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Collection 155 Records of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

Identifier: CN 155

Scope and Contents

This collections consists of 27 reels of microfilm containing incoming and outgoing letters written by S.P.G. secretaries, including letters and papers from and to missionaries in the American colonies both on the North American continent and in the Caribbean from colony governors and other individuals, from SPG subscribers in England, and from churches on the European continent. Subjects documented include missions and evangelistic work.

The collection consists of 27 reels of microfilm of the 51 volumes and 15 boxes in the S.P.G. archives in London. It is divided into three series.

Series A: Reels 1-8

Series B: Reels 9-22

Series C: Reels 23-27

Series A (1702-1737) consists of Manuscript Letter-books kept by the first three secretaries of the Society.

Volumes 1-6 contain only In-letters, Volumes 7-26 contain both In- and Out-letters. Here are letters and papers from (and to) the missionaries appointed by S.P.G. to the American Colonies, and also from Governors of Colonies, private persons and church-wardens there. Inland letters come from subscribers in England, and others. There a few from churches on the continent of Europe. The letters are arranged chronologically, but there is some overlapping of dates, as inland letters were copied into the books long before those of the same date from overseas. The letter books are of considerable importance, as the majority of the originals from which the letters were copied are no longer existing.

Series B (1701-1786) contains original in-letters and drafts of out-letters. The bulk consists of letters received from the American Colonies, with a sizeable number of letters sent to the colonies. Some volumes relate mainly to a particular colony, but volumes 7-20 contain general correspondence, beginning in 1738 (just after the A Series ends) and continuing to 1753.

The other volumes contain letters mainly from:

1 New York and New England, 1712-13; 1725-33

2-3 New York, 1755-82

4-5 North and South Carolina, 1715-91

6 Bahamas, Barbados, Newfoundland, Pennsylvania

8 Barbados

21 Pennsylvania, 1700-82; New York, 1775-83

22 Massachusetts 23 Connecticut, 1754-82 24 New Jersey, 1754-82

25 Nova Scotia, 1760-86

Series C (1635-1812) consists of eighteenth century letters from the Colonies (original), not bound but rather kept in boxes. The series is similar to A and B, and it is not known why these letters were not bound with others in volumes. There are also sixty-five letters (1731-33) from Society secretary Rev. Dr. David Humphreys, to missionaries and others, mainly acknowledging letters from the addresses and giving instructions thereon. The exception to similarity with A and B is in the collection of Georgia papers (eight letters, 1758-82), which constitute the bulk of S.P.G. documents concerning this colony. The contents of the boxes are arranged chronologically within the colonies:

1 New York and New Jersey, 1707-30

2 New York and New Jersey, 1730-91

3 Connecticut, 1635-1804

4 Pennsylvania, 1703-84

5 Massachusetts, 1712-1812

6 Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, 1755-1811

7 Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas. Georgia. east Florida. 1712-49

8 Same as above, 1758-84

9 Rhode Island, 1714-1800

10 Virginia and Pennsylvania deeds, 1691-1767

11 Charles Inglis, letters and diary, 1764-89 (New York)

12 David Humphreys, letters to America, 1731-34

13 Missionaries' Bills of Exchange and Receipts, 1745-53; 1780-85

14 Home letters (from England), to 1720

15 Home letters (from England), 1720-40

Accompanying this guide are two indexes. The Personal name Index was compiled from contemporary indexes found in the volumes of Series A and B. The Geographical Index includes Series A, B, and C. Because of the nature of Series C (an unindexed loose collection of letters), it was not possible to prepare a Personal Name Index for that series.


  • Created: 1701-1786

Conditions Governing Access

Permission to quote from the film must be secured from:

The ArchivistSociety for the Propagation of the Gospel15, Tulton StreetLondon, S.W.1. ENGLAND

Historical Information

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was founded by Royal Charter granted on June 16, 1701. The Bishop of London, Henry Compton, concerned about the lack of religious activity in the colonies appointed Thomas Bray as commissary for Maryland in 1696. Bray was instrumental in forming the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1698 and it was in a meeting of S.P.C.K. that the S.P.G. charter was written.

The primary object of the Society was to "ensure that sufficient mainteynance [sic] be provided for an orthodox clergy to live amongst the colonists and that such other provision be made as may be necessary for the propagation of the gospel in those parts..." Hence the original work of the S.P.G. was in areas ruled by the British Crown.

Responsibilities of the first missionaries included: performance of divine service, catechism, baptism, instruction for the "heathen and infidels" and encouragement of educational establishments.

Besides North America, work was also carried on in Africa from 1751, and India from 1818. Since that time the organization expanded its outreach into all British Colonies and is still an active organization working under the name, The United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.


27 Reels of microfilm

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

This collection was purchased by theĀ  Billy GrahamCenter Library. The originals are in the possession of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London.

No Accession #

May 29, 1981

Gerald P. Lynch

G. Wilson

Collection 155 Records of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts
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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Wheaton IL 60187 US