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"Religion," mural in the North Corridor, Library of Congress Jefferson Building, by Charles Sprague Pearce, 1897.

Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division

Address: 101 Independence Avenue SE
James Madison Building, Room LM101
Washington, DC 20540-4650
Telephone Number: (202) 707-5387
Fax Number: (202) 707-6336
Contact Persons: Manuscript Reading Room Reference Staff
Email Address: [email protected]
Internet Catalog Address:

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 8:30 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Weekends/Federal Holidays Closed
Open to the public: Yes
Photocopying:: Yes, with restrictions by format and condition
Interlibrary loan: Yes, with restrictions

The primary mission of the Library of Congress is to serve Members of Congress and thereafter, the needs of the government, other libraries, and members of the public, universities, and learned societies.

A Library of Congress Reader Registration Card is required to use the Manuscript Reading Room. To obtain a registration card, applicants must be 18 years of age or older and present photo identification bearing a verifiable permanent address. The cards are issued without charge in Room G40 of the Jefferson Building. Enter on the Second Street side of the Jefferson Building to locate this room.

Photocopying can be done by researchers with coin or debit card. The Library of Congress' Photoduplication Services can provide a wide range of reproductions of the Library's collections, such as single-page photocopies, microforms, or color slides. The ability of the Library to furnish reproductions is subject to copyright and other restrictions. Photoduplication Services is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Further information on products and services can be obtained by contacting Photoduplication Services, Public Services Section, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4570. Telephone: (202) 707-5640. Fax: (202) 707-1771. TTY: (202) 855-1234.

Readers may purchase photocopies, photographs, or microfilm of manuscripts through the Library's Photoduplication Service. Unbound manuscripts may be reproduced, subject to copyright and other restrictions, on the coin-operated machines in the Manuscript Reading Room. It is the responsibility of the prospective users or their publishers to determine the copyright status or obtain the required permission before publication of manuscript material from the Library's collections.

The national manuscript collection may be consulted by any person engaged in serious research who presents his/her Reader Registration card, completes the Manuscript Division's registration process, and agrees to adhere to the Division's rules for the use of rare materials. Student access to the collections is generally limited to those engaged in graduate study; undergraduates with previous experience in using manuscripts and who are working on a senior thesis or similar research project under the direction of a faculty member will be admitted upon an introduction in person or in writing by their advisor.

All researchers are advised to write or telephone the Manuscript Reading Room prior to visiting. Many collections are stored off-site, and advance notice is needed to retrieve these items for research.

Manuscripts on microfilm may be requested through interlibrary loan, but the Division reserves the right to deny loan requests for microfilm of collections which are stored off-site or for which there are no master negatives.

Restrictions on the use of certain materials have been imposed by donors for reasons of national security; information governing the use of any specific group of manuscripts will be supplied upon request.

Reference Policy:
The Division provides reference service in person or by correspondence. This assistance is generally provided by professional reference librarians in the Reading Room, but a staff of historians is also available for private consultation with readers. The historians' areas of specialization are early American history (to 1825), the National period (to 1861), Civil War and Reconstruction (to 1900), 20th-century political history, cultural and literary history, African American history and culture, and science.
Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution.
Items can be found in RLIN if they were recorded as part of the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections(NUCMC) online version, 1994- .
Background Note:
The Manuscript Division was one of several "departments" established in 1897, when the Library of Congress moved from the United States Capitol to the newly-constructed building nearby. Its staff of four assumed custody of a collection of 25,000 manuscripts which had accumulated throughout the 19th century. In 1903, by an act of Congress and an executive order, the State Department began transferring historical papers to the Library of Congress, including several presidential collections, which had been acquired by the federal government.

Despite its early concentration upon acquiring original manuscripts for political, military, and diplomatic history, the Division soon broadened its acquisition interests, especially after World War I, to include cultural history, history of science, and the archives of nongovernmental organizations. Its current holdings, nearly sixty million items contained in 11,000 separate collections, include some of the greatest manuscript treasures of American history and culture.

