Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Arthur C. McGiffert Sr. Papers, 1882-1926

Summary Information


Presbyterian/Congregational minister, church historian and UTS President (1917-1926). The collection consists of correspondence, sermons, addresses, personal and professional papers, and two photographs.

At a Glance

Bib ID 4492472 View CLIO record
Creator(s) McGiffert, Arthur Cushman, 1861-1933
Title Arthur C. McGiffert Sr. Papers, 1882-1926
Physical Description 8 boxes (8 boxes)
Language(s) English .
Additional Description http://library.columbia.edu/content/dam/libraryweb/locations/burke/fa/uts/ldpd_4492472.pdf



The colleciton is organized into three series: Series 1: Correspondence, 1913-1926 (5 boxes, 2.50 lin. ft.); Series 2: Writings, 1883-1925 (1 box, 0.25 lin. ft.); Series 3: General, 1882-1921 (2 boxes, 1.00 lin. ft.)


Scope and Content

The collection is organized in three series for correspondence, writings, and other general information.

  • Series 1: Correspondence, 1913-1926

    This series contains substantial correspondence arranged in categories by the following thematic groupings: publications, lectures, addresses, invitations to speak, correspondence with certain institutions and individuals, and other professional and personal correspondence. The correspondence is arranged within these grouping alphabetically by name or title, as the case may be.

    Some of the publications included in that grouping of correspondence (Folders 1-7) are: "God of the Early Christians," Martin Luther, the Man and His Work, and The Rise of Modern Religious Ideas. Some of the publishers included in that grouping of correspondence (Folders 8-15) are: The American Journal of Theology, The Christian Work, The Macmillan Company, and Charles Scribner's Sons. The correspondence in Box 5, folder 12 is related to MacGiffert's summer property in West Falmouth, Massachusetts, as well as a boat and car used there. The correspondence in Box 5, Folder 13 relates to financial matters both personal, such as payment of income tax and investments, and UTS-related, such as payment for a new chapel window and messages seeking to improve telephone service for the president. The correspondence in Box 6, Folder 1 is connected to the McGriffert family and includes writings from family members such as Rev. Dwight F. Mowery, one of McGriffert's sons-in-law, and James H. McGriffert, a cousin of McGiffert and an attorney at the National City Bank in Cleveland, Ohio.

    The bulk of correspondence is from the period of McGiffert's presidency at Union Theological Seminary (1917-1926).

  • Series II: Agendas and Meeting Notes

General Note

Part of Union Theological Seminary Collection

In Archives.

Using the Collection

Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Preferred Citation

Item description, UTS 1: Arthur Cushman McGiffert, Sr. Papers, series #, box #, and folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

Processing Information

Correspondence, notebook, sermons, commonplace book Cataloged Lynn A. Grove 07/12/88.

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.

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:"
Chi Alpha (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Clergy -- New York (State) -- New York -- Societies, etc Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
College presidents Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Historians Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Presbyterians -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Union Theological Seminary (New York, N.Y.) -- Presidents Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note


Arthur Cushman McGiffert was born in Sauquoit, New York on March 4, 1861 to the Rev. Joseph Nelson McGiffert and Harriet Whiting Cushman. Ordained first in the Presbyterian Church and, later, the Congregational Church, McGiffert distinguished himself as an academic, teaching and writing extensively on the subject of church history, and serving as the eighth president of Union Theological Seminary.

McGiffert married Eliza Isabelle King on June 9, 1885. Their union was brief as she died in 1887, but they had one daughter, Elizabeth McGiffert (later married Rev. Dwight F. Mowery). On November 12, 1891, McGiffert married Gertrude Huntington Boyce, with whom he had two more children, Arthur Cushman McGiffert and Katharine Wolcott McGiffert (later Mrs. John K. Wright).

McGiffert benefited from extensive education, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree and his first Master of Arts degree from Western Reserve University (later combined with Case Institute of Technology to form Case Western Reserve University) in 1882. He graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1885 and went on to study abroad for a year at the University of Berlin. In 1886-1887, he studied at the University of Marburg with prominent theologian and church historian Carl Gustav Adolf von Harnack. In 1888, he received a Ph.D. from Marburg in connection with his doctoral dissertation, "Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew."

He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, Ohio in 1888 and commenced his teaching career at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio as an instructor and eventually professor in Church History from 1888-1890. McGiffert returned to Union Theological Seminary in 1893, where he taught Church History and eventually became the acting president from 1916 to 1917 and served as president from 1917 until his retirement in 1926. His term as president coincided with the first world war and related challenges. Also during his tenure McGiffert encouraged the enrollment of students from other institutions (known as "special students") and promoted the scholarly and professional aspects of theological education.

McGiffert later received a number of honorary degrees: the D.D. from Western Reserve University in 1892, Harvard University in 1906, Presbyterian Theological College (Halifax) in 1920, and the University of St. Andrews in 1922; and the LL.D. from Pennsylvania College (later Gettysburg College) in 1917 and Queen's University (Halifax) in 1919. He later served in a governance capacity with respect to various academic institutions, such as a member of Western Reserve University's board of trustees and a member of the Advisory Committee of the Harvard Endowment Fund. He took part in a large number of societies and associations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Philosophy Association, the Authors Club, the American Historical Society, and the American Church History Society.

He published a number of works during his career, such as a translation of Eusebius' Church History with Prolegomena and Notes (1890), A History of Christianity of in the Apostolic Age (1897), The Apostles' Creed (1902), Protestant Thought Before Kant (1911), Martin Luther, the Man and His Work (1911), The Rise of Modern Religious Ideas (1915), The God of the Early Christians (1924), and A History of Christian Thought (1933).

McGiffert's publication of A History of Christianity of in the Apostolic Age in 1897 in the wake of the heresy trials of Charles Briggs ignited some controversy. In 1900, the Presbytery of New York brought heresy charges against McGiffert in connection with passages of his book that were claimed to show a lack of belief in biblical inerrancy. Although the Presbytery eventually voted to not bring him to trial, the affair caused McGiffert to enter the Congregational Church.

McGiffert died at his home in Dobbs Ferry, New York on February 25, 1933, and was survived by his widow and three children. His son, Arthur Cushman McGiffert, Jr., was a published author and teaching as professor of Christian Theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary at the time of his death. McGiffert is buried in Beacon, New York.