The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), organized in 1810, was the first successful North American agency dedicated to foreign missions. ABCFM existed until 1961 when it merged with the Board of International Missions to form the United Church Board for World Ministries. The collection concerns missions in South Africa in Rhodesia and Zulu; missions in Asia including Turkey, India, Japan, and China; missions in the Philippine Islands; and ABCFM organization in general.
At a Glance
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American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
|| American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions records, 1878 -- 1958
||3.25 linear feet (3.25 linear feet; 7 boxes)
This collection is open for research.
This collection is arranged in three series: Series 1: Board records; Series 2: Africa; and Series 3: Asia and Philippine Islands.
Scope and Contents
This collection contains Board Records of the Prudential Committee, which was the Executive Committee of the ABCFM; bulletins; correspondence related to ABCFM missions throughout the world; Department of Missionary Education records including notes on missionary materials; and reports, meeting minutes, correspondence, and other materials produced by the ABCFM in Africa, China, Eastern and Central Turkey, European Turkey at the Samokov Station in Bulgaria, Japan; India; and the Philippine Islands.
Series 1: Board records, 1921 -- 1937
This series contains Board Records of the Prudential Committee, which was the Executive Committee of the ABCFM; bulletins and correspondence related to ABCFM missions throughout the world. The bulletins were sent to members of the ABCFM discussing their major objective with foreign missions; what the American board was asking of its constituency; goals and other financial figures for 1932. The correspondence entails further financial matters; the list of materials relating to ABCFM held by the Missionary Research Library and their geographic locales; and which newspapers will run articles on ABCFM matters. The Department of Missionary Education includes notes on missionary materials; books and their authors. The Prudential Committee records include reports on staff vacancies; administrative year information, and reports on the speaker's bureau.
Series 2: Africa, 1885 -- 1958
This series contains reports, meeting minutes, and other materials produced by the ABCFM in Africa, including detailed reports and minutes from multiple stations. The reports relate to the operations of the missions, including school reports; committee reports; reports of medical work and diseases treated; treasurer's reports; and reports for the study of language. Also included is information from different schools including the Mount Salinda School and the Chikore School, which detail names of students and what work they performed in class such as brick making and wood sawing. The minutes are from various African branches of ABCFM including the Rhodesian Mission Branch in South Africa, the Northern Branch and the East Central Africa Mission both in Mount Salinda, as well as the Zulu Missions. Annual meetings, special meetings, financial information and committees' minutes are contained in this series. One folder contains faculty committee minutes. This series also consists of correspondence dealing with items such as furloughing and reappointment of missionaries; information on changes in board members and actions taken by committees. Files are typed and appear to be copies kept by the secretaries, including Earnest W. Riggs and John S. Marsh; some have annotations and original signatures. Items are written to others in Africa; as well as ABCFM Secretary in Boston, Massachusetts.
Series 3: Asia and Philippine Islands, 1878 -- 1950
This series contains correspondence and reports concerning ABCFM missions in Asia, including China; Eastern and Central Turkey; European Turkey at the Samokov Station in Bulgaria; Japan; and India; and missions in the Philippine Islands. All discuss in detail their experiences with the local population, the current living situations, and other missions in the area. The missionaries speak of when Communists took control in China in 1949-1950. The missionaries in Japan include details about the country's recoveryfrom World War II and the Japanese feeling towards Americans. Those in the Philippines include details from the medical missionaries involving the types of diseases and people receiving medical treatment. The missionaries in Turkey detail the massacres which took place in the late nineteenth century and the Russian army occupation, including the interaction with Turks, Bulgarians and the missionary groups themselves. The European Turkey Mission reports include those from the Collegiate and Theological Institute in Bulgaria, and the Girls Boarding School. Much of the material is either mimeographed or carbon copy. The reports from the European Turkey Mission are handwritten mission or school copies and include annotations and corrections.
Burke Library record group:
Missionary Research Library Archives: MRL12, Ecumenical/World Mission
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
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.
Item description, MRL 12: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Records, 1878-1958, series #, box #, and folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Archives, 1810-1961 (ABC 1-91) Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Formerly part of the independent Missionary Research Library (MRL), these records were accessioned by the Burke Library at the time of the MRL's closure in 1976.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Annual reports and mimeographed reports were cataloged by Lynn A. Grove on 1988-08-02. Metal clips and staples were removed from materials and folded items were flattened. Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. Minute books were wrapped in acid-free tissue and tied with acid-free cotton tying tape. American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Southern Rhodesia Mission Records, 1900-1949 and American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Records, 1885-1926 relating to the East Africa Central Mission were merged into one collection. The finding aid was created by Brigette Kamsler in 2011 with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2022.
2022-01-31 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.
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History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was organized in 1810 by students
of Williams College in Massachusetts as the first successful North American agency dedicated
to foreign missions. It would grow to be the largest American foreign mission board in the
nineteenth century. ABCFM is recognized as a leader in regards to theology, theory, and
policies of foreign missions by those in America. Legally incorporated in 1812, ABCFM sponsored 157 ordained missionaries by 1850. Congregationalist in nature, ABCFM accepted missionaries from a variety of denominational backgrounds. The American missionaries were first sent to Africa in 1834 to work with the Zulu but had earlier supported the first missionaries to the Eastern Mediterranean in 1819. In 1961, ABCFM merged with the Board of International Missions to form United Church Board for World Ministries. In 2000, the UCBWM became the Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ.