(compiled by Barbara A. Sokolosky, 1980)
THE SUNDAY AND ADULT SCHOOL UNION
The American Sunday School Union began with the establishment of the Sunday and Adult School Union in 1817. A group of Philadelphia businessmen, as members of several denominational Sunday schools, met on May 13, 1817. At this meeting, they resolved to form a "Union Society, composed of the Sunday and Adult School Associations in the city and suburbs (of Philadelphia), on such principles as shall not affect the independence of the individual societies." The nondenominational organization which resulted had two main objectives: to promote the establishment of Sunday schools and to provide libraries and supplies for their use.
The Sunday and Adult School Union pursued these goals under the direction of a board of managers and several officers. The first president of the Union was Alexander Henry, a prominent merchant and philanthropist in Philadelphia. He remained President until his death in 1847. Financial support for the Union came in part from men like Henry, as well as from smaller individual contributions, membership dues and donations from auxiliary societies, and the sale of publications.
Within a year after its founding, the Union's activities and influence extended far beyond the boundaries of Philadelphia. Requests for admission to and aid from the Union came from schools and societies throughout the country. The Union was asked for books; supplies and teachers. Requirements for admission to the Union were a three dollar membership fee and a copy of the auxiliary society's constitution. To facilitate its work, the Sunday and Adult School Union hired William Blair as its first trained missionary in 1821. Blair was expected to visit and establish Sunday schools, organize Sunday school societies, and generally promote the objects of the institution. In his first year, Blair traveled 2500 miles between Pennsylvania and North Carolina. He founded sixty-one schools, visited thirty-five others, revived twenty, and established six tract societies and four adult schools. His efforts were so successful that paid missionary workers became a permanent agency of the Union. By 1824 two more men, Timothy Alden and M. A. Remley, had been hired. In addition to the missionaries, the Union employed agents whose primary duties were to raise funds to support missionaries and to manage the regional depositories from which Union publications were distributed. A distinction between the two groups of workers was not always clear in actual practice; both missionaries and agents labored toward the same end.
Early records indicate the attendance of African American and Native students. In 1823, William Blair wrote from Monroe in the Chickasaw Nation: "We have [Sunday school] for blacks on Sabbath mornings and for the Indian children in the afternoon--between 50 and 60 blacks and 50 [Indian] children." The national character of the Sunday and Adult School Union became more pronounced each year. By 1823, over seven hundred societies and individual schools were enrolled in it, while approximately seven thousand teachers and fifty thousand students were affiliated with it.
THE AMERICAN SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION
In 1824 a name change which would more accurately indicate the scope of union activity was effected. The Sunday and Adult School Union became the American Sunday School Union. The headquarters location, objects, membership, principles and field of operation remained essentially the same as those originally organized. Alexander Henry was re-elected, as were other officers and· managers, with some additions. The goals of the Union were reiterated in the constitution of the newly named society. As stated in that document, the objects were to "concentrate the efforts of Sabbath school societies in the different sections of our country; to strengthen the hands of the friends of pious- instruction on the Lord's day; to disseminate useful information, circulate moral and religious publications in every part of the land; and to endeavour to plant a Sunday school wherever there is a population."
As membership in the Union steadily increased, certain administrative changes were made. In 1824 the constitution had allowed clergymen and officers of auxiliary unions to vote with the Board of Managers, the main governing body of the ASSU. With a growing number of these additional participants, the situation became impractical. In 1826 the management of the Union was limited to a Board of Officers and Managers consisting of a "president, vicepresidents, a corresponding secretary, recording secretary, treasurer, and thirty-six managers, twenty-four of whom shall reside in the city of Philadelphia or its vicinity." The constitution also stipulated that all officers and managers were to be laymen. The provision was one indication of the continuing non-denominational character of the Union. Represented in the society's membership were Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Moravians, Dutch Reformed, Congregationalists, Lutherans, German Reformed and Friends. Instructions to workers reminded them that the object of the Union was not to promote any party, sect, or denomination. Wherever Sunday schools were established, they were to be left to "their own free choice either to connect themselves with the ASSU or any other."
