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Inventory of the Earl Morse Wilbur Papers, 1851 - 1960
GTU 89-5-01  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Access Points
  • Biographical/Historical Description
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Earl Morse Wilbur Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1851 - 1960
    Accession number: GTU 89-5-01
    Shelf location: 2/A/3 - B/5
    Creator: Wilbur, Earl Morse
    Size: 45 boxes, 25 ft.
    Type of material: Papers (correspondance, manuscripts, printed materials); diaries; ledgers; photographs; scrapbooks
    Repository: The Graduate Theological Union.
    Berkeley, California
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Source and Date

    Ownership retained by Starr King School for the Ministry: GTU Archives is the designated repository


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Graduate Theological Union. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Graduate Theological Union as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Earl Morse Wilbur Papers, GTU 89-5-01, The Graduate Theological Union Archives, Berkeley, CA.

    Access Points

    Unitarians -- History -- Sources
    Unitarian-Universalists -- History -- Sources
    Unitarian-Universalist Churches -- Romania -- Transylvania -- History
    Unitarian-Universalist Churches -- Poland -- History
    Socinianism -- History
    Clergy -- Family -- Relationships
    Clergy -- Correspondence
    Wilbur family -- Correspondence
    Eliot family -- Correspondence
    Dorothea Dix Eliot
    Thomas Lamb Eliot
    Elizabeth Wilbur Nelson
    Ralph Wilbur
    Alice Heustis Wilbur
    William G. Eliot, Jr.
    Henrietta M. Eliot
    Henrietta R. Eliot
    Elizabeth Robins, 1865-1952

    Biographical/Historical Description

    Earl Morse Wilbur (1866 - 1956) was born in Jericho, Vermont; elder of the two sons of LaFayette Wilbur, a lawyer, and Mercy Jane Morse Wilbur. He graduated from the University of Vermont with an A.B., 1886 (valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa). For one year he taught at the Mt. Beacon Academy in New York before entering Harvard Divinity School. He received both the S.T. B. from the Divinity School and the A.M. from Harvard College in 1890. Having been raised Congregationalist, yet denied a license to preach from that denomination, Wilbur accepted a position at the First Unitarian Church (Church of Our Father), Portland, OR serving under Thomas Lamb Eliot as Associate Minister 1890-93, then as Minister 1893-98. He was ordained to the Unitarian ministry at the Pacific Unitarian Conference, Oakland, CA, September 28, 1892.
    In June, 1898 he married Dorothea Dix Eliot (Dr. Eliot's daughter) at Portland; then left immediately for a year in Europe, studying at the University of Berlin and traveling extensively. Wilbur returned to pastor the Independent Congregational Church (Unitarian) in Meadville, PA, and tutored in the Meadville Theological School. In 1904, he came to Berkeley as organizer, Dean, and sole faculty member of the Pacific Unitarian (later Starr King) School for the Ministry, serving as President from 1911-31. During this time he also served as Pacific Coast Field Secretary for the American Unitarian Association (1908-14) and Director of the American Unitarian Association (1915-22). After a sabbatical year of study and travel in Europe, 1924-25, he published Our Unitarian Heritage.
    After retiring from the presidency of Pacific Unitarian, Wilbur returned to Europe on a Guggenheim Fellowship for extensive travel and historical research working on what became The History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and Its Anecedents published 1945; and The History of Unitarianism: Transylvania, England and America published 1952. He taught at the Unitarian College, Manchester, 1933 and the Manchester College, Oxford, 1934 after which he retired from teaching. During this period, he mastered several languages enabling him to do primary research in Eastern Europe, as well as make translations of early Unitarian works. Further, his extensive collection of primary materials, made during this period and later incorporated into the Starr King School library, have gained more significance following the distruction of Eastern European libraries during World War II and the Cold War Era.
    Wilbur received the honorary degrees, D.D. from the University of Vermont, 1910; and S.T.D. from the Starr King School for the Ministry, 1950. Other honors include the Citation at the General Conference, Portland, 1949 and the Annual Unitarian Award for distinguished service, 1953. The 1949 Citation concludes: "We salute Dr. Wilbur who has done as much as, perhaps more than, any other contemporary to advance our cause by showing the deep spiritual roots which nourish us and by searching out the spiritual substance of our movement as it emerges in the long course of our history."
    Earl and Dorothea had five children, three of whom died in infancy. Thomas Lamb Eliot Wilbur died at the age of 20 in 1932. Elizabeth Fuller Wilbur Nelson was the only child to survive him. Wilbur was a member of the American Society of Church History, Unitarian Historical Society, Unitarian Literary Society of Kolazvar, Hungary, Colonial Society of Massachusetts, the Mazamas Mountain Climbing Club of Oregon, and the Tahoe Meadows Club of State Line, California. He died in Berkeley, January 8, 1956.
    (Earl Morse Wilbur, A Few Extracts from a Long Ministry, 1957; and The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 42)

    Scope and Content

    This collection had been in storage several years before processing; moved several times, and handled by various people over the years, including Wilbur's daughter Elizabeth. Materials for the collection came in groups of boxes or individual items from various sources over a period of time. There was, therefore, no original organization, the arrangement here being devised as the best possible way to approach the material. Wilbur himself was a very organized person. He kept his papers (correspondence, manuscripts, sermons, etc.) in packets, usually wrapped in paper, titled, and tied with string. Often, these packets have notes or instructions from Wilbur "to whom it may concern" or to persons who will be using the materials at some future date. The majority of the collection consists of personal family correspondence between the Wilbur and Eliot families. The other large portion of the collection is made up of Wilbur's work: manuscripts for published works and research notes for those works, sermons, public addresses, and class lectures. There is very little on the Pacific Unitarian (Starr King) School for the Ministry or his presidency.