example, there are entire sections missing. There is also evidence that at some time during his administration, Dr. Eliot or his secretary disposed of much of the correspondence. Most of the extant material is from 1910 until 1927, and there is very little material from the period of 1900 until 1910.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Atkins Eliot (1862-1950) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard College in 1884 and Harvard Divinity School in 1889. He served Unitarian parishes in Denver, Colorado, the Church of the Saviour in Brooklyn, New York, and the Arlington Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts. While in Denver he founded the Rocky Mountain Conference of the American Unitarian Association (AUA). In 1898 he became the secretary of the AUA, the executive of the association at that time. In 1900 the AUA made a shift in leadership and designated its executive officer as the president, a position held by Eliot until 1927. In 1925 he led a merger between the AUA and the National Conference of Churches that became the modern AUA. Eliot was the son of President Charles W. Eliot of Harvard University. His biography has been written by his brother-in-law, Dr. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, titled Pilot of a Liberal Faith: Samuel Atkins Eliot, 1862-1950; Skinner House book by Beacon Press, 1976, Boston.


  1. Series I. Individual Correspondence
  2. Series II. Correspondence With Churches (arranged by state)
  3. Series III. International Correspondence
  4. Series IV. American Unitarian Association, General
  5. Series V. Field Secretary Reports
  6. Series VI. Unitarian Organizations
  7. Series VII. Schools and Colleges
  8. Series VIII. SAE Papers Addenda

Related Materials

For related collections, please see bMS 135, bMS 594, and bMS 11183.

Eliot, Samuel A. (Samuel Atkins), 1862-1950. American Unitarian Association Presidential Papers: A Finding Aid.
Andover-Harvard Theological Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Divinity School Library, Harvard University Repository

Special Collections at Harvard Divinity School 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. Known as Andover-Harvard Theological Library since 1911, it was renamed the Harvard Divinity School Library in 2021.

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