American Bible Society papers (1819-1855, bulk 1828-1855)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Philip Heslip
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: American Bible Society papers
Creator: American Bible Society
Inclusive dates: 1819-1855
Bulk dates: 1828-1855
Extent: 100 items
This collection consists of American Bible Society reports from agents, often located in rural or frontier areas, and Bible distribution orders from affiliate Bible societies. These letters provide evidence of American Bible Society activity in Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Maine, and several letters provide the names and officers of local Bible societies.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1989. M-2445.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation

American Bible Society Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized chronologically.


The American Bible Society was founded in 1816 from an amalgamation of local societies with a mission to produce, distribute, and promote the Scriptures in all languages everywhere. The main recipients of the correspondence comprising this collection are: Joseph Hyde, General Agent and Assistant Treasurer of the American Bible Society from at least 1842 through at least 1855; Reverend John C. Brigham, Corresponding Secretary of the American Bible Society during at least the late 1830's and 1840's; and Edmond S. Jones, Financial Secretary during at least the 1840's. James Field, an Agent of the American Bible Society in Wisconsin, is the writer of a significant body of correspondence documenting evangelical activity on the frontier among both whites and Oneida Indians.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The bulk of this accession consists of orders from subsidiary or affiliate Bible societies, often located in rural or frontier areas, for Bibles for distribution and sale. These orders came from societies ranging in location from Farmington, Maine, in the east to Bainbridge, Georgia, in the south, to societies in the western states and territories. The great number of local societies represented as correspondents and the quantity, quality, and cost of Bibles they ordered can be used to reconstruct patterns of evangelical activity and success on the fringes of the country during the 1840's and '50's. This correspondence provides evidence of American Bible Society activity in Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Maine, and several letters provide the names and officers of local Bible societies.

Included in the correspondence are a few informal reports from local societies of their situation vis-à-vis the needs of the evangelist, their finances, and the success of their efforts to date. Some of these societies served ethnic communities (Welsh, French, German, Native American) or frontier areas where contact was difficult. "You would find that lonely rides with your own conveyance over extensive Prairies and through forrests, is somewhat different from visiting important points by public Conveyances" (April 26, 1842).

A series of correspondence from the Wisconsin Territory to John Brigham in the late 1830's and early 40's is particularly detailed in describing plans for evangelizing in Wisconsin and reveals something of the mentality of the evangelists. The reports, orders, and letters from this quarter are detailed in terms of the numbers and types of Bibles distributed, the means used to distribute them, the finances of the local society, and the clientele served. The correspondents paint a fairly thorough picture of evangelical activity in Wisconsin and their personal experiences as evangelists.

Among their clientele were substantial numbers of Oneida Indians, the 'remnants' of the Iroquois, whom the correspondent, Julius Field, suggests 'are a peacible, Moral, - Industrious, and enterprizing People, - And the best of all Many of them give Satisfactory evidence of conversion & ardent piety' (May 20, 1842). Field continues at some length on the Oneidas and, in other letters, on the Oneida West Mission, 12 miles west of Green Bay. His descriptions of evangelizing among the Oneida are among the most complete in this collection, and his opinions on their life style and future prospects are particularly notable.

Subject Terms

  • American Bible Society--History--19th century.
  • Bible--Publication and distribution--Societies.
  • Evangelistic work--Wisconsin.
  • Evangelists--Wisconsin.
  • Frontier and pioneer life--Wisconsin.
  • Indians of North America.
  • Oneida Indians.
  • Wisconsin Territory--Description.
Genre Terms:
  • Letters (correspondence)

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Correspondence [series]
Box   1 Folder   1
  July 1819-August 1833 (12 items)
Folder   2  
  April 1837-May 1842 (10 items)
Folder   3  
  June 1842-April 1843 (10 items)
Folder   4  
  May 1843-July 1846 (8 items)
Folder   5  
  August 1847-March 1852 (10 items)
Folder   6  
  March 1852-April 1852 (10 items)
Folder   7  
  April 1852-May 1852 (10 items)
Folder   8  
  May 1852-June 1852 (10 items)
Folder   9  
  September 1852-February 1854 (11 items)
Folder   10  
 March 1854-October 1855 (9 items)

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

The Clements holds many publications by or about the American Bible Society including early annual reports and monthly correspondence extracts. See the University of Michigan online library catalog for complete list.

Other American Bible Society papers include:

American Bible Society Library and Archives. New York City, NY.

American Bible Society records , 1833-1853. Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton, IL