Nineteenth Century American Thanksgiving Day Sermons

The Pitts Theology Library (Candler School of Theology, Emory University) has collaborated with the libraries of the Harvard Divinity School and the Princeton Theological Seminary to digitize 500 nineteenth-century American Thanksgiving Day sermons. With profound gratitude we acknowledge the financial support of the Henry Luce Foundation and the decision by the American Theological Library Association and the Association of Theological Schools to include our project in the Cooperative Digital Resources Initiative (Phase 2). We are honored to be their partner in this effort to improve access to these rare and fragile materials.

Each of these sermons was issued as a separate pamphlet, and each usually marked the observance of a public day of thanksgiving designated by political authorities. Many of these sermons commemorate the annual observance of a national Thanksgiving Day holiday that began with Abraham Lincoln's proclamation on October 3, 1863; others were delivered in connection with holidays proclaimed by state or local officials or before 1863 by American presidents.

The Thanksgiving Day sermon is of particular interest because of the light that it sheds on the development of church-state relations in an especially formative period in the history of the United States. In these discourses church leaders address a national/state holiday, rather than a holy day from the church's liturgical calendar, and so offer religious commentary on a civic holiday. It is our hope that this corpus of material, now available electronically, will prove useful to those interested in rhetoric, biblical interpretation, the history of religion in America, and the history of church-state relations and that both scholarship and theological education will be enriched.

Copies of all of these sermons are available through Emory's Online Catalog. Follow this link to a listing of the sermons and electronic access to them.