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David Smith Papers

 Collection
Call Number: GEN MSS 1399

Scope and Contents

The David Smith Papers consist of a selection of his personal papers and a library of his autograph sermons dating from 1796 to 1859. The personal papers in Series I are autograph manuscripts that include ten volumes of his journals, his school notes, speeches and addresses, and keys to the abbreviations he used in his writings. Also present is Smith's manuscript song book containing compositions on themes such as Bunker Hill and the death of General James Wolfe, an autograph sermon by Rev. Alexander Gillet (1749-1826), and an autograph "Articles of Faith" by Rev. Humphrey Mount Perrine (1785-1849).

Series II holds Smith's sermons, and they comprise the bulk of the papers. The manuscripts are arranged by consecutive numbers that Smith assigned, falling roughly in chronological order. Nearly all of the sermons follow the same structure and are divided into two sections. The first begins with a Bible verse as a headline; occasionally the verse is superseded by a more formal title. The section, which generally runs to ten pages, follows an interpretation of the verse. The second section (of about the same length) is introduced with a headline such as “Improvement,” “Application,” “Reflection,” “Inferences,” or “Remarks,” and all sermons conclude with “Amen.” Each sermon was annotated at the end with the date and place it was written, as well as where and when it was delivered; some of the sermons were delivered more than a dozen times over several decades. In addition to dates, some later sermons include a reference to Smith’s own age. Many sermons also have notations on hymns or psalms on their first page or on the inside of the booklet’s cover.

Theologically, David Smith was likely influenced by the Second Great Awakening. As is to be expected in a collection covering a lifetime of preaching, there is a wide variety of themes to be found in his sermons but some of those appearing with regularity are divine magnitude and providence, the frailty of human life, human iniquity and sin, divine law and judgment, and personal sanctification. Other categories include Thanksgiving, singing, church discipline, sacraments, and events in American history such as “the landing of our Fore-Fathers at Plymouth Dec. 22, 1620” (no. 773) and the death of George Washington (nos. 78 and 123).

Smith copied most of his sermons into small blank books bound with assorted of marbled, silvered, and tinted papers used as wrappers. Thirteen of the volumes bear rose-colored brocade-patterned “Dutch gilt” paper signed by Paul Reimund (or Reymund, 1763/4-1815) of Nürnberg, Germany; they are booklets beginning with sermons 547, 594, 652 (printed in brown), 663, 720 (single unlined sheet, not attached), 852, 862, 901, 931, 958, 1080, 1114, and 1842. Several binding techniques were employed, including a variety of turn-ins and a range of papers used as liners or stiffeners for the covers. In two cases the "endpapers" are repurposed illustrated ream wrappers from the paper mills of David Ames in Springfield, Massachusetts (no. 781) and William Coles in Middletown, Connecticut (no. 958). The latter features an Alexander Anderson wood engraving of a mill which was also used by Coles' contemporary, George Cox & Company of Hallowell, Maine, on a wrapper in 1826 (see John Bidwell, American Paper Mills, 1690–1832, 2013, page 160).

Dates

  • 1790 - 1859

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The David Smith Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source unknown.

Arrangement

Organized into two series: I. Personal Papers, 1790-1859. II. Sermons, 1796-1859.

Extent

5.63 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.smithd

Overview

The papers consist of a selection of David Smith's personal papers and a library of his autograph sermons dating from 1796 to 1859. The personal papers are autograph manuscripts including ten volumes of his journals, his school notes, speeches, and keys to the abbreviations he used in his writings. Also present is Smith's manuscript song book containing compositions on themes such as Bunker Hill and the death of General James Wolfe, an autograph sermon by Rev. Alexander Gillet (1749-1826), and an autograph "Articles of Faith" by Rev. Humphrey Mount Perrine (1785-1849). Smith's sermons comprise the bulk of the papers, and are arranged by numbers that he assigned, falling roughly in chronological order. Sermon themes, series, and titles are described at the folder level in the finding aid; topics include salvation, thanksgiving, singing, church discipline, sacraments, and the death of George Washington.

David Smith (1767-1862, Yale 1795)

David Smith was born in Bozrah, New London County, Connecticut, on December 13, 1767, the son of Captain Ebenezer Smith, who had served in the American Revolution, and his wife Sarah. At age three he moved with his family to Berkshire, Massachusetts, and grew up on the family farm there. When Smith was 16 or 17 he married Betsy Marsh, and the couple had one son, David Marsh. His wife's death on August 11, 1789, inspired Smith to prepare for college, which he at first did independently and then with Rev. Jacob Catlin of New Marlborough, Massachusetts.

In 1792, Smith was accepted at Yale College as a sophomore and graduated three years later with the Class of 1795. Following college he taught school in Sheffield, Massachusetts, and in 1796 began study in theology with Rev. Ephraim Judson of Sheffield. Smith was licensed to preach by the Association of Berkshire County in October 1796. On February 10, 1799, he preached in Durham, Connecticut, and soon after was asked by the town to settle there as the second minister of Durham, succeeding Rev. Elizur Goodrich (1734-1797, Yale 1752). Smith married as his second wife Catharine Goodrich (1776-1845), the daughter of Rev. Goodrich.

In 1821 David Smith was elected one of the Fellows of Yale College, and held this position forty years until he tendered his resignation the close of the session in 1861; he was never absent from a regular meeting of the corporation. In 1830 he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hamilton College. Smith retired from the ministry in 1833 and pursued farming. During his later years he preached occasionally in towns around Durham, and died March 5, 1862, at the home of his daughter Catherine Ellsworth in Fair Haven, Connecticut, at age 94.

Processing Information

Former call numbers: Z117 217, Z117 218, and Z36 268.
Title
Guide to the David Smith Papers
Status
Completed
Author
by Manuel J. Reimer and Sandra Markham
Date
2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977

Location

121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

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