Special Collections Department
William Buell Sprague
Manuscript Collection Number: 99 (F551)
Accessioned: Purchase, 1996.
Extent: 18 items.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: January 1997 by Anita A. Wellner.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
On August 25, 1819, William Buell Sprague was ordained and installed as an assistant to the Reverend Doctor Joseph Lathrop, pastor of the Congregational Church of West Springfield, Massachusetts. Upon Dr. Lathrop's death in 1820, Sprague became the pastor of Congregational Church, serving for ten years. His second pastorate was the Second Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York, which he assumed in 1829. During his forty years as pastor of this church he became one of the most widely recognized American clergymen of his day. Sprague was known as an eloquent speaker, a scholar of Protestant history and biography, a prolific author of more than 150 titles, and an avid collector of autograph manuscripts.
Sprague's most enduring work, his nine-volume Annals of the American Pulpit (1857-1869), continues to provide invaluable information regarding Protestant ministers in America through 1850. Sprague's other publications included numerous biographies, collections of his sermons and addresses, as well as two compilations of letters, Letters from Europe (1828) and Visits to European Celebrities (1856), which chronicled his travels and encounters during two excursions to Europe.
As a collector of pamphlets, manuscripts, and autographs, Sprague's tenacity was unmatched. At the time of his death, Sprague had amassed more than 40,000 autographs, including 1,500 George Washington letters, which he had been allowed to select during his days at Woodlawn, a collection considered the largest and most valuable in the United States at that time. During his lifetime he had acquired a complete set of autographs of signers of the Declaration of the Independence and the Constitution, as well as generals of the American Revolution.
Although Sprague was zealous in his collecting, his own opinion of collectors is recorded thus: "I would advise you to have as little to do with an autograph collector as possible, for though there are some honorable exceptions yet, as a class, I think they rank A No. 1 in point of meanness. " (DAB, IX, p. 477)
After his resignation at Albany, Sprague made his home with a son at Flushing, New York, where he died on May 7, 1876.
Source:Malone, Dumas (ed.) Dictionary of American Biography. Volume IX. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1964. pp. 475-477.
Scope and Content Note
The collection also includes one letter which was not written by William Buell Sprague. Written in 1834 by I. K. Tefft to John Moir, the letter is related to the collection in that it discusses autograph collecting.
The letters in this collection are arranged in chronological order.
F551 Tefft, I. K. To John Moir 1834 Apr 27 ALS 3p Sprague, William Buell, 1795-1876. To Unidentified 1836 Mar 27 ALS 2p 1837 Jan 1 ALS 3p To James Thomas Fields, 1816-1881. 1843 Nov 16 ALS 1p To [Samuel Colman] 1846 Jan 17 ALS 3p To Reverend C. Ellis 1849 Aug 8 ALS 3p To [Eleazar T. Fitch] 1851 Oct 6 ALS 3p To Dr. Peabody 1855 Jun 2 ALS 4p To Reverend Professor Packard 1856 Nov 25 ALS 2p To Dr. Hatfield 1857 Sep 2 ALS 1p To Unidentified 1859 Jan 24 ALS 1p 1860 Oct 1 ALS 2p Nov 8 ALS 4p 1866 Oct 17 ALS 1p To Dr. Hatfield 1867 Oct 17 ALS 1p To Unidentified 1868 Apr 30 ALS 1p 1870 Apr 21 ALS 1p 1874 Mar 21 ALS 1p
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