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Forman Family Papers

Call Number: RG 110

Scope and Contents

This collection provides valuable insight on the life and work of three generations of an American Presbyterian missionary family. These personal papers complement the information found in the archives of the Presbyterian Mission Board found in Film Ms. 11.

Series I, Family Correspondence, is primarily the correspondence of Charles William Forman, dating from 1842 until his death in 1894. Additional early correspondence of to and from Charles Wiliam Forman's parents and siblings provides interesting detail on the family and on life in Kentucky from as early as 1808. The early letters of Charles William Forman are written from Kentucky and Princeton, New Jersey, prior to his going to India in 1847. Letters to his mother and siblings from 1847 to 1884, as well as regular letters to his children from 1878 to 1894, describe his life and work in India. Added in 2011 are several letters of Sarah (Sallie) Taylor Forman, second wife of Henry Forman, written on her voyage to India and from Gwalior.

Series II, General Correspondence, is primarily the non-family correspondence of Charles William Forman, but also includes non-family correspondence of Henry and other family members. The elder Forman's correspondence with Dr. Irving, Dr. Gillespie, and Dr. Lowrie from 1851 to 1886 consists of typed report letters to the Foreign Mission Board detailing the progress of Forman's work in India and issues related to the health and support of his family.

Series III, Research Materials and Notes, includes documentation gathered and notes written by Charles William Forman and Henry Forman about the Presbyterian mission in India and the life of Charles William Forman. The Writings of Henry Forman in Series IV are largely drawn from these materials and include an unpublished biography of Charles William Forman, material related to the mission in Lahore, the Indian Famine Commission, and reconstruction efforts of the North India Mission.

Series V, Personal Items and Memorabilia, includes biographical information related to Charles William and Henry Forman; material related to Charles W., son of Henry and grandson of Charles William, is found in Series VII.

Series VI, Material Related to Forman Christian College, includes booklets and other publications related to the College.

Series VII, Papers of Charles W. Forman (1916-), is divided into six sub-series: Writings, Organizational Activities, Material Related to Communism, Collected Material, Biographical Information, and Slides. The Writings include both published and unpublished articles, papers, drafts, and lectures. The Organizational Activities document Forman's work with the Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia, the Theological Education Fund, COEMAR, and the International Missionary Council. See "Intellectual Trajectories" - the transcript of autobiographical talk given at Henry Koerner Center for Emeritus Faculty at Yale for an overview of Forman's work.

Series VIII is an addendum that includes material related to Charles William Forman, John Newton Forman, Mary P. Forman, and the March family.


  • 1808-2015


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Charles W. Forman


  1. I. Family Correspondence
  2. II. General Correspondence
  3. III. Research Materials and Notes
  4. IV. Writings
  5. V. Personal Items and Memorabilia
  6. VI. Material Related to Forman Christian College
  7. VII. Papers of Charles W. Forman (1916- )
  8. VIII. Addendum


6 Linear Feet (15 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Letters, writings, notes, and collected material document the life and work of three generations of the Forman family. Charles William Forman was an American Presbyterian missionary in North India from 1847 to 1894. His son, Henry Forman, served as a missionary in North India from the 1880s to 1924. Charles W. Forman, son of Henry and grandson of Charles William, taught at a seminary in India for five years prior to beginning his career as professor of missions at the Yale Divinity School, where he served from 1953 to his retirement in 1987. An addendum includes information about the Frederick Marsh family, into which Douglas Forman, grandson of Charles William Forman, married.

Biographical / Historical

Charles William Forman was born on March 3, 1821 in Washington, Kentucky. After entering the family business manufacturing hemp, he was converted at a revival meeting when he was twenty years old. He felt burdened for the salvation of slaves on Kentucky plantations and tried to establish a ministry for them, but without success. He attended Centre College in Kentucky and then Princeton Theological Seminary. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister on July 7, 1847 and on the same day started his journey to India as a missionary under the Presbyterian Foreign Mission Board.

Charles William Forman arrived in India in 1847 and two years later settled in Lahore in north India (now Pakistan). He was the founder of the Rang Mahal School in Lahore, the first Anglo-vernacular school in north India. This school added a college department in 1865, which was later known as Forman Christian College. Forman was very influential in developing the educational system of the Punjab area. He served on nearly every committee on education appointed by the Punjab government during his lifetime. According to the Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Forman was theologically conservative, but "favored adaptation of Christianity to Indian custom on matters such as polygamy and he wrote appreciatively of the Sikhs and their founder. He was a friend of all, walking the streets to and from school and talking with the people daily for forty years."

Charles William Forman's first wife was Margaret Newton, with whom he had seven children, including Henry. Following the death of Margaret, Charles married Georgina Lockhart, with whom he had three children, two surviving. Charles' children Henry, John, Charles, Mary, and Emily all became Presbyterian missionaries to India. Charles died on August 27, 1894 in Lahore.

Henry Forman, son of Charles William and Margaret Newton Forman was born in 1860 in Lahore. Following his college education at the College of Wooster in Ohio, he returned to India as a Presbyterian missionary, serving stations in north India from the 1880s through 1918. He was Principal of the Sardars' School in Gwalior from 1921 to 1924, when he retired and returned to Ohio. Henry's first wife was Alice Eliza Bird. Following her death, he married Constance Newton, with whom he had a son, John Newton Forman. Following her death, he married Sarah Taylor on December 30, 1915, and had three children with her: Charles, Mary, and Robert. Henry Forman died in 1946.

John Newton Forman (1863-1917) was a Presbyterian missionary in India and one of the founders of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions.

Mary P. Forman (1866-ca.1952) was the head of a Presbyterian girls' school in Uttar Pradesh. Emily Forman (1867-1931) also headed a girls' school in India.

Charles W. Forman, son of Henry and Sarah (Sallie) Taylor Forman, was born in Gwalior, India in 1916. He received his B.A. and M.A. from Ohio State University, a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, and a B.D. and S.T.M. from Union Theological Seminary in New York. Following his marriage to Helen Janice Mitchell, he went as a Presbyterian missionary to India and taught at North India United Theological College in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh from 1945 to 1950.

Charles W. Forman was the successor to Kenneth Scott Latourette as professor of missions at Yale Divinity School, serving on the faculty from 1953 until his retirement in 1987. He was Acting Dean of the Divinity School from 1961 to 1963. He was chairman of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches from 1965 to 1971, chairman of the Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations of the Presbyterian Church from 1965 to 1971, chairman of the Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia from 1970 to 1989. Following his retirement from YDS served as visiting professor at seminaries in Egypt, and in the Pacific.

Charles W. Forman died on November 23, 2014.

The March family represented in the Addendum were relatives of the Formans by marriage. Douglas N. Forman, Sr., son of Charles Forman and grandson of Charles William Forman, married Amy March. Douglas Forman was a medical missionary in India for twenty years and later was executive secretary of the Christian Medical Council for Overseas Work, Division of Foreign Missions of the National Council of Churches.. Frederick William March sailed for Syria as a Presbyterian missionary in October 1873, in company with Henry Harris Jessup, whose papers are held in YDSL Record Group No. 117. March and his wife Jennie served the Syria Mission and were stationed in Syria and Lebanon, including Zahleh [Zahle], Tripoli, and Beirut. March engaged in evangelistic tours and literary/translation work and was principal of the Near East School of Theology from 1921-1927. See his autobiographical writing in Series VIII for more information.

Guide to the Forman Family Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
2002, 2010, 2014, 2015
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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