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COLLECTION Identifier: ABC 1-91

American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions archives

Overview

Records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, including personal papers and photographs of individuals and organizations associated with it.

Dates

  • 1810-1961

Conditions Governing Access

A portion of this collection is shelved offsite. Retrieval requires advance notice. Check with Houghton Public Services staff.

Conditions Governing Access

Series ABC 16 is closed for processing.

Portions of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions archives will be temporarily closed to researchers starting on September 18th, 2023. Finding aids will be updated as possible. Please contact Houghton_Library@harvard.edu with questions regarding access to these materials.

The microfilmed portions of the collection will continue to be available to view in Lamont Library.



Parts of this collection to which access is restricted are: (1) manuscripts, correspondence and other materials of the last forty years; and (2) some materials specifically marked "Restricted". Since the ABCFM came to an end as a separate body in 1961, it is broadly the case (since June 2001) that the forty-year rule no longer affects the present collection. However, there are some items that contain material after this date and to which the rule applies. Where only parts (e.g. single folders) within an item are affected, it is only these parts that are restricted. Items specifically "Restricted" include the minutes of the Prudential Committee (ABC 80.1). Restricted items may be examined only with the written permission of the Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries.

For parts of the collection that are on microfilm (for which see below), permission of the Curator of Manuscripts is required to consult the original documents.

Certain parts of this collection, noted in this finding aid as at Harvard Depository , are housed offsite. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff about retrieval policies and times.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to quote from the ABCFM archives for publication should be requested from both the Curator, Houghton Library (as for other manuscript materials), and the Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries.

Images linked to this finding aid are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.

Extent

1261 linear feet

The bulk of this massive collection consists of letters written by secretaries of the Board to its missionaries and others, and letters received by the Board, largely from missionaries in the field. Also included are records of organizations associated with the Board and miscellaneous manuscripts, largely personal papers and photographs of individuals connected with the Board.

Biographical / Historical

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was founded in 1810, the first organized missionary society in the United States. By the time of its centenary in 1910, the Board was responsible for 102 mission stations and a missionary staff of 600 in India, Ceylon, West Central Africa (Angola), South Africa and Rhodesia, Asiatic and European Turkey, four different regions in China, Japan, Micronesia, the Philippines, and the "Papal lands" of Mexico, Spain and Austria. Missions to American Indians had come and gone; likewise a mission to Hawaii, where the church had achieved independence from the Board.

The Board's archives have an importance transcending ecclesiastical or missionary concerns. In particular, the voluminous letters of the missionaries from the field (amounting to 1500 sheets per year already in 1838) are often fundamental sources for the history of the various places where the Board operated. The ABCFM began as an inter-denominational society, including Presbyterian and Reformed churches, besides its core of Congregationalists. After some secessions due to the slavery issue and the formation by the Presbyterian Church of its own foreign mission board, the ABCFM was left as a Congregationalist body after 1870.

Woman's Boards of Missions were organized in association with the ABCFM in 1868 to promote work with women in the mission field. These continued as separate organizations until 1936. The ABCFM incorporated the Foreign Department of the Christian Church following the merger with that denomination in 1930. In 1957, the Congregational Christian Churches merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ (UCC). On 29 June 1961 the ABCFM was formally concluded, becoming part of the United Church Board for World Ministries (UCBWM), an instrumentality of the new denomination. On 1 July 2000, the UCBWM became Wider Church Ministries, one of the four covenanted ministries of the UCC.

Arrangement

Arranged into the following series:

