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Mulford family papers

Call Number: MS 361

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, diaries, sermons, essays, and other papers of Elisha Mulford, 1833-1885, Episcopal clergyman, teacher, writer, and political philosopher; and of other members of the Mulford and Jessup families.


  • 1807-1967
  • Majority of material found within 1820 - 1900


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown, though much of the material in this collection is likely in the public domain. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.


Arranged in three series: I. Correspondence. II. Writings. III. Subject File.


7 Linear Feet (18 boxes, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence, diaries, sermons, essays, and other papers of Elisha Mulford, 1833-1885, Episcopal clergyman, teacher, writer, and political philosopher; and of other members of the Mulford and Jessup families.

Biographical / Historical

The Mulford Family Papers consist primarily of the papers of Elisha Mulford, an Episcopal clergyman, teacher, and writer who was born in Montrose, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1833. Educated at Cortland Academy, Homer, New York, in 1852 Mulford entered the sophmore class at Yale, from which he graduated in 1855. He studied for the ministry at Union Seminary, New York City, and at Andover Seminary, Andover, Massachusetts. He continued his studies in Europe, at Berlin, Heidelberg, and Halle. Upon his return, Mulford was ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church in 1861, and ordained a priest by Bishop Odenheimer, at South Orange, New Jersey in 1862. In that year he married Rachel Price Carmalt of Lakeside, Pennsylvania. After serving as rector in South Orange, he retired from the active ministry in 1864 (because of deafness) and moved to Lakeside, where he devoted himself to study and writing. In 1870 he published The Nation, and ten years later, The Republic of God. In 1880 he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he lectured on theology from 1881 to 1885 at the Episcopal Theological School. Mulford died at Cambridge, December 9, 1885, and was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

Mulford made his most notable contribution as a scholar and political philosopher. His major book, The Nation, in many ways a work unique in the history of American thought, reflected the philosophical influences of Hegel, Stah1, Trendlenburg, and Bluntschli and the social and theological thinking of the English theologian Frederick Denison Maurice. Mulford rejected those theories which regarded the form of the state as a historic accident. Examining the forms and purposes of the state in their historic development, he defined the nation as an organism, a personality which responded to the ethical ideals and practices of the people. This ethical idealism was supported by an immanent ontology, an emphasis he later made explicit in his theological work, The Republic of God. But Mulford, always under the influence of his New England Calvinist heritage, placed the primary obligation upon the individual whose responsibility it was to strive toward an ethical consciousness informed by Divine purpose. Indeed, upon such consciousness, thought Mulford, depended the very destiny of the Nation.

The Mulford Family Papers, especially the notebooks and correspondence of Elisha Mulford, and his lectures, delivered at Cambridge Theological School and the Columbia Law School, provide important information on the sources and the development of American political philosophy in the Gilded Age, as well as the course of Mulford's own intellectual development. The Papers are arranged into three series: CORRESPONDENCE, WRITINGS, AND SUBJECT FILE. CORRESPONDENCE is divided between "General Correspondence," containing the letters either written or received by Elisha Mulford, and "Family Correspondence," containing correspondence among the various members of the Mulford and Jessup families(except for Elisha Mulford). Nearly two-thirds of the entire series consists of letters written by Mulford himself. Of primary importance is the correspondence with Lyman Dennison Brewster (45 letters), Francis Bicknell Carpenter, the artist, (16 letters), George Leon Walker (6 letters), William Thomas Wilson (72 letters), and especially, Congregational clergyman and advocate of the "New Theology," Theodore Thornton Munger (98 letters). (For Mulford's letters to Munger, see the Theodore Thornton Munger Papers, Historical Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University). There is also extensive and important correspondence with Mulford's wife, Rachel Price (Carmalt), and brother, Silvanus S. Mulford, which sheds some light on his personality and character. Other correspondents of note include: William Torrey Harris, Horace E. Scudder, Andrew Dickson White, and Alexander Stevenson Twombly.

The "Writings" series consists of manuscript notes, essays, and lectures, primarily on political philosophy and theology, as well as a number of sermons and a few addresses. Of special interest are the notes taken by five students on Mulford's lectures, 1882-1885, and Mulford's own notes on the lectures of Professor Hitchcock and Francis Lieber. There are extensive notes by Mulford on books and articles he had read-mostly on political thought - including his own thoughts and ideas for future publications. Two manuscript drafts of a book (never published), The Life of Elisha Mulford, as told in his Letters (probably compiled by Mulford's wife and son), contain excerpts from letters to his friends and family, from 1851 to 1885. In addition, there is a draft of an introduction to the book, written by Rachel Price Mulford, and correspondence to her about its proposed publication. Most important in this series, are Mulford's lectures on theology, literature, philosophy, and political thought, including a series of 33 lectures on theology given at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts and a series of 6 lectures on political science given at Columbia Law School, (1872-1873?).

The "Subject File" contains biographical materials, family photographs, personal finances, and various circulars and solicitations. Most important is the family geneology, and a letter to the "Ministers of the Gospel in England and France," probably written by Mulford.

Guide to the Mulford Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Ann Ronberg
January 1971
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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