Although the Union management was composed of laymen, missionary work was carried on almost exclusively by clergymen. Young men of college age were discouraged from applying for commissions as missionaries or agents. The society believed that the objection generally against young men without experience, however worthy, was "so great as almost entirely to destroy their usefulness." In later years, however, the need for workers led the Union to employ students as missionaries, with some success. Salaries for workers varied with experience. Initially, missionaries were paid approximately four hundred dollars per year plus traveling expenses to their fields of labor. An agent's annual income could reach eight hundred dollars.
Under the direction of the Board of Officers and Managers, various committees were organized to over~8e specific operations of the Union. In June of 1826 the Board of Officers and Managers created a standing Committee on Missions to "seek out persons well-qualified for Sunday-School missionaries The committee was to make clear to missionaries the objects of their appointment, instruct them in their duties, fix their compensation, designate their fields of labor and report monthly to the Board on these activities. In 1830 the committee was renamed the Committee on Missions and Agencies. Additional duties instituted at that time included the planning and execution of fundraising methods and the direction of the labors of the General Agent and agents collecting in the field. In June of 1835 the committee was discontinued as one of several organizational changes. Its duties were transferred to other committees, including an Executive Committee which had charge of all areas of business not handled by any other committee. In large districts of the country, missionaries and agents were directed by a local board or agency in their respective districts, e.g., the Western Agency at Cincinnati and the New York Agency. The Committee on Missions and Agencies was revived in 1855 , gaining at that time the services of a Secretary of Missions. The duties of the Secretary were to "conduct the correspondence and superintend all matters relating to the collection of funds for the missionary work of the Society and the labors of all persons employed by the Missionary Department at home and abroad."
Supplementing the work of the Committee on Missions (the title it resumed in 1859) was the Finance Committee. The committee was created in December 186 as a special committee for the purpose of taking action on all matters relating to the financial condition of the Board. On January 15, 1861, the Board made it a standing committee, resolving that its members be "authorized to take order in all matters attending the expenditure of money, or the curtailing of expenses in any manner that they may consider expedient and report the same to the Board." The committee was involved in plans for increasing ASSU funds specifically for missionary purposes. In addition, it supervised the Union' s investments, and made recommendations to the Board concerning the management and distribution of special funds and bequests.
The Publications Committee was created by the Sunday and Adult School Union and had its duties and membership enlarged by the ASSU. The committee originally consisted of five persons, representing at least three different denominations. As the Union grew, so did the size of the committee, but with the stipulation that there would never be more than three members from any one denomination. The duties of the committee were to "select, read, revise, and prepare for the press such books and other works as they shall deem proper to be published by the Society; and to superintend and direct the labors of the Editor of the Society's publications, according to instructions from the Board." Nothing was to be printed, published or sold by the Society, or at their expense, to which any member of the committee objected. The committee was also responsible for encouraging the production of original work which it often did by sponsoring prize competitions. One such contest, which offered a premium for manuscripts for publication by the Union, was funded by a bequest from a wealthy ASSU friend. Called the Green Fund, it was established in 1877 with a $100,000 bequest from the estate of John C. Green. The trust directed that five-sixths of the income of the fund be applied to the support of the Union's missionary work and one-sixth of it be reserved to aid the society " in securing a Sunday-school literature of the highest order of merit." In 1884 a one thousand dollar prize was offered for the best essay written on the theme "The Obligations and Advantages of the Day of Rest." Other subjects included " The Christian Obligations of Property and Labor," 1887; "The Christian Nurture and Education of Youth for the Twentieth Century, " 1893; "Forming and Maintaining Character on the Principles of the Bible," 1897; and "How is Man to be saved? or God's Way of Salvation," 1901. The Publications Committee was also directed to deal with authors or proprietors for the purchase of copyrights of original and other works. They purchased books for, and had the care of the Union's library. The responsibility for all aspects of the manufacture and sale of the society's publications was a function of the committee. This entailed control of the depositories, initially including management of their financial accounts and real estate, duties which were later absorbed by other committees.
