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COLLECTION Identifier: HUG 1235

Papers of Phillips Brooks


Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) was a prominent Episcopal minister. He was a member of the Harvard College Board of Overseers (1870-1889), preacher to Harvard University (1881-1891), and a member of the Board of University Preachers to Harvard University (1886-1891).


  • 1877-1922, 1941.

Conditions on Use and Access

Permission of the Harvard University Archives is required for access to the Papers of Phillips Brooks. Please see the reference staff for further details.


2 cubic feet (5 document boxes, 1 flat file box)

The Papers of Phillips Brooks document his religious activities and include biographical materials, photographs, correspondence, and sermons. The bulk of the collection consists of critical commentaries about Brooks's life and his contributions to religious thought in the 19th century. These papers contain little Brooks correspondence or sermons.


Phillips Brooks was a prominent Episcopal clergyman. He was rector of Trinity Church, Boston (1868-1893), Bishop of Massachusetts (1891-1893), and had a long association with Harvard University.

Brooks was born on December 13, 1835 in Boston, Massachusetts to William Gray Brooks and Mary A. (Phillips) Brooks. Brooks was the second of six sons, four of whom entered the ministry. Brooks's family had settled in New England in the 1630s and had taken an active interest in the religious and educational interests of Massachusetts. Both sides of Brooks's family had produced Puritan clergymen. He was baptized in the First Church of Boston but at his mother's urging the Brooks's family became identified with the St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

After graduating from the Boston Latin School (1850), Brooks was admitted to Harvard College in 1851 at the age of sixteen. He excelled in languages, logic, and philosophy, graduating 13th out of a class of 66 in 1855. Brooks immediately accepted a post at the Boston Latin School in 1856 but soon became disenchanted with teaching and left after only six months. Urged by his former teachers at Harvard to enter the ministry, Brooks enrolled in the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. Here he discovered his spiritual passion and a need to convey to others the life, spirit, and power of Jesus Christ.

Brooks began his religious ministry in Philadelphia in 1859 as a deacon for the Church of the Advent. He was an impressive preacher and his sermons and writings were noted for their power of thought and poetic expression. In 1862 Brooks became the rector for the Church of the Holy Trinity, again in Philadelphia. Here he voiced his support for the Union cause during the Civil War and his sermon in 1865 in honor of the martyred Abraham Lincoln attracted wide attention. Shortly after, Brooks was invited to present a prayer at Harvard University's commencement exercises in honor of those Harvard community members who had fought in the war. Brooks's presentation impressed the Harvard audience and further cemented his reputation as a prominent preacher. Growing in stature, Brooks returned to Boston in 1869 as rector of Trinity Church. There he was to remain for the next twenty-five years.

Brooks was a prominent member of the Broad Church Movement in the Episcopal Church. His sermons, poetic rather than analytical, promised a full and joyous life to those who accepted Jesus Christ. Moreover, Brooks hoped to make the Christian faith relevant to the changing conditions of the modern world. His Trinity Church sermons attracted large audiences and were noted for their evangelical spirit. People flocked to hear Brooks speak and he lectured around the country. His sermons Lectures on Preaching (Yale Divinity School, 1877) and The Influence of Jesus (Philadelphia, 1879) were well received. In 1880, Brooks became the first American to preach at Westminster Abbey and to the Queen of England at the Royal Chapel at Windsor. In 1890, he gave a series of sermons during the Lenten season in the Trinity Church of New York. Brooks saw religion as a part of the natural life of humans and he inspired men and women to apply the moral principles that he sermonized about in his preaching to their own lives. At the height of his influence in 1891, Brooks was elected Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Massachusetts. He held this post until his death two years later.

Alongside his religious activities, Brooks continued his relationship with the Harvard community. As a member of the Board of Overseers (1870-1891), Brooks supported the establishment of volunteer religious worship on campus, simplified school regulations, and acted as a councilor and mentor to many members of the student body. He served as an Episcopal preacher to Harvard University (1881-1891) and was a member of the Board of University Preachers (1886-1891). Every three weeks in the early spring and autumn, Brooks would deliver prayers in the morning and on Sunday evenings.

Phillips Brooks died in Boston on January 23, 1893.


Phillips Brooks was considered the most outstanding American preacher of Harvard's Victorian Age. An imposing figure at 6 feet four inches and 300 pounds, Brooks was recognized for his clear thinking, energetic presentations, and for the sincerity of his convictions. His compelling sermons were described as full of humanity, broad, tender, and helpful to those seeking religious direction.

On the day of his funeral, thousands of people flocked to Trinity Church to pay their last respects to Brooks, the Boston Stock Exchange and Boston shops closed in the morning, and the City of Boston held a special memorial service in his honor. In the following weeks, sermons of commemoration were given around the country and in England.

The ensuing years saw several more honors bestowed upon Phillips Brooks. In 1900, the Harvard community opened the Phillips Brooks House, named in honor of their departed preacher, dedicated to piety, charity, and hospitality. A wooden pulpit inscribed with his name was placed in Memorial Church. In later years, a bronze statue was erected near Trinity Church in Boston, a memorial window was placed in Saint Margaret's Church in Westminster, England, and in 1905 a tablet in memory of Brooks was given to the Virginia Theological Seminary. Finally, in January 1961, almost 70 years after his death, Brooks passing was recognized and mourned by 20,000 people outside of Trinity Church.

Brooks easily wrote verse and may best be remembered as the author of the Christmas carol (1868), O Little Town of Bethlehem, written after a trip to the Holy Land, and held by his church in perpetual possession.

Series in the Collection

  1. Biographical Materials
  2. Photographs
  3. Correspondence
  4. Sermons

Obsolete Call Numbers

The following list provides a map to old call numbers that were eradicated by the archivist during the 2004 consolidation. All the papers of Phillips Brooks now fall under the single call number HUG 1235.

