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Henry Knox Sherrill Family Papers

Call Number: RG 67
Scope and Contents

The collection provides valuable documentation of Henry Knox Sherrill's career as an Episcopal rector, Bishop of Massachusetts, and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, as well as his involvement in wartime chaplaincy work, his ecumenical leadership as President of the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches, and his service to institutions such as Yale University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Official correspondence and documents stemming from these various positions are not present to any great extent. The strength of the collection lies in its completeness of biographical documentation. It illuminates the decisions made by Sherrill along his career path, and provides insight into the personality that won to him so many friends and admirers over the years.

An addendum added in 2009 includes documentation of the life and work of Henry Williams Sherrill, son of Henry Knox and Barbara Sherrill. Henry Williams Sherrill was an Episcopal priest who served parishes in Michigan and Ohio and for many years was chairman of the Cheswick Center, a research and education trust for study and improvement in nonprofit governance.

Henry Knox Sherrill and his wife Barbara were conscientious in saving newspaper and magazine clippings, letters and programs describing his activities. These materials also serve to document issues and events in the Episcopal Church during the period of Sherrill's career. The numerous sermons, addresses, messages and articles which Sherrill delivered and wrote are also available in the collection. A large section of memorabilia includes artifacts presented to Sherrill as gifts and tributes, as well as the numerous honorary degrees and citations which were granted to Sherrill. In addition to providing insight into Sherrill's life and work, the collection provides useful information about the prominent Episcopal Church leaders who were Sherrill's friends and compatriots, such as Henry Hobson, Appleton Lawrence, William Lawrence, Alexander Mann, William Scarlett and Henry St. George Tucker. Extensive correspondence and clippings also document the close friendship which developed between the Sherrills and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, and his wife, Rosamond.

The first Series is divided into two sections, Family Correspondence and General Correspondence. The Family Correspondence includes numerous early letters of Henry Knox Sherrill to his mother and brother. Letters from his student days at Yale and at the Episcopal Theological School provide an interesting commentary on college and seminary life in the early 1900s. There is a substantial amount of correspondence from the Sherrill children. Also included in the Family Correspondence section are letters of family members which are not to or from Sherrill. There are three letters from the eighteenth century, written by ancestors of Sherrill. The correspondence of Barbara Harris Sherrill contains letters of interest from Rosamond Fisher, wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and from the wives of other Episcopal Church leaders. Letters of condolence received by Barbara Harris Sherrill after the death of Sherrill are also included in this section.

The General Correspondence is divided into three subsections:

  1. 1. Prominent correspondents
  2. 2. Chronological sequence of correspondence received at notable events in Sherrill's life
  3. 3. Miscellaneous correspondence

The vast majority of letters in this section were written to Henry Knox Sherrill. In his autobiography Sherrill wrote that when he first took office as Presiding Bishop, "The mail was voluminous, and I tried to answer every letter promptly and to sign each one myself."( Among Friends, p. 224.) It is certain that Sherrill wrote many letters throughout his career, but very few copies of his letters are available in this collection. The arrangement of the General Correspondence is based upon the filing system which had been established by Sherrill. Some of the "prominent" correspondents are so designated by virtue of their having had separate folders allocated to them in Sherrill's files.

No letters from the over 150 prominent correspondents in subsection 1 will be found in the chronological sequence of subsection 2 (excepting a bound volume of letters presented to Sherrill at his retirement), or among the miscellaneous correspondence of subsection 3. Religious leaders among Sherrill's prominent correspondents included George K. A. Bell, Charles Henry Brent, Samuel McCrea Cavert, Henry Sloane Coffin, Angus Dun, Geoffrey Fisher, Wilfred Grenfell, William Lawrence, G. Bromley Oxnam, James DeWolf Perry, William Temple, Henry St. George Tucker and Henry P. Van Dusen. Sherrill had small amounts of correspondence with political leaders such as Dean Acheson, Prescott Bush, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt, Leverett Saltonstall and Harry S. Truman. He also corresponded with individuals prominent in Yale affairs, such as James Rowland Angell, Kingman Brewster, A. Whitney Griswold, Wilmarth "Lefty" Lewis and Charles Seymour.

Correspondence surrounding fifteen notable events in Henry Knox Sherrill's life is located in subsection 2 of the General Correspondence. For each event the letters are arranged alphabetically by author or recipient other than Sherrill. There are letters of advice and encouragement sent in 1923 and 1928 when Sherrill was faced with major decisions about his career. There are congratulatory letters sent when Sherrill received his honorary D.D. from Yale in 1929, when he was elected Bishop of Massachusetts in 1930, on the occasions the fifteenth and twenty-fifth anniversaries of his consecration in 1945 and 1955, when he was elected Presiding Bishop in 1947, when retired in 1958, and on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 1970. Sherrill received numerous letters of sympathy following the deaths of his mother and brother in 1932 and 1933, and following his operation in 1949. Other batches of letters are related to Sherrill's publications, William Lawrence: Later Years of a Happy Life (1943) and Among Friends (1962), his 1945 trip to Europe for the General Commission on Army and Navy Chaplains, and his 1958 appearance on the "Person to Person" television program.