Other committees which managed ASSU affairs included the Building Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. The former was organized by the Board of Managers on October 11, 1825. A resolution of the Board provided for the appointment of a committee of five to inquire first "as to expediency of erecting a building suitable for a Depository, to embrace also a Printing Office, Bindery, Type Foundry, room for Managers, and convenient offices for the trans action of all the business of the Sunday School Union under the same roof, provided that a sufficient sum can be raised for this special object." The committee was also directed to inquire as to the availability and cost of a suitable lot on which to build and to explore the most effective means of raising money for the purpose of building the headquarters in Philadelphia. The Board of Managers also stated on October 11, 1825 that "there shall be annually appointed by the Board of Managers a Committee of Ways and Means to consist of five, whose duty it shall be to devise, and as far as practicable execute with the consent of the Board of Managers, plans for increasing the funds of the Union ." These duties included appointing and supervising agents, determining their fields of labor and salaries and taking account of the subscriptions they collected, the schools they established and their expenses. In 1830 these duties were transferred to the Committee on Missions and Agencies. The business of the ASSU was conducted publicly at its annual meetings. According to the constitution, the "annual meetings of the society shall be held in Philadelphia, on the first Tuesday after the 20th May, when the proceedings of the past year shall be reported, the accounts presented, and the managers chosen." Although some changes relating to the day of the meeting were made over the years, the month and place remained fixed.
EARLY MISSIONARY WORK, 1824-1829
While the ASSU was establishing its administrative structure in Philadelphia, its missionaries were extending the Union's aid and influence throughout the country. One of the most active missionaries of the period was Joseph Bruce Adams. Often signing his letters simply "Bruce", he reported to the Union on his work in New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana , and Mississippi, including the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. A more stationary, but equally successful, worker was Gottlieb Shober, who wrote numerous accounts of his life with the Moravian population in Salem, North Carolina. Other important workers at the time included Alvah Sanford, who · labored in Vermont, and Randolph Stone and E. Judson from Ohio.
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY ENTERPRISE
The year 1830 marked the official beginning of the western missionary effort known as the Mississippi Valley enterprise. The original resolution, made by the Reverend Thomas McAuley at the annual meeting in Philadelphia on May 25, 1 830 stated: "The American Sunday School Union, in reliance upon divine aid, will, within two y ears, establish a Sunday school in every destitute place where it is practicable, throughout the Valley of the Mississippi." The "Valley of the Mississippi" was defined as all the country west of the Alleghenies to the Rocky Mountains, and from Michigan to Louisiana--an estimated 1,300,000 square miles. The resolution was adopted with the wholehearted support of the two thousand people attending the meeting. As word of the project spread, equally enthusiastic meetings were held in Boston, New York, Washington, and Charleston, South Carolina. It was decided by the ASSU that individual subscriptions be solicited as a means of funding the enterprise. The solicitation of contributions was to be an ongoing effort, made possible by the voluntary services of ministers and agents. Instrumental in the initial success of the enterprise was James Welch. As an agent for the ASSU, he traveled extensively through more than fifteen states, collecting money and support for the Valley undertaking.
The first year of the enterprise was spent largely in surveying various regions of the area involved. An agent was assigned to each state or territory "to become acquainted with each section, as far as possible, and secure additional means for prosecuting the work in the shortest time and with the least expense . The Valley area was divided into districts and fields, and missionaries and agents were placed in the several sections, including Indiana and Illinois, where the greatest number of new settlements were being formed. Forty-nine missionaries and agents were employed in the Valley of the Mississippi alone in the years 1830 and 1831. Approximately twenty voluntary missionaries were also at work during that time. These volunteers offered to supply a certain number of counties with schools without any expense to the ASSU except for equipment. Less than eighteen months after the inception of the Valley enterprise the Union had received reports of 2867 schools established and 1121 visited and revived. Among those men serving the Valley effort at various times throughout the decade (the original two-year deadline was not considered binding) were Samuel Barton, Benjamin Kavanaugh, Joel Knight, and Thomas Spence in Illinois; E. Adams, Jacob B. Crist, V.M. Diboll, James McAboy, Drew Patee, Benjamin Rouse, Randolph Stone, and Benjamin Chidlaw, who worked with Welsh immigrants , in Ohio; John Beard, Samuel Love, and Gideon S. White in Tennessee; Frank Braly , Thomas P. Green, A. Mccorkle, Robert Sloan, and Robert S. Thomas in Missouri; William Gildersleeve, Samuel Harding, C.B. Jones, William Miller, Lewis Morgan, and James Shields in Indiana; I.J. Roberts, Dana Goodsell, and Hillery Patrick in Mississippi; Joseph Huber, Hiram McDonald, and William Vaughan in Kentucky ; and Samuel Newberry, Robert Baird, and Benjamin Seward, who visited several areas.