  1. ABC 1: Letters to domestic correspondents
  2. ABC 1.3: Letters to missionaries to the Indians
  3. ABC 1.5: Miscellaneous
  4. ABC 2: Letters to foreign correspondents
  5. ABC 3: Foreign Department
  6. ABC 4: Home Department
  7. ABC 5: Editorial Department
  8. ABC 6: Candidate Department
  9. ABC 7: Letters to agencies
  10. ABC 8: Miscellaneous
  11. ABC 9: Woman's Board
  12. ___ABC 9.1 - ABC 9.10: Woman's Board papers
  13. ___ABC 9.5.1: Woman's Board of Missions: Supplementary papers and correspondence, 1873-1947
  14. ABC 10: Letters received from domestic correspondents
  15. ABC 11: Letters from Officers of the Board
  16. ___ABC 11.1 - 11.7: Letters from Officers of the Board
  17. ___ABC 11.8: Alford Carleton official papers
  18. ABC 12: Letters from agencies
  19. ABC 13: Letters from government officials
  20. ABC 14: Miscellaneous foreign letters
  21. ABC 15: Letters from missionaries to Africa
  22. ABC 16: Missions to Asia
  23. ___ACB 16.1 India
  24. ___ABC 16.3: Missions to China
  25. ___ABC 16.4: Mission to Japan
  26. ___ABC 16.5: Miscellaneous papers relating to the Near East missions
  27. ___ABC 16.6: Mission to the Jews
  28. ___ABC 16.7: Mission to the Armenians
  29. ___ABC 16.8: Syrian, Assyrian, and Nestorian missions
  30. ___ABC 16.9: Mission to Turkey
  31. ___ABC 16.10: Near East Mission: archives from mission stations
  32. ABC 17: Missions to Europe
  33. ABC 18: Missions on the American continents
  34. ___ABC 18.1-18.2.2: Missions to South America and Mexico
  35. ___ABC 18.3-18.8: Missions to the North American Indians
  36. ABC 19: Missions to Islands of the Pacific
  37. ABC 21-29: Auxiliary Missionary Societies
  38. ABC 30- 74: Miscellaneous mostly personal papers
  39. ABC 75: Woman's Board of Missions of the Interior
  40. ABC 76: Personal papers
  41. ABC 77: Biographical collection
  42. ___ABC 77.1: Collective and individual biography
  43. ___ABC 77.2 - 77.8: Papers concerning missionaries
  44. ABC 78: Picture collection
  45. ___ABC 78.1: Picture collections: Individuals
  46. ___ABC 78.2: Picture collection: Missions
  47. ___ABC 78.3: Oversize pictures and documents
  48. ___ABC 78.4: Additional photograph albums
  49. ___ABC 78.5: Miscellaneous additional photographs
  50. ABC 79: Map and plan collection
  51. ABC 80: Papers of the Prudential Committee
  52. ABC 81: Minutes and reports of other committees and subcommittees
  53. ABC 82: Newspaper clippings
  54. ABC 83: Other special collections
  55. ABC 84: Annual meeting papers
  56. ABC 85: Additional files from the offices of the Board
  57. ABC 86: Congregational Christian Service Committee
  58. ABC 87: Christian Church, Foreign Department
  59. ABC 88: Histories of the Board and individual missions
  60. ABC 89: Data from ABCFM archives
  61. ABC 90: Records of the collection
  62. ABC 91: Printed publications of the Board

Note that for some items that are bound volumes, there is a number in square brackets at the end of the description in this finding aid . This is a number on the spine of the volume, following an old scheme of classification in the ABCFM's own library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by Wider Church Ministries,700 Prospect AvenueCleveland, OH 44115-1100Phone: 216 736-3200Fax: 216 736-3203. Wider Church Ministries is a ministry of the United Church of Christ and successor of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM).

The main body of the present collection was received on deposit from the ABCFM in 1944. Additions were made to it occasionally until 1958. From 1958 to 1966 there were more systematic deposits, known as New Series 1-6 (labeled [NS1], [NS2], etc., occasionally in this finding aid). Additions to the archive after 1966 have Houghton accession numbers also shown in this finding aid (e.g. [*69M-159] in 1969). The last official deposit was in 1995, but additions from other sources are ongoing.

Existence and Location of Copies

Research Publications Ltd. (now Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group) filmed a considerable part of the collection in the early 1980s, their target being the correspondence to and from the field before 1919. For the contents of the 858 rolls of film, download the reel listing , or see the printed edition Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions: Guide to the microfilm collection (1994), shelved in the Houghton Reading Room. A set of the microfilm is in Lamont Library, call number Film A467 (see HOLLIS record 1113915 ). Some parts of the ABCFM archives have also been microfilmed by interested historical societies and libraries in the countries where the ABCFM operated in early times.

Existence and Location of Copies

Research Publications Ltd. (now Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group) filmed a considerable part of the collection in the early 1980s, their focus being the correspondence to and from the field before 1919. For the contents of the 858 rolls of film, download the reel listing, or see the printed edition Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions: Guide to the microfilm collection (1994), shelved in the Houghton Library Reading Room. A set of the microfilm is in Lamont Library, call number Film A467 (see HOLLIS record 1113915 ). Some parts of the ABCFM archive have also been microfilmed by interested historical societies and libraries in the countries where the ABCFM operated.

Related Materials

It should be noted that as of April 2012, The American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT) became custodian of the library and archives of the Amerikan Bord Heyeti, historical descendent of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions' administrative agency in Turkey. The library resources are located at ARIT's Istanbul Center (in Arnavutköy) and may be consulted by scholars. The archives, are stored offsite and closed to researchers as of this note (September 2012). It is expected that some materials will begin to be provided online this year by ARIT.

Processing Information

Processed by: J. F. Coakley. Rehousing and updates by Betts Coup, 2023-.

Processing Information

This finding aid was revised in December 2023 to address outdated and harmful descriptive language. During that revision, contextualizing processing notes were added to the description of one item. For more information on reparative archival description at Harvard, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.

Title
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions archives, 1810-1961: Guide.
Author
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description
eng
EAD ID
hou01467

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

Contact:
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Harvard University
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(617) 495-2440