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bMS 550

Abbot, Francis Ellingwood, 1836-1903. Papers, 1815-1940: A Finding Aid.

Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University


Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: bMS 550
Repository: Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University
Creator: Abbot, Francis Ellingwood, 1836-1903.
Title: Abbot, Francis Ellingwood. Papers, 1815-1940.
Date(s): 1815-1940.
Quantity: 18 boxes
Abstract: Correspondence, compositions, genealogical material, and photographs of minister and founder of the Free Religious Association, Francis Ellingwood Abbot (Harvard A.B., 1859; Divinity School, 1859-1860; Ph.D., 1881; Meadville Theological School 1863). The collection also includes correspondence, diaries and photographs of Abbot's family members and friends.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Gift of Katharine Abbot Wells Leffler, 1990. Many of the photographs in this collection were donated by Theodore S. Abbot in 1983.


There are no restrictions on access to this collection.

Biographical / Historical

Francis Ellingwood Abbot (1836-1903), son of Joseph Hale Abbot and Fanny Ellingwood Larcom, married Katharine F. Loring in 1859 and graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor of arts degree that same year. He attended Harvard Divinity School from 1859-1860, but did not graduate. He was awarded a degree in theology from Meadville Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1863, and was ordained a Unitarian minister in Dover, New Hampshire in 1864. At the Unitarian conference in Syracuse in 1866 Abbot led a minority group who challenged the wording of the Unitarian constitution and preamble, claiming that it needed to be more liberal. The outcome of this dispute was the founding of the Free Religious Association in 1867.
The objectives of the Free Religious Association were to promote liberty of religious thought, increase humanitarian action and respect for reason, and to encourage a scientific study of theology. The organization attracted members from various Protestant denominations, especially from the Unitarians, as well as some non-Christian religions such as Judaism. Alongside Abbot, the original founders of this Association were William J. Potter, John Weiss, Dr. Cyrus A. Bartol, Edward C. Towne, and Octavius B. Frothingham. Abbot was editor of the Index, the publication of the Free Religious Association from 1870-1880. Abbot was also awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1881.


Organized into the following series:

Scope and Contents

While much of this collection is specifically associated with Francis Ellingwood Abbot, it is a multi generational family archive, beginning with a journal Abbot's mother wrote in 1815 when she was eight years old, and ending with correspondence between E. Stanley Abbot (F. E. Abbot's son) and officials at Harvard University concerning the papers in this collection. In addition to family and personal correspondence, the collection includes journals, poetry, photographs, and memorabilia. Correspondence includes letters from Colonel T. W. Higginson, O. B. Frothingham, Henry James, Dorothy Dix, and Booker T. Washington. There are also printed materials with marginal annotations by F. E. Abbot.

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