Enthusiasm for the Mississippi Valley enterprise was sustained at its initial level for about two years. Of the more than $100,000 contributed to the Val ley Fund in the 1830s, almost half was received before 1833. Contributions began to drop significantly after that time and the Union had difficulty in meeting the expenses of establishing ana maintaining Sunday schools. Monies from the Union's General Fund, established for general benevolent, non-missionary purposes, were of necessity transferred to the Valley Fund. The combination of a continuing decrease in contributions, an increase in expenses, and a national financial crisis in 1837 severely limited all missionary activity. Not only the Mississippi Valley enterprise was affected by these circumstances . In 1833, with a resolution similar to the Valley declaration, a Southern missionary effort had been launched. The campaign was conducted with the help of W.B. Bingham, R.J. Montgomery and James Remley in Georgia; Thomas Cox and E.O. Martin in Alabama; Malthus Freeman, O. McCormick, James Mc Pherson , Jacob Miller , Noble A. Penland and John C. White in North Carolina; John W. Ogden in Louisiana; Michael Quin and F.L.B. Shaver in South Carolina; John G. Wilson in Maryland; J.R. Shepherd in Virginia; and Simpson Shepherd, who was active in several areas. The effort was successful in establishing new schools in the South, but, as with the Valley enterprise, its work was hindered by financial problems, difficulties in finding competent missionaries and lack of adequate transportation into new settlements.
One of the problems encountered during this period was the antagonism between the Massachusetts Sunday School Society and the ASSU. Part of the difficulty stemmed from the literature provided by each. The Massachusetts organization had proposed a union with the ASSU, but "were repulsed, unless they would pledge themselves not to issue books on Infant Baptism or any other denominational topic." Nehemiah Adams writes of the start of this situation in 1839: " [ the Massachusetts Sunday School Society] feel that they have a duty to perform ... in giving to the forming communities of this and other lands a transcript of that faith and practice which ... was the foundation of the New England character and institutions." In 1846, James Welch proposed that the reasons for lack of Massachusetts support were the low state of religion in the area, i.e. , "worldly mindedness" and the love of money. Also contributing to the tension was the duplication of agencies within New England--both the Massachusetts Society and the ASSU sponsored missionaries and agents, solicited money for their respective causes, and ran depositories in Boston. The problem recurs frequently throughout the years and is commented on by several missionaries, including Frederick Scofield (1844), George Oviatt and Benjamin Chidlaw (1849), L.P. Crawford (1854), and N. Munroe (1857). The ASSU tended to stay away from the Massachusetts problem in order to concentrate its efforts on other matters. However, in 1859 the decision was made to expand missionary activity in New England. Henry Clay Trumbull, ASSU agent in Connecticut, describes the new impetus in his correspondence for that year.
