Marginalia in the Archives

Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections holds a wide variety of rare book collections, including more than 200 editions of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, many early texts by and about influential theologians and ministers like John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, and hundreds of other manuscripts on Christian life, missions, art, and history. A few of these books also include inscriptions and marginalia – the scribbles, notes, and other markings made on the cover pages or in the margins of texts. These extra-textual materials often provide unique insights into the history of a book, as well as its impact.

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A Legacy of Women’s Healthcare in China

(CN 379, Folder 4-1)

Across the history of global missions, evangelistic work has often been closely tied with practical or humanitarian outreach, especially care for the sick and hurting. The Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives holds the records of many such missionary doctors, nurses, and mission hospitals. One of the oldest mission hospitals represented in our collections is the Margaret Williamson Hospital, opened in 1885 in Shanghai, China under the Woman’s Union Missionary Society of America for Heathen Lands (commonly referred to as Woman’s Union Missionary Society or WUMS).

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Around the World in 1905

(CN 330, Folder 71-3)

Fittingly, most of the records held in the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives document the work of global missions and evangelism. But, as an archive of people’s lives, as well as their ministries, our records can also provide fascinating windows into the experiences and adventures of past generations. This week, we feature a scrapbook from Collection 330: Records of Moody Church that chronicles the 1905 world travels of William Borden, future missionary and board member of Moody Church.

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Jazz Age Evangelism: Paul Rader and the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle

Advertisement announcing the Steel Tent, which became the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle,1922. (CN 38, Folder 1-52)

Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections holds the stories of many an unsung figure in the history of evangelism, people who made an impact in their own time but are little remembered today. Such a one is Daniel Paul Rader, more widely known by his middle name Paul. The Chicago Gospel Tabernacle he started in the 1920s was a center of innovation and excitement, launching the ministries of several significant evangelical Christian figures of the next generation.

Rader was the son and grandson of ministers and was one himself for a few years, before a loss of faith led him to resign his pastorate. After leaving the ministry, Rader worked as a boxing promoter and then as an oil company representative. Around 1912 Rader experienced a renewal of his Christian faith. He became active in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, eventually serving as an assistant to C&MA founder A. B. Simpson on Simpson’s evangelistic tours. The next year Rader became an evangelist himself and preached around the United States. In 1915, he accepted the pulpit of Moody Church in Chicago and in 1919, upon the death of Simpson, Rader became the second president of C&MA.

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Music in the Archival Sphere

Music is an intricate part of every human culture, including not only the production and enjoyment of sound itself, but the place it has in shaping memory and the tone of everyday life.

Song sheet from a 1948 YFC rally in Nimes, France. (CN48, Folder 14-50)

While an expression of art, music can also be a demonstration of deep-held values, hopes and fears, both for individuals and communities. As one of the central missions of Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections includes preserving the history of evangelism and evangelical Christianity, we have sought to document the music of evangelism, in all its variety and multitude.

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“The Letter Kills but the Spirit Gives Life”: Julia E. Smith’s Bible Translation

From the first century onward, the form and text of the Bible has been a source of near-endless debate, review, reinvention, and artistry. Available in thousands of different translations, editions, and compilations, it is a text that is at once universal and individual.

Title page for a King James translation, 1613. (SC-10)

Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections holds more than five hundred whole or partial Bible monographs. Each of these instances carry forward the spirit of their common text and yet remain unique, with their own voices and particularities. Some of this variety comes from the different language translations available in the Archives (ranging from Hawaiian to Sanskrit), but remarkable diversity can also be found within the English translations alone.

The archive’s shelves include multiple printings, editions, and facsimiles of famous English translations, such as the Wycliffe Bible (1388), the Coverdale Bible (1535), and the King James version (1613), as well more modern classics, like the New International Version (1984) and the Living Bible (1971), among many others.   

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Constructed in the Clouds: The Unrealized Buildings of Wheaton College

Buildings, like people, mature and settle, acquiring unique histories and personalities through the passing seasons. Even when a beloved structure is lost to time as the result of demolition or decay, its influence burns a distinct impression into communal memory. At other times a form is planned but never built, perhaps due to lack of funding, changing needs, or diminished interest from its advocates.

The following structures, projected for the Wheaton College campus, remained stagnant on the drawing board but suggest fascinating, unrealized possibilities.   

The idealistic depiction on the left, conveying the ambitious “Greater Wheaton” project printed in the 1934 Tower, visualizes a series of modern buildings burgeoning upward from the solid basis provided by the old fashioned, neo-Romanesque Blanchard Hall. In this sketch, the drafts of a future Wheaton pile higher and higher into the clouds of the artist’s imagination, where it would remain.

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O Holy Night

One of the joys of archives and archival work is the opportunity the collections offer to explore the great variety of human invention and artistry across both time and space, as well as the ways in which common ideas and images endure through different cultures and generations.

Collection 177, Folder 8-12

As people all around the world begin their celebrations of Advent, this month we delve into the many intriguing variations in our collections on one of the most enduring of Christmas images – the Nativity.

From the origins of the story of Jesus Christ’s birth in the world of first century Palestine, to Western Europe and North America, and across the globe in India, China, and the Philippines, a review of just a few of the images of the nativity held by the Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections demonstrates the many ways the Christmas story has been reflected and reimagined in a myriad of different times and places.

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Little Hollywood on the Prairie

Was Wheaton, IL once a headquarters for cinema in the Midwest? Well, perhaps not quite. But it is true that in the middle decades of the 20th century, Wheaton was the center for the regular production of dozens of films, pioneered by the Scriptures Visualized Institute, also know as the C. O. Baptista Film Mission and C. O. Baptista Films, among other names.

Embracing their central slogan, “The Old Gospel in Modern Technique,” C.O. Baptista films represented one effort among many by Christians in the 20th century to use the possibilities of ever advancing new technologies – from recorded sound on wax cylinders to instantaneous communication via the internet – as new channels for the gospel.

The records of the Baptista Film Mission, including selections of its film catalog, are available and open for research at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives.

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The Form & the Message: Letterheads in the Archives

History is all about context. Usually this means the wider circumstances, including what lead up to the events we study and the mental word of the people we seek to understand. But it has a physical aspect too – the material objects that surround people, shaped by and shaping the culture of which they are a part.

Take, for example, the letterhead – the pre-printed part of a piece of stationary that gives the sender’s name, address and other information. Any archivist or scholar who goes through hundreds or thousands of letters will find amazing variety in this simple device.

Some state their data with clipped simplicity, some overflow with the sender’s beliefs, principles, mottos, and images to such a degree that they easily dominate whatever sentences can be squeezed into the remaining white space of the page.

The ability of the physical page to communicate as well as the words upon it is illustrated by the correspondence of J. Edwin Orr (1912-1987). In 2020, the Archives opened Collection 355, the papers of Orr, an influential evangelist and scholar who exchanged thousands of letters worldwide with people over half a century of ministry. What he and his correspondents wrote to each other is fascinating, insightful, and instructive. But what they wrote upon, the stationary itself, can also be charming, illustrative, and sometimes weird, quietly (or not so quietly) conveying its own message and tone.

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