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Collection 727 Papers of the Vereide Family

Identifier: CN 727

Scope and Contents

Papers of the Vereide family relating to the work of International Christian Leadership (ICL, later known as the Fellowship Foundation), mainly the efforts of Abraham Vereide and his daughter Alicia Davison. The collection reflects the activities ICL and its associated group International Council for Christian Leadership (ICCL) in fostering prayer groups, leadership seminars, and informal contacts involving government officials, business people, and civic leaders to promote spiritual unity and better personal relations and as well as strive for conservative and charitable goals.


  • 1945-2014, undated
  • Majority of material found in 1953-1985


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research, and there are no access restrictions on the use of this material.

Biographical Information

Full name Abraham Vereide Birth October 7, 1886 in Gloppen, Norway Death May 16, 1969 in Silver Springs, Maryland, United States Family Parents Anders and Helene Vereide Siblings Four sisters Marital Status Married Mattie Hansen in 1910 Children Alicia (Davison), Warren, Milton, Abraham Conversion Ordination Ordained a Methodist minister in Butte, Montana in 1906 Education 1908-1910 Took courses simultaneously in Evanston, Illinois at the Norwegian-Danish Theological Seminary, Garrett Biblical Seminary, and Northwestern University. College education was cut short by a bout of tuberculosis, which led him to go back to Montana to recover Career 1906-1908 Methodist conference preacher and itinerant pastor in Montana 1910- Pastored a Methodist church in Spokane, Washington Pastored a Methodist church in Portland, Oregon 1916-1931 Assistant pastor and then pastor of the First Norwegian-Danish Episcopal Church, Seattle, Washington 1923-1931 Founded and led Goodwill of Seattle to assist the poor and down and out of the city and the region 1931-1935 Became Associate General Secretary of Goodwill Industries of America and Executive Secretary, based in Boston, Massachusetts. Also served as pastor of the Church of All Nations in Boston 1935 Gathered prominent local business and government leaders for a regular non-denominational prayer meeting to combat perceived Communist subversion and moral decline. The group became known as City Chapel. Vereide soon led in founding similar prayer groups in other cities 1942 Helped organize a prayer breakfast for the House of Representative in Washington, DC 1943 Helped organize a prayer breakfast for the United States Senate 1943 Founded the National Committee for Christian Leadership, later renamed International Christian Leadership. It was also known by other names, including Fellowship Foundation. A continuing effort to avoid any highly organized structure always characterized the group 1953 Help organize the Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, later renamed the National Prayer Breakfast Other significant information 1905 Emigrated to the United States and first worked as a day laborer in Montana Full name Alicia Vereide Abrahamsen Davison Birth Ca. 1913 in Spokane, Washington Death March 21, 1972 in Hong Kong while on a world tour with her husband Family Parents Abraham and Mattie Vereide Siblings Warren, Milton, Abraham Jr. Marital Status Married John Howard Abrahamsen on May 3, 1935 in King County, Washington State. He died in 1942 Married Howard (Hotvard) Chesebrough Davison June 6, 1964 in the Church of the Pilgrims in Washington D.C. Children Marlene (Zerbe), Gretha (McMurray), John Education Attended Seattle Pacific College Attended Boston University Attended Barrington College Career 1930s Did social work Ca. 1945-1948 Y-Teen Director and Christian Education Director in Eureka, California 1948-1972 Assisted in the work of ICL in Washington, including starting the Congressional Wives Prayer Group in 1955 as well as prayer groups for women in diplomatic circles and in government jobs. She also served as the hostess of Fellowship House. Other Significant Information 1971 Named Churchwoman of the Year by Religious Heritage of America


4.17 Linear Feet (10 Boxes (8 DC, 2 ODC); Audio Tapes, Oversize Materials, Photographs, Photo Albums)

Language of Materials



Arrangement of Materials

The documents in this collection reflect the involvement of Abraham Vereide and his children, particularly Alicia Vereide Abrahamsen Davison in the nexus of groups called the Breakfast Groups Movement, International Christian Leadership, the International Council of Christian Leadership, the Family, the Fellowship, Fellowship Foundation, and International Foundation. Besides enabling prayer breakfasts at municipal, state, national and international levels, the movement held leadership seminars and endeavored to bring together representative in particular walks of life, particularly government, to foster communication about spiritual and moral values in society, particularly Christian values. Included among the documents are letters, speeches, newspapers and magazine clippings, programs, reports, minutes of meetings, photos, and audio recordings.

Most of the collection concerns the work of Abraham Vereide, who began the Breakfast Club Movement in 1935 at City Chapel in Seattle, Washington. This developed under his leadership into a national and then an international network going by various names. He was the active leader of the group until his resignation in 1965 as executive director. He continued to be a major presence in the movement until his death in 1969. Almost all folders in the collection reflect his activities. Of especial interest is his autobiography, apparently unpublished, in folder 8-2. (The dustjacket of a biography of Vereide that was published is in folder 4-5.) Many folders document the breadth of his activities and travels. Folder 1-1 contains many address books, presumably Vereide’s. These are both typed and handwritten with addresses and phone numbers for government officials, Christian leaders, civic leaders, personal friends, etc. Folder 1-2 contains diaries which are mainly filled with daily appointments, although there are also some notes. The notebooks in folder 9-1 are again presumably Vereide’s, although there are a variety of handwriting styles. These contain notes, perhaps for talks, addresses, sayings and thoughts, very miscellaneous. A separate folder, 9-2, contains loose pages from notebooks with his thoughts and speech notes, in no particular order.

The program in folder 10-22 for creating prayer breakfast and fellowship groups was probably largely developed by Vereide and perhaps served as a blueprint for the movement under Vereide’s leadership, as did the anonymous manuscript in folder 8-3 His correspondence in folders 4-4 through 4-6 contains several letters relating to the early formation of the prayer groups in Washington DC in the 1940s (see also folder 10-21 for the program for a Spiritual Fortification Conference and Governmental Dedicatory Dinner during the festivities of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fourth inauguration) Other letters are periodic reports to the network of supporters of activities in Washington and Vereide’s travels and meetings with leaders and groups. There are also several itineraries of his travels in Europe and Asia. Folder 4-4 contains letters from Gustav Gedat and others about building support for the ICCL in Europe. There are also many letters, usually brief notes, to Vereide from legislators and government leaders, thanking him for invitations to prayer breakfasts and other events. Several letters in all three folders of his correspondence deal extensively with the Gay Ling School in Hong Kong, a Christian school which ICL supported. However, there was a dispute between the Washington branch and the Hong Kong branch of ICL about who really owned it. The dispute resulted in the Hong Kong government seizing the building. Among his correspondents were Dwight David Eisenhower, Billy Graham, Joseph G. Grew, Crown Prince Olav of Norway, Sumner Welles, Princess Wilhelmina of the Netherlands (folder 4-4); Doug Coe (advice on setting up a governor’s prayer breakfast), Samuel Shoemaker, Ralph Yarborough (folder 4-5); Richard Halverson, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (folder 4-6) Folder 4-6 also has interesting letters to President Lyndon Baines Johnson and astronaut John Glenn. Folder 4-9 contains the letters he wrote to family members, mainly his wife Mattie, as he traveled around the United States and the world for ICL. Letters deal with family, his health, sights he saw on his travels, description of the meetings he was involved in, and impressions of Christian leaders he met.

Folder 3-14 contains birthday greetings to Vereide on his 80th birthday from around the world – government officials, politicians, churchmen, businesspeople. Most include regrets for not being able to attend the party. Among the correspondents are E. Ross Adair, Frank Carlson, Tom C. Clark, Allan C. Emery Jr., Gustav-Adolf Gedat, Harold K. Johnson, Marian Johnson (who was a major supporter of ICL and contributed to the purchase of Fellowship House), B. Everett Jordan, Walter Judd, Dan Liu, Charles Malik, J. Edwin Orr, Claude Pepper, John Stennis, Herman Talmadge, Clyde Taylor, Herbert J. Taylor, Paul Temple, Strom Thurmond, Alexander Wiley, Ralph W. Yarborough.

Folder 3-17 contains condolence to Abraham Vereide and his daughter Alicia Davison on the death of Mattie Vereide in January 1969. There is one letter of response from Vereide. Correspondents include John and Dorothy Broger, Edward Elson, Gustav-Adolf Gedat, Norman Grubb, Mark Hatfield, Walter Judd, Bruce Larson.

Folder 10-24 contain reports by Vereide on his trips in the United States, Europe and Asia. They also have a series of reports made by staff to the board of ICL in 1965. These include Vereide’s own last report as executive director.

Tapes T3, T4, and T5 contain segments of Vereide talking about the history and purpose of the National Prayer Breakfast and ICL. Tape T7 contains reminiscences about Vereide by people who knew him.

