Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

William Adams papers, 1830 -- 1909

Summary Information


William Adams was a Presbyterian minister, pastoral theologian, UTS professor and president, and maternal grandfather of William Adams Brown. The collection contains bound "In Memoriam" books, as well as sermons written by Adams from the 1830s through the mid-1870s.

At a Glance

Bib ID 4492417 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Adams, William, 1807-1880
Title William Adams papers, 1830 -- 1909
Physical Description 14.25 linear feet (14.25 linear feet; 29 boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection is open for research.

Onsite storage.



This collection is arranged in two series: Series 1: Memorial Books; and Series 2: Sermons.


Scope and Contents

This collection contains bound "In Memoriam" books which include family notices, sermons and addresses, tributes to Dr. Adams, correspondence, letters and reminiscences on Dr. Adams's work at the seminary, clippings, and other materials, as well as sermons written by Adams from the 1830s through the mid-1870s.

  • Series 1: Memorial books, 1830 -- 1909

    This series contains bound "In Memoriam" books. There is a four volume set, followed by three other books for a total of seven books. Volume one contains family notices, sermons and addresses, tributes to Dr. Adams, notes on his resignation from the pastorate, his last illness, the death of Dr. Adams, and obituary notices. The topics are covered by newspaper clippings, typescripts, and published pamphlets. Volume two contains correspondence to members of Adams' family and other individuals, congratulatory letters on the Bishop Potter controversy, pastoral letters and letters to the senior class of UTS in 1880, and an account of a visit to the Czar and the Evangelical Alliance abroad. The letters are typed copies which also contain pasted newspaper clippings. Volume three contains sermons, addresses, correspondence, minutes, and further obituary and death information for William Adams. The materials are typed copies and also contain pasted newspaper clippings. The end of the book contains original material including a diploma from Andover Seminary dated 1830. Volume four contains typed copies of letters to Adams's first wife, Susan, from 1830, and to his second wife, Martha, 1834-1835. The final letter is one from Martha to her husband dated 1880. Untitled volumes 1-2 were created to memorialize Dr. Adams after his death; however the publication of the books never came to fruition. His daughter Mary E. Brown made two typed copies of these books. One pertained to William Adams' time as President of Union from 1873-1880, and contains a series of letters and testimonials on Dr. Adams's work at the seminary, with reminiscences of the faculty as well as the students after Adams' death. Thomas Hastings, Charles Cuthbert Hall, Charles Briggs, Francis Brown and Charles Gillett are just a few of the people who reminisced about Adams in the book dated 1893-1909. There are two copies of this volume. The final volume contains newspaper clippings and whole newspapers, sermons, pamphlets, typescripts, and obituaries for William Adams.

  • Series 2: Sermons, 1834-1873

    This series contains sermons written by Adams from the 1830s through the mid-1870s.

Burke Library record group:

Union Theological Seminary Archives: UTS 1, papers of faculty and students

Using the Collection

Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Onsite storage.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.

Preferred Citation

Item description, UTS1: William Adams papers, series #, box #, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Custodial History

A number of materials have been noted missing since 2004, including sermons #1-61 (original box 1), correspondence between William Adams and his parents and other family members, and a journal of engagements.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Exact provenance unknown. The bound materials in Series 1 are stamped that materials were presented by the family of Dr. William Adams Brown to the UTS library in January 1950.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Processing Information

Some material cataloged by Lynn A. Grove on 1988-07-06. Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. The materials were reprocessed and organized as part of the Henry Luce Foundation Grant in 2015; box numbers were changed at this time (to view a chart showing the differences between the old and new numbers, please contact Burke Library staff). The finding aid was created by Brigette C. Kamsler in 2015 with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2021.

Revision Description

2010-12-13 XML instance created by Brigette C. Kamsler

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

2021-11-09 EAD spot checked and corrected and description updated by Leah Edelman.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Sermons Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Adams, William, 1807-1880 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Clergy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
College administrators Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Missions -- Societies, etc Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Scrapbooks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Society of Inquiry concerning Missions (Union Theological Seminary, New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Theologians Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Theological seminaries -- Massachusetts -- Andover Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Theological seminaries -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Union Theological Seminary (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

William Adams was born in Colchester, Connecticut on January 25, 1807 to Elizabeth Ripley and John Adams (1772-1863). His father John was an eminent teacher and philanthropist, who graduated from Yale in 1795. William Adams attended Phillips Academy (where his father was the principal), followed by Yale College (1823-1827); Andover Theological Seminary (1827-1830), and resident licentiate at Andover Theological Seminary (1830-1831). He was ordained by the Congregational Council on February 2, 1831. William Adams was appointed pastor soon after in Brighton, Massachusetts, followed by an appointment at the Broome Street Central Presbyterian in New York City from 1834-1853. After that he became pastor at Madison Square Presbyterian Church in New York City from 1853-1873, where he enlisted support of some of the members and friends of the church for Union Theological Seminary. During this period of time, Adams earned a Doctor of Divinity from the University of the City of New York in 1842, and Doctor of Laws from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) in 1869. William Adams was married to Miss Susan P. Magoun of Medford, Massachusetts soon after entering the ministry. Susan lived for two to three years after that; after her death, William Adams married Susan's sister Martha, with whom he had four children: Mary Elizabeth Adams, William Adams Jr., Thatcher M. Adams, and a fourth daughter who was the wife of Eugene Delano of Philadelphia. William Adams' daughter, Mary Elizabeth Adams, married John Crosby Brown in the early 1860's. They would have six children, one of whom was William Adams Brown (born 1865).

William Adams was a founder, director, and occasional part-time teacher at Union, well-known preacher and author, and key figure in Presbyterian reunion. William Adams was professor extraordinary in Sacred Rhetoric at Union Theological Seminary from 1838-1840 and an instructor of Church Polity from 1871-1872. He was a director at UTS from 1836-1880; and was appointed the third president of the Seminary, also serving as Brown Professor of Sacred Rhetoric from 1873-1880. Adams was very effective at raising funds for the Seminary during his presidency, procuring hundreds of thousands of dollars for the organization to renovate the seminary's buildings and build a new fireproof library. Adams was active and respected in the field, welcoming participants from the Sixth General Conference of the World Evangelical Alliance in New York in October 1873, raising Union's status in church life. Adams was also known and appreciated for his work with the students and faculty. William Adams died in Orange Mountain, New Jersey, on August 31, 1880 after an extended illness.