All Souls Historical Society

We welcome new members.  If you are interested in becoming a member, please go to our Dues and Donations page for instructions, or complete this Membership Form (PDF) and send it to us along with your check.

 

The membership dues are:

  • $20 annually for an individual,

  • $40 annually for a family,

  • $100 for a lifetime membership. 

Membership requires no special commitments - you can be involved as much or a little as you like.

Email us at archives@allsoulsnyc.org if you have any questions.

We also participate in the Mighty Network, the new All Souls online social platform, so you can reach us there.

Leadership

 

President: Christina Bellamy
Vice-President: James Moskin
Treasurer: Mary Dugan
Secretary and Co-Coordinator of the Archives: Bill Bechman
Webmaster and Co-Coordinator of the Archives: Lois Coleman

All Souls Historical Society (ASHS) was founded in 1980 to stimulate research into the history of the church and its members, and to collect and preserve records and artifacts related to that history. 

Christina Bellamy, ASHS President

Angie Utt

The late Angie Utt, one of the early presidents, described the Society’s founding, in a speech at General Assembly in 1983, as an outgrowth of the Bellows Lectures, which began in 1977.  She noted that the church has a long and very interesting history, having been an integral part of New York City since it began in 1819.  She also credited the Rev. Dr. Walter Donald Kring with keeping the church’s history alive through his three books.

 

Other past presidents of the Historical Society have included Lorraine Allen, Marietta Moskin and Mary-Ella Holst.

Caring for our Historic Art and Artifacts

 

The Historical Society has been working on making an exhaustive list of all the church's historic paintings, artwork and other artifacts such as portraits of past ministers, a silver tea set donated by the Women’s Alliance, and valuable pieces of furniture, for insurance purposes and so that we could keep track of them during the renovations.

Partnering with the Bicentennial Committee, and as part of the Bicentennial Celebration, the ASHS recently funded the restoration of the 1821 clock that has hung in each of the church’s four buildings. It was originally a gift of George Bond of Boston, a benefactor of the church since its founding. (We found an envelope in the archives containing two tin clock hands, and identified them as the 1821 clock’s original hands by looking at photos in Dr. Kring’s first book.) It has been deemed too hazardous to return the clock to Reidy Friendship Hall, where it hung for many years, so it will be placed in the Forest Church Gallery when the church renovation is done.

The 1821 clock

The Channing Lectern

We also purchased the Channing Lectern for the church. The antique mahogany piece, with a hand-carved portrait of William Ellery Channing, was commissioned for the Unitarian Universalist Church in Plainview, New Jersey (where the Rev. Dr. Tracy Sprowls was minister). It became available when the Plainfield church closed in 2018. It will be used on future historical occasions at All Souls. At the 2019 Annual Meeting, we presented the Channing Lectern to the congregation.

The Historical Society also restored the stained-glass altarpiece created by Dr. Kring in the 1970s.  It stood on the altar in the chancel for several years before Sue Fuller's string sculpture was installed at the front of the sanctuary.  Dr. Kring designed his altarpiece with a definite philosophy of comparative religion in mind, and included the symbols of ten major world religions.

The lightbox on the altar in the Chapel

The All Souls Archives​

Maintaining the All Souls archives has been a significant part of the Historical Society's responsibility.  They were kept organized for many years by our archivist, Lorraine Allen, until 2017, when they were moved to the Wiggin Library at Meadville Lombard Theological School.  They are in the process of being digitized and made available online for researchers at tinyurl.com/all-souls-archives.  For more information about the All Souls archives, see The Archives Project.

The Annual Bellows Lecture

 

A great All Souls tradition was born in 1977: offering a yearly paid lecture by a researcher, author, historian or other expert, on a topic of particular interest to the church community. It was named after our esteemed second minister, Henry Whitney Bellows.

 

The first Bellows lecture came about because two years earlier, Mary-Ella Holst, then Director of Religious Education, suggested creating a display of children’s books by UU authors for an upcoming New York Metro District RE meeting. The project soon turned into an annotated bibliography, Unitarian-Universalist Contributions to Literature for Children, which was published, sold and turned a modest profit. At the same time, Jane Giles, a doctoral student, was researching Catharine Maria Sedgwick in the All Souls archives for her dissertation, and needed a research grant to continue her work. Mary-Ella and her colleagues decided to use the profits from the book to pay Giles to give a lecture to the congregation on Sedgwick. That experience also helped launch the All Souls Historical Society a few years later.

 

Other Bellows lectures have centered on Charles Follen, Horace Mann, Calvert Vaux, Peter Cooper and “Why Theodore Parker and Henry Bellows Hated Each Other,” by Dean Grodzins, editor of the Journal of Unitarian Universality History.  In 2018, author and All Souls member Laura Pedersen gave a talk titled “Does God Have a Woman Problem?”

Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, Trent Johnson,

Joan Tower and Peggy Kampmeier

​In 2019, the 35th Annual Henry Whitney Bellows Lecture was given by Joan Tower, renowned composer and great-granddaughter of Rev. Henry Whitney Bellows.  Her talk took the form of a conversation between her and Peggy Kampmeier, professor of music at Manhattan School of Music and member of All Souls about her inspirations and family memories.  Dr. Tower was commissioned to write a major composition for All Souls, to be performed at the re-opening of the sanctuary after completion of the renovations.

The 2020 Bellows lecture will be given on November 22 by Bernard Unti of the Humane Society of the United States and will be titled, "Henry Bergh: Animal Advocate, New Yorker, Unitarian, and “Riddle Of The 19th Century.”  Dr. Unti is a scholar and recognized authority on the animal protection movement, whose expertise includes the history and sociology of the humane movement; the development of animal sheltering and the kindness-to-animals ethic; and the place of animal protection within American social reform and philanthropy. He will speak about Henry Bergh, the 19th-century member of All Souls who founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1866, and the history of animal protection. Our minister at the time, Rev. Henry Whitney Bellows, worked with Bergh to found the ASPCA, and Peter Cooper, another prominent member of the church, was also on the board of the ASPCA.  Dr. Unti's lecture will be given online on Zoom, as will all church events until the end of 2020.  Click here to sign up to attend.

Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA and member of All Souls, stopping an over-crowded carriage pulled by a pair of suffering horses.

“The Crowded Car” by Sol Erynge,

Harpers Weekly, 1872

© All Souls Historical Society 2020

archives@allsoulsnyc.org

 

Unitarian Church of All Souls

1157 Lexington Ave.

New York, NY 10075

212-535-5530