Folders 3-15 and 3-16 contain condolences to Alicia Davison and other members of Vereide’s family on his death. Most of these contain a brief summary of his ministry and its impact. Folder 3-15 contains letters sent to Alicia Davison and other members of the family. Folder 3-16 contain letters sent to Doug Coe, Richard Halverson, Boyd Leedom and other leaders of ICL. Among the correspondents are William Jennings Bryan Dorn, Gustav-Adolf Gedat, Mark Hatfield, Melvin Laird, Karlis Leyasmeyer, J. Edwin and Carol Orr, Claude Pepper, John Stennis, Stuart Symington, Paul Temple, Ralph Yarborough (folder 3-15); Gustav-Adolf Gedat, Dan Liu, J. Palmer Muntz, Richard S. Schweiker, Herman Talmadge, Herbert J. Taylor, John A. Volpe, W. Marvin Watson, and Orthodox Archbishop Iernoymos I of Athens and Greece(folder 3-16. Folder 3-16 also has a memo sent out by Boyd Leedom announcing Vereide’s passing. Folder 5-3 contains the program for his funeral service. The program for a prayer breakfast held in his memory is in folder 10-8. Photo album Vereide I apparently was created after his death and contains material about his life and career. See also photo album XV.

Alicia Vereide Abrahamsen Davison was also deeply involved in the movement from 1948 on, especially as hostess of Fellowship House and founder of the Congressional Wives Prayer Group and other groups of women in the capitol. Folder 4-2 contain some of her correspondence with her parents and family. Most of the letters in the file are from her 1958 trip to Europe. Included is her four page essay on her impressions of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, especially the spiritual dimension. Most letters talk about her family, vignettes from her travels, her practice of her faith in her daily life. Folder 4-1 contains correspondence related to her duties in the movement. Most are brief notes to her, although there is one 1965 prayer letter from her. There is also a 1959 article about her in the magazine Christian Life. There are several audio tapes of her speaking engagements (T2, T6, T8, T9, T11) and several more tapes of memorial programs after her death in 1972 of people describing her influence on their lives (T11, T13, T14). Photo album VI is mostly about Davison’s activities for ICL.

Abraham Vereide’s son and Alicia’s brother, Abraham Vereide Jr. also has two correspondence files in the collection, folder 4-7 and 4-8. There is only one brief letter from Vereide, all the rest are to him from leaders in the movement such as Douglas Coe, Richard Halverson, Mark Hatfield, Harold Hughes, Clifton Robinson, Fred Heyn, Walter Haines and Albert Quie. Some of these are personal notes, others are form letters, all reporting on activities, plans and need of ICL and the movement in the United States and other countries. Folder 4-7 has a letter from Coe with comments about Alicia’s work for ICL and also a report from Clifton Robinson on a prayer breakfast in Seoul South Korea, as well as the text of remarks Mark Hatfield made at a prayer breakfast.

The collection is rich in material on the activities and objectives of the prayer breakfast movement, particularly for the period of Vereide’s leadership. There is also a significant amount of material for the period in the mid 1970s and later, after the deaths of Vereide and Davison. A wide variety of these can be found in folder 7-6. Minutes of its board can be found in folder 7-7 and with the minutes are often audits, budgets and reports from staff. One set of staff reports can also be found in folder 10-24.

Perhaps because of the amorphous nature of the movement, it produced many statements, brochures and other documents explaining its history and purposes in general terms. A good sampling of these can be found in folder 7-6.

The movement’s base in Washington, D.C. was always called Fellowship House. Originally this was at 2324 Massachusetts Avenue and later moved to 2817 Woodland Drive in Washington D.C. Fellowship House was Abraham Vereide’s residence as well as the site of many of the movement’s activities until 1994. There are some pamphlets about it in folder 4-10. Folder 5-1 contains letters, estimates, reports and other information about maintenance and renovation of the house. Gust books signed by almost half a century of visitors to the house are folders in 6-1 through 7-2. Besides names and addresses, these often contain very brief comments from visitors. Folder 7-4 contains a guest book from a house the ICL briefly owned in New York in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Another guestbook in folder 7-3 was not from a particular house, but was signed by participant in various international conferences sponsored by ICCL and ICL. The Cedars was a home that the movement owned in Arlington, Virginia that was used for retreats and for privacy meetings of important guests. There are a few items about it in folder 1-3.

Folder 1-4 through 2-6 contain magazine and newspaper clippings about meetings and activities of the movement around the United States, especially Washington D.C., and in other countries, especially about speaking engagements of Vereide Sr. There are also clippings about the need for spiritual leadership and the activities of similar ministries, especially Billy Graham.