In 1858 the ASSU Board held "a general conviction that the Society can realize as much, if not more, money without collecting agents, as it now has left after paying salaries and expenses." H. Beebe argued the point on the basis of the Massachusetts situation, declaring that agents were crucial to the New England effort, that without them, the Massachusetts society would take over ground the Union had "sowed and paid for sowing." In addition, states Beebe, the Sunday school cause had never engendered so much interest as at that time and Connecticut ministers, at least, warmly welcomed ASSU agents. A nearly insurmountable problem which faced the Union during this time were the periodic outbreaks of cholera. Agents throughout the country described the progress of the disease in their areas. It was during the 1850s that the subject of slavery began to be more openly discussed by missionaries. Their instructions were to avoid the question entirely in their work- -yet by refusing to comment on the issue, the ASSU was accused by some of condoning it. Missionaries felt freer to express their feelings--both for and against slavery--in correspondence to the Union. In 1856 W.C. Dunlop wrote from Texas requesting that men from slaveholding states be sent to the South as missionaries, since men from the North were consistently regarded with suspicion, as secret abolitionist agents. S. H. Goetzel & Co. refused to do business with the ASSU in Alabama unless the Union would issue an open statement that it was not "some sort of Abolitionist Concern." A. Hay ran into difficulty teaching blacks in Arkansas in 1856, since Sunday schools for them were prohibited by the laws against "book learning" for slaves. In 1859, anxious to convince the Union of possible danger to its missionaries, Alfred Taylor described Southern public sentiment after John Brown's Harper 's Ferry raid. The number of missionaries in the South steadily decreased and the Sunday school cause suffered greatly.
To unify the field operations of the ASSU and to give greater efficiency to its missionary service, a convention of missionaries was held in 1855. Workers from twelve states and several territories met to compare experiences. The conference was considered a great success and further meetings were planned.
THE CIVIL WAR AND AFTER
In 1857 the ASSU experienced serious financial difficulties. Although the union cut back on publishing expenses, issued bonds and announced a no-debt policy, the crisis worsened. These difficulties, combined with the onset of the Civil War, caused the suspension of missionary activity in the South and crippled resources in the North. Many missionaries were called into military service, yet, like John Mccullagh and Henry Clay Trumbull, some communicated with the Union while serving. Missionaries helped the war effort in other capacities as well. W.S. Sedwick organized a Children's Aid Society in Louisville, Kentucky, to find homes for refugee Southern children. Although a few missionaries labored voluntarily in the Southern states, communication with them was difficult and shipping supplies to the area nearly impossible, due to the seizure of trains by military troops. Thomas Campbell describes guerilla raids and other war activity in Missouri, writing that the population is primarily Southern transplants, and not receptive to "loyal" ASSU workers. Rising wartime prices for food, clothing, and other necessities were a major problem for most missionaries. Not only was there no money for the purchase of Union libraries by schools (often corn and wheat were traded for books) , but salary levels for missionaries could rarely meet living costs. Stephen Paxson, William Port, and Edwin Rice represent only three of numerous requests for salary increases made to the ASSU during this period. Although missionary activity was somewhat restricted during the war, the Union slowly began to gain ground in other areas. Creditors deferred their claims, war prices inflated the value of ASSU stock, and publications were sold in large quantities to army camps and hospitals--all of which contributed to the establishment of a relatively stable financial condition for the Union. With the ending of the war, a new impetus was given to Sunday school work. Missionaries in the South were reinstated, schools revived, and new schools, particularly for blacks, were established. While there was a general concern for bl acks in terms of organizing schools, public sentiment in places such as Tennessee and South Carolina still exhibited, "a bitterness of feeling against the Negro as a freeman." One objection to instructing blacks in Sunday schools was that the education will "render them dissatisfied with their situation and will make them impertinent." J. B. Marsh was luckier in his dealings with North Carolinians: "I have never heard one intelligent man or woman object to organizing schools for [blacks]. Their universal verdict is, [the blacks] ought to be taught the safety and security of life and property among the whites, demand [sic] they should be instructed in the teachings of God's word."
While missionary activity was recommencing in the South, plans were underway for an expansion of the Western district and a campaign to promote cooperation among the churches and schools within the field. The plan is described in A. w. Corey's correspondence for 1865 and involves the creation of new superintendent level positions, combining public relations and missionary 9 supervision functions. This expansion was an indication of the more intense missionary effort which was to characterize the next thirty years. 1870 - 1900 In the 1870s a marked gain in evangelistic campaigns began. Greater effort was given to searching out families in remote districts, and providing them with religious literature. From 1877 to 1897, the number of visits to families increased from 16,000 annually to 95,000. During that same period, the number of missionaries employed by the Union doubled. Missionaries of note during the period include William Paxson, superintendent of missionary work in Missouri; Martin B. Lewis, who founded more than one thousand Sunday schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin; Charles Frady, a missionary to the cowboys and Indians in Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana; and Thomas Lain, who worked with blacks and Indians in Texas and Oklahoma. Westward expansion during this period also included efforts by missionaries in Colorado, Utah and California.
