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Robert Parmelee Wilder Papers

Call Number: RG 38

Scope and Contents

The majority of the letters are addressed to Wilder; they are primarily in manuscript form and several European languages are represented. Correspondence with John R. Mott was not included in the chronological sequence of the general correspondence because of the bulk and substance of these letters. The letters in the general section and those exchanged with John R. Mott are a valuable source of documentation for the researcher interested in the development of the missionary movement among students. Wilder was intimately involved in student missionary movements in the United States and Europe from their conception in the late nineteenth century through to the dissensions which arose between conservative and liberal elements in the movements in the 1920's and 1930's. The development of the Student Volunteer Movement in the United States can be traced from Wilder's first trip to colleges and universities in 1887 to his tenure as General Secretary of the Movement and in extensive correspondence with Jesse R. Wilson, his successor as General Secretary. The student missionary movement in Great Britain between 1905 and 1916 is documented by substantive correspondence reporting statistics and events. Outside of the field of student missionary work, Wilder's role in the development of the Near East Christian Council is documented in his correspondence from 1927 to 1933. Earlier letters from John N. Forman give informative accounts of missionary work in India, dealing with matters of method and policy.

The Family Correspondence in this collection is not extensive but does provide valuable insight into the early mission work of Wilder's parents in India. The elder Wilders sailed for India in 1846 as missionaries under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. In 1852 they founded the Kolhapur (or Kolapoor) Mission where they engaged in educational work later independently and under the Presbyterian Board until 1875.

The notebooks and diaries of Series II date from 1880 to 1938. All were written by Wilder except two small volumes belonging to his mother and one written by John N. Forman, Wilder's colleague in Student Volunteer Movement work and a missionary in India. Entries in Wilder's diaries are somewhat sporadic and include descriptions of daily events and notes regarding discussions and meetings. Notebooks from Wilder's student days include notes from addresses heard at the Northfield, Massachusetts summer school in 1888, as well as class notes.

The writings of Series III are divided into three sections:

  1. A. Addresses, Bible study notes (1882-1935, n.d.)
  2. B. Published writings (1890-1935, n.d.)
  3. C. Reports, report letters (1888-1933, n.d.)

A major portion of Wilder's time was spent in speaking to audiences on various aspects of the Christian life. Wilder's addresses and notes for discussions are arranged topically with subjects ranging from prayer to work in India to the student missionary movement. Wilder's published writings covered many of the same subject areas and appeared in various European languages. The reports section of Series II provides an informative outline of Wilder's activities in association with the various organizations which he served.

The printed material in Series IV is also divided into three sections:

  1. A. Reviews of Wilder's publications (1899-1937, n.d.)
  2. B. Material related to the various organizations served by Wilder (1840-1937, n.d.)
  3. C. Miscellaneous

Series V, Personal Items and Memorabilia includes:

  1. A. Genealogical material (1878-1926, n.d.) which documents Wilder's claim as a Mayflower descendant.
  2. B. Material related to Wilder's parents and sister (1840-1929, n.d.), including an interesting series of communications between Royal G. Wilder and government officials in India regarding a property dispute.
  3. C. Biographical material regarding Wilder (1887-1940, n.d.) including clippings and articles, publicity notices, and material gathered by Ruth Wilder Braisted in her preparations for writing a biography of her father.
  4. D. Photographs (1879-192S, n.d.), primarily of Wilder and family members.
  5. E. Miscellaneous personal items, including material such as Wilder's Bible and the notice of his engagement.


  • 1840-1940


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.


  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Notebooks and Diaries
  3. III. Writings
  4. IV. Printed Material
  5. V. Personal Items and Memorabilia


10 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


Material documents the development of the Christian missionary movement among students in the United States and Europe, 1886-1938. Family correspondence documents the missionary work of Wilder's parents in India, 1846-1875, as well as his work in India, 1893-1902. Robert Parmelee Wilder was born in India of missionary parents in 1863. He earned the A.B. and A.M. degrees from Princeton University (1886, 1888) and the B.D. degree from UnionTheological Seminary (1891). He was a founder of the Student Volunteer Movement (1886), missionary in India (1893-1902), traveling secretary for Student Christian Movements in Europe (1903-1916), secretary of Religious Work Department, YMCA (1916-1919), General Secretary of the Student Volunteer Movement (1919-1927) and Executive Secretary of the Near East Christian Council (1927-1933). He died on March 27, 1938.

Biographical / Historical

Born in India of missionary parents: Royal Gould Wilder and Eliza Jane (Smith) Wilder
A.B., Princeton University
Instrumental in the founding of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions at Mt. Hermon Conference
Travel to colleges and universities throughout the U.S. on behalf of the Student Volunteer Movement
A.M., Princeton University
B.D., Union Theological Seminary
Travel in Europe; instrumental in founding of British Student Volunteer Missionary Union
Married to Helene Sophie Olsson who became mother of his four daughters: Ruth, Grace, Elizabeth and Dorothy
Work in India as secretary of the college department of the Y.M.C.A.
In the U.S.
General Secretary of the Indian National Council of Y.M.C.A.'s. Forced to return from India due to ill health
Traveling secretary for Student Christian Movement of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland
Work with the Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and Ireland as Traveling Secretary, London Secretary and Evangelistic Secretary. During this period Wilder also worked for the World Student Christian Federation, speaking at universities throughout continental Europe.
Senior Secretary of Religious Work Department of International Committee of Y.M.C.A. (in U.S.A.)
General Secretary of Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions
Executive Secretary of Near East Christian Council
Spoke at conferences for the Intervarsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions in Great Britain
1938 Mar 27

Biographical information taken from Who Was Who in America, Vol. 1, 1897-1942

Guide to the Robert Parmelee Wilder Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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