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William Henry Owen papers

Call Number: MS 380

Scope and Contents

The William Henry Owen Papers contain correspondence, sermons, other writings, and memorabilia documenting both the personal life and friendships of William Henry Owen and his work as a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church in New York. The bulk of the papers date from Owen's rectorship at Holy Trinity Church in New York City. The papers are arranged in three series.

Series I, CORRESPONDENCE, is composed of Owen's letters from family, friends, and other Episcopal clergymen; correspondence with Yale University concerning Owen's coin collection; and four boxes of letters from servicemen during World Wars I and II. The servicemen represented were, for the most part, Owen' s parishioners writing their minister about personal feelings and experiences in the wars. Filed with the World War I era letters are some examples of camp or ship periodicals and trench cards. Included in the correspondence with family, friends, and clergymen are discussions of church business and ecclesiastical affairs in New York City. Correspondence with Yale University contains some of Owen's annual reports as associate curator of coins in the library.

Series II, SERMONS, comprises a numerical run of approximately 500 of Owen's sermons delivered from the time he assumed the position of rector at Holy Trinity Church until less than two months before his death. The sermons are handwritten on loose sheets of paper, and at the beginning of each is a form showing the sermon number, text, topic, season, date originally delivered, and other dates and locations for preaching the same sermon.

Series III, OTHER WRITINGS, NOTES, AND MEMORABILIA, includes student essays, sermons not part of the numerical sequence in Series II, lectures and talks to church and non-church groups, and talks on coin collecting and the Yale Numismatic Collection. The files also encompass Owen's recollections of people and events in his life and drafts of his memoir "Reactions to Life," 1939. At the end of the series are a few folders of notes on topics relating to coins and to church work and some items of memorabilia and memorial tributes.

The William Henry Owen Papers were given to the Yale University Library between 1934 and 1945 by Owen and by his estate. For many years the papers were physically divided between the Manuscripts and Archives Department and the Beinecke Rare Book Library. The papers were reassembled as one collection in Manuscripts and Archives in 1983.


  • 1881-1945


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. 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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of William H. Owen, 1934-1940 and of his estate, 1944-1945.


Arranged in three series: I. Correspondence, 1881-1944. II. Sermons, 1923-1944. III. Other Writings, Notes, and Memorabilia, 1887-1945.


9.75 Linear Feet (25 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers contain correspondence, sermons, other writings, and memorabilia, concerning both Owen's personal life and his work as an Episcopal priest. The bulk of the papers is composed of sermons delivered from Owen's pulpit in Holy Trinity Church, New York City. Much of the correspondence is made up of letters from World War I and World War II servicemen from Owen's churches, letters from fellow Episcopal clergy, or correspondence concerning Owen's coin collection. The papers also include Owen's inspirational writings and drafts for his memoirs.

Biographical / Historical

William Henry Owen was born in New York City in 1874, the son of William Henry and Mary Lavinia Brooks Owen. He had one sister, Mary Lavinia Owen Borden. He received a B.A. from Yale University in 1897 and an M.A. in 1899.

In 1901 he graduated from the General Theological Seminary and was ordained a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church. For five years he served an assistantship at St. Thomas Church, New York, before assuming the position of rector at Trinity Church, Mount Vernon, New York, in 1906. Here he served until 1922 when he became rector of Holy Trinity Church in New York City. Owen remained at Holy Trinity until his retirement in 1937. He was also a trustee of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology by the General Theological Seminary in 1936.

Owen was a life-long collector of coins, and in 1927 he donated his valuable collection to Yale University. From 1931 until his death Owen worked as associate curator of coins in the Yale University Library. Owen died at his summer residence at Natural Bridge, Virginia, on May 27, 1944.

Guide to the William Henry Owen Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane Ellen Kaplan
July 1984
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
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Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
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New Haven, CT 06511

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