  1. HUG 1235 General Folder: moved to Biographical and Correspondence series.
  2. HUG 1235.1 Manuscripts: moved to Biographical and Correspondence series.
  3. HUG 1235.2 Letter from Phillips Brooks to Peabody: moved to Correspondence series.
  4. HUG 1235.3 Letter from Phillips Brooks to Advertiser: moved to Correspondence series.
  5. HUG 1235.4 Life and Letters of Phillips Brooks: moved to Biographical series.
  6. HUG 1235.4.5 Phillips Brooks: moved to Biographical series.
  7. HUG 1235.5 Phillips Brooks Memorial Number: moved to Biographical series.
  8. HUG 1235.9 Broadside: moved to Sermons series.
  9. HUG 1235.14f Congregationalist and World: moved to Biographical series.
  10. HUG 1235.19 Life, Labors, influence of Phillips Brooks: moved to Biographical series.
  11. HUG 1235.25 Phillips Brooks: moved to Biographical series.
  12. HUG 1235.28 Phillips Brooks and the Yale Divinity School: moved to Biographical series.
  13. HUG 1235.48 Phillips Brooks: moved to Biographical series.
  14. HUG 1235.53 Phillips Brooks as a Harvard student: moved to Biographical series.
  15. HUG 1235.54 Phillips Brooks Memorial Tablet Committee: moved to Biographical series.
  16. HUG 1235.59 Phillips Brooks: the preacher and the man: moved to Biographical series.
  17. HUG 1235.60 The Child and the Bishop: moved to Biographical series.
  18. HUG 1235.68 Address at service in memory of Phillips Brooks: moved to Biographical series.
  19. HUG 1235.69 Petitions and resolutions: moved to Correspondence series.
  20. HUG 1235.70p Photographs: moved to Photographs series.
  21. HUG 1235.79 School of Expression: moved to Biographical series.
  22. HUG 1235.80 Service in loving memory of Phillips Brooks: moved to Biographical series.
  23. HUG 1235.80.2 Memorial sermons on Phillips Brooks: moved to Biographical series.
  24. HUG 1235.81 Sermon: moved to Biographical series.
  25. HUG 1235.89 United service of the churches of Boston: moved to Biographical series.
  26. HUG 1235.92 Phillips Brooks: moved to Biographical series.

Acquisition Information

  1. Accession number: 08301; 1978 January 25.
  2. Accession number: 11436; 1988 June 30.
  3. Accession number: 14715; 2002 December 19.
  4. 1893 Phillips Brooks, from Sohier Fund.
  5. 1893 Life, Labors, influence of Phillips Brooks, from by Lucy Osgood Fund.
  6. 1893 Service in loving memory of the late Phillips Brooks, from Walker Fund.
  7. 1894 United service of the churches of Boston, in memory of Phillips Brooks, given by C.W. Eliot.
  8. 1900 Life and Letters of Phillips Brooks, given by A.V.G. Allen.
  9. 1903 Phillips Brooks, donated by W. Lawrence.
  10. 1905 Phillips Brooks Memorial Tablet Committee, gift of Walter S. Hertzog.
  11. 1941 Manuscripts, sent by J.D. Greene.
  12. 1942 Phillips Brooks Memorial Number, donated by Phillips Brooks House.
  13. 1943 Letter from Brooks to Professor Peabody, donated by Phillips Brooks House.
  14. 1943 Broadside regarding Phillips Brooks, donated by Phillips Brooks House.
  15. 1943 Petitions and resolutions, donated by Phillips Brooks House.
  16. 1943 Photographs of Phillips Brooks homestead and residence at Trinity Church.

Related Material

  1. The Houghton Library also holds complementary collections of papers of Phillips Brooks that include the correspondence and sermons that are lacking in this collection.
  2. Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about Phillips Brooks.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 November 9.


  1. Hall, Kay Peterson. Phillips Brooks: Brief Life of a Boston Minister, 1835-1893. Harvard Magazine (May-June, 1996) : 52.
  2. Harp, Gillis J. The Young Phillips Brooks: a reassessment. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 49, no. 4 (1998) : 652-667.
  3. Phillips Brooks. Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936. The Gale Group, 2004. Biography Resource Center. 28 May 2004.
  4. Phillips Brooks. Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition. Gale Research 1998. The Gale Group, 2004. Biography Resource Center. 28 May 2004.
  5. Phillips Brooks. Religious Leaders of America, 2nd edition. Gale Group 1999. The Gale Group, 2004. Biography Resource Center. 28 May 2004.
  6. Slocum, Robert B. The Social Teaching of Phillips Brooks. Anglican Theological Review 84, no. 1 (2002) : 135-146.

Processing Note

Re-processed July 2004 by Dominic P. Grandinetti.

Re-processing included the consolidation of materials cataloged under twenty-six separate call numbers, re-housing materials in the appropriate containers, establishment of series, and the creation of this finding aid. The archivist placed the paper documents into acid-free folders, placed photographs in acid-free envelopes, housed all material in archival document boxes, and examined the folder contents to establish their date.

Call numbers beyond the base call number were eliminated. A list of these obsolete call numbers appears at the end of the finding aid. Religiöse Reden von Phillips Brooks, call number HUG 1235.10, was deemed missing from the Archives in July 1989 and not included in the re-processing of the Phillips Brooks papers. This piece may have been moved to the Widener Library.

Details about the re-processing and arrangement of each series are noted below.

Letters found in the collection detailing accession information were placed in the Harvard University Archives Phillips Brooks control file.

Brooks Phillips, 1835-1893. Papers of Phillips Brooks : an inventory
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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