The financial status of the Union continued to improve. A major event of the period was the payment of the Union's $266,000 debt, along with renewed success in raising funds, both largely due to the work of Edwin Rice. Other events of significance during the last years of the century included the creation of a new lesson structure for use in Sunday schools of every Protestant denomination, and the initiation of a training program for Sunday school missionaries and teachers. With the maturing and expansion of the public school system in the United States, the ASSU was able to concentrate its efforts on the development of a strictly religious educational system.
Evangelism and Sunday school enrollment steadily increased in the early 20th century. The ASSU continued to send missionaries into rural homes, with almost 200,000 families visited by 1915. At that time, the total number of schools organized since 1817 was estimated at 131,814; the total enrollment for the one hundred years was nearly 700,000 teachers and over five million students. PUBLICATIONS Throughout the ASSU collection, references are made to Union publications, especially periodicals. The following is a brief history of periodicals published by the ASSU.
In July 1824, the American Sunday-School Magazine, the first periodical issued by the American Sunday School Union, began publication. The managers of the union conceived of- the Magazine as a vehicle for disseminating information concerning the purpose and methods of the Union. Intended for a wide audience, this monthly publication contained discussion and instruction on all aspects of religious education. It included illustrations, maps and plans of rooms, as well as more abstract material. The first editor of the Magazine was Frederick w. Porter; he was succeeded by Frederick A. Packard in 1828. In 1832 the Magazine discontinued for financial reasons.
The initial success of that periodical prompted the Union to begin work on a new project, a weekly publication. The first issue of the Sunday-School Journal and Advocate of Christian Education came out on January 5, 1831. The journal covered every facet of Sunday school activity, from progress reports from every state to discussions on the latest theories and methods in religious instruction. It was essentially a teachers' guide, one of the earliest of its kind. In 1835 the Journal became a biweekly publication. It was succeeded by the Sunday-School Times, issued in newspaper form, in 1859, and by the Sunday-School World in 1861. In 1825 the American Sunday School Union began publishing a monthly juvenile periodical entitled Teacher's Offering. The name was soon changed to the Youth's Friend; its appeal was to the young Sunday school student. The Youth' s Penny Gazette superseded the Youth's Friend in 1842. The Youth's Penny Gazette presented illustrated stories, facts and suggestions regarding Sunday schools, missions and, especially, moral behaviour.
Following the Youth's Penny Gazette in 1859 were the Sunday-School Banner and the Sunday School Gazette. These ceased publication in 1869 and were themselves followed by Child's World. A special feature of this periodical was a page printed in large type, with illustrations, for the beginning reader. Child's World was succeeded by two papers in 1881--Picture World and Youth's World, each directed towards a more specific age group. From 1829-1834 the Union published the Infant 's Magazine, with engravings and readings for the instruction of very young children. Several periodicals were created for the purpose of aiding students in Bible study as they progressed from one learning stage to the next. The Primary Lesson Paper, the Intermediate Lesson Paper and the Advanced Lesson Paper were supplemented by the Scholars' and Teachers' Quarterly Review Paper, the Superintendent's Review Paper, the Scholars' Handbook and the Scholars' Companion. This last publication was followed in 1880 by the American Sunday School Union Quarterly. Another set of periodicals was developed especially for home reading. These included the Illustrated Treasury of Knowledge (1882) and Truth in Life (1882), which were merged into the People's Paper in 1888. A similar effort, the Young People's Paper, commenced in 1891. Also designed for home use was the Sunday Hour (1883-1891). Other titles published by the Union included the Sunday School Missionary (1876) and Sunday-School at Home (1915).