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Description of Collections

Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
The Manuscript Division holds an enormous quantity of materials relating to religion and theology. Below is a sampling of the religion-related collections which can be found here. Records are primarily from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

  • American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions - see Goodell and Armstrong papers
  • American Missionary Association (1846-1882; microfilm only)
  • American Sunday School Union (1817-1915; microfilm only)
  • Armstrong, Richard (1805-1860) - missionary to Hawaii
  • Beecher, Henry Ward (1813-1887) - Congregational clergyman, abolitionist
  • Breckinridge family (1752-1980) - a number of family members were clergymen
  • Brent, Charles Henry (1862-1929) - Episcopal Bishop, missionary to the Philippines
  • Bryan, William Jennings (1860-1925) - lawyer, U.S. Representative from Nebraska, Secretary of State; collection includes correspondence with Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson, among others
  • Christian Faith Society (1642-1972)
  • Coan, Titus (1801-1882) - Presbyterian clergyman, missionary
  • Columbus Codex (1502) - contains a copy of the Bull of Pope Alexander the Sixth in October 1493, under the direction of Columbus,
  • Curry, Jabez L. M. (1825-1903) - statesman, Baptist clergyman, diplomat
  • Darrow, Clarence (1857-1938) - lawyer with a strong interest in religion
  • Dike, Samuel Warren (1839-1913) - Congregational clergyman, social reformer
  • Dixon, Frederick (1897-1923) - editor, Christian Science Monitor, d. 1923
  • Eddy, Mary Baker (1821-1910) - founder, Christian Science; small collection
  • Elliott, Jared Leigh (1807-1881) - naval chaplain, clergyman
  • Gamewell, Francis D. (1857-1950) - missionary to China
  • Goodell, William (1792-1867) - missionary to an Armenian community in Constantinople
  • Holmes, John Haynes (1879-1964) - Unitarian clergyman, author
  • Inman, Samuel Guy (1877-1965) - missionary, social worker
  • Jesuit narratives, writings, and records from Mexico, North America, and the Philippines
  • Jewish narratives and records (for a more complete listing see Gary J.Kohn, Jewish Experience: a Guide to Manuscript Sources in the Library of Congress, 1986)
  • Johnston, Mercer Green (1868-1954) - educator, Episcopal clergyman
  • Kraus, Hans Peter (1907-), collector of Spanish-American documents
  • Marshall, Peter (1902-1964) - Presbyterian clergyman, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate
  • McKelway, Alexander J. (1866-1918) - clergyman, reformer
  • Missionary Society of Connecticut papers (1759-1948)
  • Moody, Dwight Lyman (1837-1899) - evangelist
  • Moral Re-Armament, Inc. Records (1812-1991; most from 1873-1966)
  • Moravian Church Records (1733-1896)
  • Moravian Indian Mission Records (1739-1880)
  • National Council of Jewish Women (1893-1989; most from 1940-1981)
  • National Council of Jewish Women, Washington, D.C. (1944-1981; most from 1944-1977)
  • Niebuhr, Reinhold (1892-1971) - theologian
  • Oxnam, G. Bromley (1891-1963) - Methodist clergyman, theologian, and bishop
  • Parker, Theodore (1810-1860) - Unitarian clergyman, theologian, abolitionist
  • Post, Stephen (1810-1879) - Mormon missionary and schismatic
  • Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Washington D.C. Records (1823-1936)
  • Quimby, Phineas P. (1802-1866) - spiritualist-healer
  • Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America. Diocese of Alaska (1733-1938, 1844-1974)
  • Sayre, Francis B. (1885-1972) - diplomat, statesman, spokesman for Christianity and Episcopal Church
  • Shaker Collection (1723-1952)
  • Shaker Collection, Western Reserve Collection (1792-1937; microfilm only)
  • Simpson, Matthew (1811-1884) - Methodist clergyman, Methodist Episcopal bishop
  • Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Great Britain (1701-1901)
  • Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (1757-1773)
  • Talmage, Thomas De Witt (1832-1902) - Presbyterian clergyman, lecturer
  • Unitarian Church, Washington, D.C. (1839-1842)
  • Universal Fellowship Foundation Collection (ca. 1938)
  • Ward, James Thomas (1820-1897) - clergyman, author
  • Willard, Samuel (1640-1707) - clergyman
  • Zuni Indian Mission Records (1732-1853)

