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William Palmer Ladd Papers

Call Number: RG 136

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the academic and professional career of William Palmer Ladd and provides valuable insight on issues in American society, especially during the early 1920s. Correspondence, sermons, and writings document the views of Ladd, a prominent Episcopal educator, on theological and social issues. Documentation related to the "socialist controversy" at Berkeley Divinity School (1919-1920) and the Connecticut Child Welfare Commission (1918-1921) is detailed and substantial.

Additional correspondence, writings, and biographical documentation relating to William Palmer Ladd are contained in the archives of Berkeley Divinity School, Record Group 216.

Series I, Correspondence, contains few personal letters. The bulk of the correspondence relates to the socialist controversy at Berkeley, Ladd's work with the Child Welfare Commission, and comments on Ladd's "Prayer Book Interleaves" - a series of articles that were later published as a book..

The Writings and Notes of Ladd in Series II include many handwritten sermons dating from his ordination in 1897 until his death in 1941. Addresses and talks include Ladd's discourses on the opening of the school year at Berkeley from 1933 to 1937. His published articles and essays are often focused on the interpretation of theology and church history for a lay audience, including a series titled "A Bird's Eye View of Church History."

Series III, Collected Material, contains valuable documentation of the socialist controversy at Berkeley, including many clippings and articles from local and regional newspapers and church organs. Reports, minutes, and articles relating to the work of the Connecticut Child Welfare Commission also provide an interesting snapshot of social conditions in Connecticut in the early 1920s.

Series IV, Personal Items and Memorabilia, includes a photographic portrait of Ladd and an article by the donor, Rosalind Ekman Ladd, relating to New Hampshire history of the Ladd family.


  • 1897-1943


Language of Materials

In English.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the estate of John Ladd, 2015.


  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Writings and Notes of Ladd
  3. III. Collected Material
  4. IV. Personal Items and Memorabilia


3 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence, sermons, writings, and collected material document the work of William Palmer Ladd (1870-1941), who was Dean of Berkeley Divinity School from 1918 to 1941. Of particular interest is documentation related to charges of socialism brought against Berkeley Divinity School and its Dean following a lecture on Russia delivered at the school in December 1919.

Biographical / Historical

William Palmer Ladd was born in Lancaster, New Hampshire on May 13, 1870. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1891 and received a B.D. degree from General Theological Seminary in 1897. He also studied abroad at the University of Paris, Oxford University, and the University of Leipzig. Ladd was ordained deacon on June 11, 1897 and as a priest on June 11, 1898. He served St. Barnabas Church in Berlin, New Hampshire from 1897 to 1902. Ladd was professor of history at Berkeley Divinity School from 1904 to 1941 and Dean of the school from 1918 until his death in 1941. It was during his tenure as Dean that Berkeley moved from Middletown, Connecticut to New Haven.

Ladd was noted for his progressive views on economic and justice issues. In 1919-1920 a controversy arose regarding activities at Berkeley and Ladd was labeled at "Bolshevist", leading to an investigation by a special committee. Ladd served on the Connecticut Child Welfare Commission during the same period.

According to an article by Michael Moriarity in Church History (September, 1995), "The liturgical movement in the American Episcopal Church owes its origin to William Palmer Ladd (1870-1941), a pragmatic New England Yankee whose ideas helped reorient the church's worship and self-understanding, and came to fruition in the current liturgy, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer."

Ladd died in New Haven on July 1, 1941.

Guide to the William Palmer Ladd Papers
Martha Hershey Brundage and Martha Lund Smalley
2015, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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