The small amount of miscellaneous correspondence in subsection 3 consists of letters not written by prominent individuals and not related to any of the fifteen events noted in subsection 2.

Series II, Sermons, Writings, contains nearly 300 sermons, addresses, prayers, messages, and articles written by Henry Knox Sherrill between 1914 and 1972, as well as reviews of his major publications, and the manuscript of his autobiography. The subject matter of the material in this Series varies from general statements on theology and Church doctrine, to biographical tributes, to commentary on specific occasions before specific organizations. There are a great many statements issued by Sherrill in his capacity as head of the Episcopal Church from 1947 to 1958. The titles of Sherrill's writings illustrate the wide range of his interests and involvements.

The Biographical Documentation of Series III includes newspaper and magazine clippings, programs, reports, news releases, and other items related to the activities of Henry Knox Sherrill from 1906 through 1980. Pocket size appointment books that detail daily activities are available for most of the years between 1928 and 1957. Material related to the various committees Sherrill served on is available, including the Yale Committee on the Relationship of the University and the New Haven Hospital (1944) and the President's Committee on Civil Rights (1947). Meetings of the Episcopal Church General Convention and House of Bishops, the National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, and Lambeth Conference are documented, as well as trips taken by Sherrill and the occasions honoring him. Following the chronological sequence of material are one folder of undated material and eleven oversize scrapbooks dating from 1919 to 1965. Some of the scrapbooks document a single event while others are compendiums of material from a number of years.

Series IV, Subject File, contains material related to individuals, organizations and issues of interest to Henry Knox Sherrill. The material in this Series is primarily printed or typescript. Though it is less directly related to Sherrill's activities than the Biographical Documentation of Series III, it provides biographical information by defining the context in which he worked. Sherrill collected material related to family members and to colleagues such as Theodore Ferris, Geoffrey Fisher, Henry Hobson, and William Lawrence. The folder of material related to Phillips Brooks contains two letters written by Brooks, to "Arthur" in 1877 and to Charles L. Harrison in 1886. Organizations and institutions documented in the Subject File include the Episcopal Church Foundation, the Good Samaritan Inc., Massachusetts General Hospital, the National Council of Churches, Seabury House, Greenwich, and Trinity Church, Boston. Also included in this Series is a card file which will refer the researcher to correspondence and other material in the Sherrill Papers relating to various individuals and organizations. This file was compiled by Sherrill, his wife, and their secretaries, and has location indications which are no longer accurate in the present arrangement of the Sherrill Papers. The file is of interest, however, for its listing in one alphabetical sequence of topics which can now be located in the various Series described by this register.

The Personal Items and Memorabilia of Series V are divided into five sections:

  1. A. Artifacts
  2. B. Books
  3. C. Phonograph records
  4. D. Academic hoods
  5. E. Citations, degrees, diplomas

Most of the artifacts were gifts presented to Henry Knox Sherrill in recognition of his service to various organizations. They are described briefly, with inscriptions and dates noted as available. The books of Section B were of particular personal significance to Sherrill because they were presented to him by friends or document events and organizations of interest to him. Section C includes recordings of Sherrill addresses and Yale-related events. The majority of the twenty-three academic hoods in section D are identified according to the granting institutions, but a few are described only by color. In section E are Sherrill's earned and honorary diplomas, citations from organizations he served, and certificates documenting his appointment to various positions. One item in this section relates to Sherrill's wife, a certificate from the United States Navy in appreciation of her wartime hospital work.

The Photographs of Series Vl are divided into four sections:

  1. A. Portraits of Henry Knox Sherrill
  2. B. Portraits of family members
  3. C. Chronological sequence
  4. D. Oversize photographs and photograph albums

The majority of photographs in this Series are identified and dated. Photographs in the chronological sequence primarily document important events in Sherrill's career.

Series VII, 2009 Addendum, includes documentation of three generations of Sherrills: Henry Williams Sherrill (1853-1899 - father of Henry Knox Sherrill), Henry Knox Sherrill (1896-1979), and Henry Williams Sherrill (1922-2001 - son of Henry Knox Sherrill). The series includes family correspondence, general correspondence, writings, sermons, notes, and photographs. A detailed inventory of documents and photographs is available in the first folder of the series.

Series VIII, 2016 Addendum, includes additional documentation of the Sherrill family, especially including family correspondence with Rebecca Weeks Sherrill More, eldest grandchild of Henry Knox and Barbara Harris Sherril.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Sherrill family.

  1. I. Correspondence, 1776-1986
  2. II. Sermons, Writings, 1914-1972, undated
  3. III. Biographical Documentation, 1900-1986
  4. IV. Subject File, 1832-1978
  5. V. Personal Items and Memorabilia, 1885-1968, undated
  6. VI. Photographs, 1891-1978, undated
  7. VII. 2009 Addendum, 1859-2003, undated
  8. VIII. 2016 Addendum, 1955-2015
29 Linear Feet (56 boxes)
Related Names
Sherrill, Henry Knox, 1890-1980
Language of Materials