Religious subject matter can also be found within many other manuscript collections. A few examples:

  • American Colonization Society (1792-1964; most from 1823-1912) - religious themes throughout as well as correspondence with church organizations, as well as religious themes throughout
  • Foreign Copying Program - extensive collections from foreign depositories relating to American history. A good deal of this material relates to religion. The manuscript copies come primarily from England, Spain, France, and Germany.
  • Benjamin Franklin Collection - several religion-related documents, including the original manuscript of "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion" (1728)
  • Edward Stephen Harkness - philanthropist and collector. Papers include proceedings of the Holy Office of the Inquisition
  • Margaret Mead - "Ritualistic Expression from the Lips of the Communicants of the Seventh Day Church of God, Beaufort, South Carolina"
  • NAACP records - records of the Church Department of the NAACP
  • Virginia Company records - religion-related materials relating to the governance of the early colonies of Virginia
  • W.P.A. Federal Writer's Project - Church Record Survey of Washington, D.C., 1735-1941; Negro Studies Project, 1722-1939; subject headings "Religious Beliefs and Customs" and "Folklore" under most State headings; Mormon diaries; subject headings "Religion" and "Folklore" under most State headings in the State Guide Files
  • George Washington and other Presidents of the United States - religious issues

The Library's online catalog provides current bibliographical and cataloging information on much of the Division's holdings. Finding aids describe the scope, content, and arrangement of its organized collections. There are more than 1600 finding aids which have been prepared to describe and facilitate the use of the Manuscript Division's larger collections. Many of these finding aids have been converted to electronic format; consult the Division's Catalogs, Finding Aids, and Guides web page at for more information. Paper copies of all extant registers are available for use in the Manuscript Reading Room and may be photocopied for a fee. Please contact the Reading Room staff by telephone or letter for further assistance.

Many of the items in the Manuscript Reading Room are available in microformat as an only or additional copy.

Most microform manuscripts will be listed in the manuscripts file in the Library of Congress online catalog, although some will be found only in the general file of the Library of Congress online catalog.

Databases, CD-ROMS, and other machine-readable sources:
Archives USA (subscription database available on the World Wide Web).

Subject Headings

African Americans--Religion; American Sunday School Union; Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887; Bryan, William Jennings, 1860-1925; Catholic Church; Christian biography; Christian Science; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Darrow, Clarence, 1857-1938; Indians of North America--Missions; Inquisition; Jesuits; Judaism; Marshall, Peter, 1902-1949; Missions and missionaries; Moody, Dwight Lyman, 1837-1899; Moral Re-Armament; Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971; Presbyterian Church; Religion--United States--History; Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America; Shakers; Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; Universal Fellowship Foundation


Bickel, Richard B. Manuscripts on Microfilm. Washington, DC: Library of Congress: G.P.O., 1975.

Kohn, Gary J. Jewish Experience: a Guide to Manuscript Sources in the Library of Congress. Cincinnati, OH: American Jewish Archives, 1986.

Library of Congress. Library of Congress Manuscripts: an Illustrated Guide. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1993.

Library of Congress. Many Nations: a Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Indian and Alaska Native Peoples of the United States. Edited by Patrick Frazier and the Publishing Office. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1996.

Manuscript Division. Library of Congress Acquisitions: Manuscript Division. Washington, DC: The Library, 1981- .

Newman Ham, Debra. The African American Mosaic: a Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. Washington, DC: Library of Congress: GPO, 1993.

Nunn, G. Raymond. Asia and Oceania: a Guide to Archival & Manuscript Sources in the United States. London; New York, NY: Mansell, 1985.

Sellers, John R. Civil War Manuscripts: a Guide to Collections in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Washington: Library of Congress: G.P.O., 1975.

Sellers, John R. and others. Manuscript Sources in the Library of Congress for Research on the American Revolution. Washington: Library of Congress: G.P.O., 1975.

Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress. Washington: Library of Congress: GPO, 1943-1983.

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  June 22, 2017
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