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RG 2/2 - Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875)
Scope and Content

The Finney papers are organized into the following record series, arranged to facilitate access to the collection's index and calendar: I. Correspondence, Incoming (calendared); II. Correspondence, Incoming and Outgoing (uncalendared); III. Miscellaneous Manuscripts; IV. Diaries and Commonplace book; V. Lectures; VI. Sermon Outlines; VII. Business Papers of Finney; VIII. Writings of Finney (Ms.); and IX. Writings of Finney (Printed). Series II, Correspondence (uncalendared), and Series III, Miscellaneous Manuscripts, were united under the title "Letters and Papers" in the original arrangement scheme. The present arrangement separates them into consecutive series. Typically, records within series are arranged chronologically or alphabetically by type of material.

The papers of Charles Grandison Finney consist mainly of incoming, calendared correspondence (1817-75) documenting Finney's revivalist activities in New York state (1817-75) and in England (1850, 1859). The correspondence is indispensable to a study of Finney's evangelism and of prevailing Presbyterian and Congregationalist controversies during the first half of the nineteenth century. Twenty-four letters (1817-71) are in Finney's own hand. Correspondents include the Rev. Horace Bushnell (1802-76), abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld (1803-95), English mill owner Potto Brown (1797-1871), lawyer John P. Cushman (1794-1848), the Rev. George Washington Gale (1789-1861), the Rev. Eliphalet Gilbert (1793-1853), Catharine Beecher (1800-78), Oberlin Professor John Morgan (1802-84), friend Herman Norton (1799-1850), metal merchant Anson G. Phelps (1781-1853), the Rev. George Redford (1785-1860), Boston businessman Willard Sears (1803-1880), and benefactor Lewis Tappan (1788-1873). Topics covered in the correspondence include evangelical Christian thought, revivalism, temperance, the anti-slavery movement, the role of women in evangelical Christianity, and the history of Oberlin College and of the town.

Finney's uncalendared correspondence includes twenty-three letters from Finney to Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Lamson of Boston describing his work in England (1860), reporting the death of Finney's second wife, Elizabeth Ford Atkinson (1863), and discussing the Evangelical Union. Additional documentation created by Finney includes diaries (1814-19, 1829-41, 1857, 1860-70) containing brief, uninformative entries; lecture notes (1868-75) dating from his tenure as Professor of Pastoral Theology at Oberlin; and writings. Writings by Finney include the manuscript draft of Finney's Memoirs (1876), in which Finney narrates the story of his career and defends his evangelical methods against the charges of Lyman Beecher and Asahel Nettleton. Also in the collection are several miscellaneous signed manuscripts (n.d.); over six hundred sermon outlines (1853-75); printed religious tracts; articles in religious newspapers; and reprints of his addresses. In their span and completeness, the sermon outlines, arranged by year, provide a valuable source for the analysis of Finney's biblical theology.

There is virtually no record in this collection of the Finney presidency at Oberlin (1851-65), or of Finney's service as a trustee (1846-51). Consult the records of the Board of Trustees (Record Group 1) and the Office of the Treasurer (Record Group 7) for the administrative papers from the period 1846-65.

Within the Finney Papers, other materials relating to Finney's long association with Oberlin (1835-75) include various personal business papers, among them a copy of the so-called "Finney Compact" (1835); bank books issued by Oberlin banks; deeds of land in Oberlin; and a map showing the parcel of land on which Finney built his home, at the corner of Lorain and Professor streets (n.d.).

Finney papers on microfilm include the following:

Calendared Correspondence, 1817-1875
Correspondence, 1830-75
Miscellaneous Manuscripts, 1835-60, n.d.
Lectures (bound), 1868-75
Sermon outlines, 1853-75, n.d.
Memoirs of Charles Grandison Finney (original microfilm is faint)

A listing of the contents of individual rolls is available.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Correspondence (calendared and microfilmed), 1817-1875 2.4 l.f.

The bulk of the Finney Papers consists of Finney's incoming correspondence (Boxes 1-6). Calendared in two volumes with an index prepared in 1939 by LeRoy P. Graf, the 2,246 letters are divided as follows: volume 1, letters 1817-33; volume 2, letters 1834-75. These letters are written mainly by converts and friends of Finney, particularly from New York state, the scene of Finney's revivals. Also included are letters from Finney's English friends, written during and after his evangelistic visits to England in 1850 and 1859. The bulk of the later correspondence (1868-75) relates to anti-masonry.

Series II. Correspondence (uncalendared), 1828-75 .2 l.f.