Another source of information on the movement is its newsletters in folders 8-6 through 9-1. The movements newsletters tended to overlap, as different ones went to different groups. Among the titles of the publications were The Breakfast Group, The Breakfast Groups, Bulletin of International Christian Leadership, Christian Leadership, NCCL Newsletter, Christian Leadership News, and Leadership Letter. These can be found in folders 8-4 and 8-5. Local newsletters for India, England and New York are in folder 8-6. After Vereide’s death, the movement mostly stopped printing formal newsletters instead Douglas Coe, Richard Halverson, and Fred Heyn sent out a single page memo, written on both sides, that briefly described current activities of the movement. Folder 3-13 contains printouts from the Congressional Record of reports on the National Prayer Breakfast, given by various senators and congressmen, over several decades. There are also a few printouts of speeches by legislators on the need of a reliance on God in the national government. Additional printouts can be found in many of the photo albums.

In folder 3-1 through 3-12 here are several files for conferences, mainly the international ones of the ICCL, but a few for ICL conferences. These files include invitations to conferences, programs, correspondence, reports, talks given at these meetings and other ephemera. Folder 3-1 holds U. S. Charles Bennet’s defense of the Voice of America. Folder 3-2 contains a great deal of material from the ICCL meeting held in Noordwijk, Netherlands in 1952, including the opening speech of Princess Wilhelmina of the Netherland, Vereide’s report to the meeting, and a list of participants. Documents from other ICCL conferences held in Noordwijk are in folders 3-4, 3-6, 3-7, and 3-12. Other cities represented in the files include Paris; Cambridge; Seattle; Hamilton, Bermuda; Washington, and San Jose, Costa Rica.

Boxes 9 and 10 contain similar ephemera from the prayer breakfasts sponsored by ICL. Most of these breakfasts were in the United States, the great majority represented in these folders being from the national (or presidential) prayer breakfast in Washington D.C. But there is also material from the Congressional Wives Prayer Breakfast (folders 9-9, 9-10, 9-11, 9-12, 10-4) and the City Commissioners prayer breakfasts (folders 9-10, 10-2, 10-3), both also held in Washington, D.C. Other American cities for which there is either governor or mayor prayer breakfast ephemera include Annapolis (folder 10-11), Baltimore (folder 10-14); Boston (folder 9-10); Detroit (folder 10-3); Ft. Lauderdale (folder 10-3); Glasgow, Montana (folder 10-11); Greenville , South Carolina (folder 10-3); Hauppauge, New Jersey (folder 10-13); Helena (folder s 9-12, 10-13); Hendersonville, North Carolina (folder 10-2); Honolulu (folder 10-15) New York City (folders 9-13, 10-1); Omaha (folder 10-3); Salem, Oregon (folder 10-2); San Francisco (folder 9-7); Syracuse (folder 10-6); Topeka (folder 9-12); and Winston-Salem (folder 9-12). Material from Canadian prayer breakfast can be found in folders 9-13 (Ottawa) and 10-5 (Regina).

An ICL leadership seminar was always held in conjunction with the prayer breakfast . Both events were by invitation only. Ephemera from these events include invitations, programs, newspaper and magazine clippings and brochures. Several folders include booklets with the text of the remarks made at the meetings, or summaries of them (folders 9-7, 9-12, 9-13). Folder 10-18 has an interesting summary of responses to the 2007 National Prayer breakfast. There are also texts of individual speeches and remarks, such as President Kennedy’s remarks in 1961 (folder 9-10) and ex-President Ford’s remarks in 1982 (folder 10-15). The texts of other speeches, usually on the theme of morality in leadership include those of John Broger (folder 9-3), Mark Hatfield (folder 10-10), astronaut James Irwin (folder 1-8) Charles Malik (folder 10-4) George Romney (folder 10-7), and Herman Talmadge (folder 10-7).

Walter Haines was an ICL and ICCL representative in Europe. His reports can be found in folder 7-5. Clifton Robinson had similar work in Asia, particularly India. His reports are n folder 10-25.

Accruals and Additions

The material in this collection was given to the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Archives in June 2019 by Marlene Zerbe, daughter of Alicia Vereide Davison and granddaughter of Abraham Vereide.

Accession: 19-20

May 12, 2022

Bob Shuster

B. Hicklin-Campbell

Collection 727 Papers of the Vereide Family
Bob Shuster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

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