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Newman Smyth papers

 Collection
Call Number: MS 623

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, writings, diaries, sermons, and other papers of Newman Smyth, theologian, author, and pastor. The papers relate largely to Smyth's interest in and work on behalf of Protestant unity; there is little material for the period prior to his retirement from the ministry in 1908. Important correspondents include bishops and officials in the Anglican and Protestant Episcopal churches, other churchmen and theologians, and laymen interested in his work, most notable George Wharton Pepper and George Zabriskie.

Dates

  • 1874-1924
  • Majority of material found within 1908 - 1924

Creator

Language

English

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Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain.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 Winifred Smyth, 1939.

Arrangement

Arranged in four series: I. Correspondence. II. Writings, Diaries, and Statements. III. Special Files. IV. Scrapbooks.

Extent

2 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ms.0623

Overview

Correspondence, writings, diaries, sermons, and other papers of Newman Smyth, theologian, author, and pastor. The papers relate largely to Smyth's interest in and work on behalf of Protestant unity; there is little material for the period prior to his retirement from the ministry in 1908. Important correspondents include bishops and officials in the Anglican and Protestant Episcopal churches, other churchmen and theologians, and laymen interested in his work, most notable George Wharton Pepper and George Zabriskie.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Phillips Newman Smyth was born on June 25, 1843 in Brunswick, Maine. He was the son of William Smyth, professor of mathematics at Bowdoin College, and Harriet Porter Coffin Smyth. He had five brothers and sisters, among them a brother who became professor of Church History at Andover Seminary.

Smyth received his education at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.; Bowdoin College (1863); and Andover Theological Seminary (1867). Between his years of college and seminary he served first as an assistant librarian and professor of Mathematics at the United States Naval Academy, and then as a second lieutenant of the 16th Maine Volunteers in the Union Army. He fought during the last year of the Civil War and was present at Lee's surrender.

Smyth was ordained in 1863 and a year later he went to Germany, where he was exposed to and influenced by modern biblical criticism. On his return to the United States he served as pastor to three churches: The First Congregational Church of Bangor, Maine (1870-1875); the First Presbyterian Church of Quincy, Illinois (1875-1882); and the First Church of Christ of New Haven, Conn. (1882-1908). While in New Haven he was made a fellow at Yale University.

In 1871, Smyth married Anna Marston Ayer. They had four children: Mary Winslow (b. 1873), Nathan Ayer (b.1876), Winifred (b. 1881), and Ethel (b. 1885). Smyth wrote approximately twenty books on theology, religion and science, and church unity during his life time. His early works employed biblical criticism against the prevailing "New England Theology", and it was his views, particularly those on "second probation", that caused great controversy over his appointment to the Abbot Chair of Christian Theology at Andover Theological Seminary.

In 1908 Smyth retired from the New Haven church and became pastor emeritus. He then devoted most of his energy attempting to discover a basis for Protestant unity. His principal activities centered around three proposals aimed at unification. The first, the Lenox Proposal, was a plan for a limited union of certain functions of the Protestant Episcopal and the Congregational Churches. The second was an appeal for practical unity and joint ordination of chaplains during World War I. The third involved a plan for a special Episcopalian ordination that would be acceptable to the Congregational Church. Though each of these proposals eventually met defeat Smyth was a strong proponant of unification until his death on January 6, 1925.

Though Newman Smyth was an active and productive theologian during the first two-thirds of his life, the largest part of the Newman Smyth Papers relate to his activities after his retirement from the ministry in 1908. With the exception of four folders of correspondence pertaining to Smyth's call to the First Church of Christ in New Haven and a controversial and abortive appointment to the faculty of Andover Theological Seminary, both occuring in 1881-1882, almost all of the correspondence in this collection centers around the topic of church unity. Likewise, with the exception of his photo-diary of a trip to the Orient, Egypt, and Palestine in 1901 and his sermons from the 1870s through 1880s, the majority of Smyth's diaries and writings relate to Church unification.

Series III, "Special Files," contains the minutes, reports and resolutions of the organizations in which Smyth participated or was interested in, as well as newspaper and magazine clippings and pamphlets commenting on people, organizations and the events in the unification movement.

As a result of his interest in pan-protestantism, Smyth corresponded with many of the leading churchmen of his time, particularly with members of the Anglican and Protestant Episcopal Churches. He corresponded with over a third of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church. In addition, Smyth corresponded with two laymen, George Wharton Pepper (later U.S. Senator from Penn.) and George Zabriskie, as well as a number of theologians and leaders of other denominations. This correspondence contains personal and official statements on many subjects including the nature of communion, ordination, and church organization. The correspondence, writings, and other material assembled in these Papers provide a view of the variety of inter and intra-denominational views on these subjects in the first quarter of the century.

Existence and Location of Copies

Scrapbooks are available on microfilm (100 frames on 1 reel, 35mm.) from Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, at cost. Order no. HM126.
Title
Guide to the Newman Smyth Papers
Author
compiled by George Cunningham
Date
October 1972
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)