1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 American Tract Society Records

 Records, 1832-1835

 Size: 0.25 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 927

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, May 2002

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The New England Religious Tract Society was organized May 23, 1814, and was renamed as the American Tract Society in 1823. In 1825 it merged with the New-York Religious Tract Society to form a new organization, which also called itself the American Tract Society. This American Tract Society distributed non-sectarian Christian pamphlets to a wide cross-section of the American public, and is still active today.


Wolfe, S.J. "Dating American Tract Society Publications Through 1876 from External Evidences: A Series of Tables," American Antiquarian Society, http://www.americanantiquarian.org/ATS.htm

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Scope and content:

            This collection consists of reports and statistical summaries prepared by American Tract Society tract distributors in Providence' s Ward 5 (what is now known as the Jewelry District). The records do not clearly state whether this was a local affiliate of the ATS or an allied organization, but the statistical summaries clearly state that ATS tracts were being distributed. Some of the reports relate to neighborhoods which apparently extended beyond Ward 5, such as Olneyville.

            The reports often include detailed information on the homes visited by tract distributors, and the responses that were received. Distribution to Catholics was particularly emphasized and received frequent comment. Most of the reports name the distributors and leave the tract recipients anonymous, but certain reports, such as June and July of 1833, offer specific information on those visited. For example, an entry from August 23 1833 reads: "Mr. Job Seekell's - talked here some with a woman who I afterwards learned was deranged."

            The statistical summaries break the 5th Ward into fifteen districts by street. For each month, the monthly tract is named, and the distributors for each district are listed, along with the number of families in the district, the number supplied with tracts, the number refusing tracts, the number lacking Bibles.

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            These papers may have been donated along with two John Bours sermon books by Thomas J. Taylor of Taunton in 1905. This gift was described simply as "MS books of sermons collected by John Bours" in the accession book. However, the Bours books (1764-1776) and the Tract Society books (1832-1835) were miscataloged together from the early 20th century through 2002 as the John Bours Papers, with a catalog card reading "Bours, John. Sermons and records of visits to the aged and sick." As there is nothing in the Tract Society books to associate them with Bours, the natural assumption is that they were cataloged together because they were donated together. This evidence, however, is extremely circumstantial.

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Processing note:

            This collection was processed in 2002. Two unrelated books of sermons kept by John Bours were transferred to Miscellaneous Manuscripts.

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Tract distribution reports:

Folder 1. August - October 1832; January - May 1833

Folder 2. April - May 1833; May 1833

Folder 3. June 1833; July 1833; August 1833; September - November 1833

Folder 4. January - March 1834; April - December 1834

Tract distribution statistics:

Folder 5. 1832-1835

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Providence, R.I. - Religion - 19th century

Religious literature - Publication and distribution - Rhode Island - Providence

Tract societies - Rhode Island - Providence

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