This correspondence was acquired after the calendared correspondence; it includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence. Letters by Finney include two written in defense of his account of the 1825 revival at Gouverneur, New York (1873) and one letter (1871) to Mrs. Sarah Spees, opposing Freemasonry and secret societies. Additional letters are addressed to Jacob Helfenstein, a preacher in Germantown, Pennsylvania (1828, 1832); E.P. Marvin (1868-74); Mr. and Mrs. James Barlow, Finney's English friends, (1860-75); and Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Lamson of Boston, Massachusetts (1860-70). Incoming correspondence is filed before outgoing correspondence.

Series III. Miscellaneous Manuscripts (indexed; microfilmed), 1835-60, n.d. .2 l.f.

This series, containing a variety of printed and manuscript materials relating mainly to Finney's revivals, includes two manuscripts by Finney: "Revival Memories," (n.d.) and "Innocent Amusements," (n.d.). The original order of these files has been maintained and follows the listing on pp. 271-72 of the index to the Calendar of the Finney papers. Accordingly, receipts, bills, and orders (1832-60) have been retained here rather than joined with those receipts housed in Series VII, Business Papers.

Series IV. Diaries and Commonplace Book, 1814-70, n.d. .2 l.f.

Includes four diaries (1814-19; 1829-41; 1857; 1860-70) containing weather observations, financial accounts, and scripture passages [Note: Although these volumes are called diaries, they do not contain the typical diary entries]. The commonplace book (527 pp., n.d.) seems to be a small concordance to Scripture, with passages copied in and cross-referenced. Also housed here is an address book, purchased and used in England (1859) and a pocket-sized pamphlet, The Names, Titles and Characters of Jesus Christ, London, n.d. The diary (1857), pamphlet, and address book are included in the Index to the Finney papers. Volumes are filed chronologically.

Series V. Lectures, 1868-75, n.d. .6 l.f.

Includes both bound and unbound lectures given by Finney, in outline and in essay form, covering such topics as baptism, church government, pastoral theology, and Asa Mahan's religious philosophy. The unbound lectures have been calendared and indexed. Bound lectures precede unbound lectures.

Series VI. Sermon Outlines, 1853-78, n.d. .4 l.f.

Finney's sermon outlines, which were arranged by Roy Alan Cheesebro in 1947, are individually numbered (1-685) and are housed in envelopes labeled by year of creation. Within years, outlines are arranged according to Scripture order. Filed with the sermon outlines are various lecture outlines (48 pieces), miscellaneous outlines (19 pieces), "Remarks of President Finney," made in 1874 at the dedication of Council Hall, and the original ms. account (with copy) of notes taken by a student hearing Finney preach on August 1, 1826; this is Finney's earliest reported sermon.

Series VII. Business Papers of Finney, 1823-75, n.d. .8 l.f.

Consists of family business papers such as receipts (1840-75); expense accounts (1844-47); agreements to have land cleared and barns built (1837-47); deeds of land; copyright agreements; insurance papers; bank books (1863-71); and an appraisal of William C. Cochran's estate (1847). It is possible that the Lorain County marriage licenses (1839-75) were issued to couples married by Finney. Materials are arranged alphabetically by type.

Series VIII. Writings of Finney (Ms.), n.d. .4 l.f.

Includes the original manuscript of Finney's Memoirs with annotations by its first editor, James Harris Fairchild (1817-1902). The manuscript is arranged in page order.

Series IX. Writings of Finney (printed), 1824-71 .2 l.f.

Finney's printed writings include: a series of pocket-size tracts published by the Williard Tract Repository, Boston; several issues of the Oberlin Evangelist (1852-61) containing Finney's addresses; an 1858 pamphlet; two 1942 reprints of Finney devotional works; a Chinese translation of "A Spiritual Awakening," (1920); and clippings relating to revivals conducted by Finney (1839-71).

Series X. Late Accretions, 1862 1.68 l.f.

Additional materials added to the Finney Papers after 1982 fall into this series. One item, a certificate made out to Charles Grandison Finney by the American Missionary Association in 1862, constitutes the series.

The calendared correspondence, loose sermon outlines, printed tracts, and some miscellaneous printed materials were given to the Oberlin College Library in 1930 by Mr. Charles Monroe and Mrs. Emma Monroe Fitch, heirs of Finney's daughter, Julia Finney Monroe. These materials were transferred to the College Archives in 1968 and 1978. Additional accessions occurred in 1966 (family business papers, Lamson letters, and marriage licenses) and in 1982 (Marvin letters). Late accretions include a certificate transferred from the Special Collections Department of the Oberlin College Library in 2009.
Related Materials
One roll of microfilm (Correspondence, 1830-75) contains letters from Finney located in other collections in the College Archives. The papers of James Harris Fairchild (2/3) contain correspondence from Finney; consult the calendar and index for these papers in the College Archives. Consult faculty records on microfilm, the records of the Board of Trustees, and the records of the Office of the Treasurer for additional related materials. See also Finney Family Papers (30/236).
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