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Inventory of the Thomas Starr King Collection
GTU 93-5-01  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Custodial History
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Thomas Starr King collection,
    Dates: 1837-1964
    Collection number: GTU 93-5-01
    Creator: King, Thomas Starr, 1824-1864
    Collector/Creator: Wendte, Charles William, 1844-1931
    Collection Size: 2.5 linear feet (7 boxes and 4 folios). Digital materials : 1 scrapbook (3 parts), 1 book, and 6 photographs
    Repository: The Graduate Theological Union. Library.
    Berkeley, CA 94709
    Abstract: Thomas Starr King (1824 - 1864) was a Unitarian and Universalist minister and popular lecturer. Son of a Universalist minister who served in New York and Massachusetts, he also served churches in the Boston area. He accepted a call to San Francisco in 1860 to serve the Unitarian Church. With the start of the Civil War, he lectured and campaigned successfully throughout the state to keep California in the Union and raised substantial funding for the Sanitary Commission. His was one of two statues from the State of California in the Capital Building, Washington, D.C., until replaced by Ronald Reagan in June 2009. The King statue was installed in the Civil War Grove in Capitol Park, Sacramento, December 8, 2009.
    Physical location: 2/C/4-5
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English
    Selected digitized images from the collection: images of Thomas Starr King and wife; the 1932 record of ; and the scrapbook, Memorabilia, Thomas Starr King, C.W. Wendte, in three parts.

    Access

    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

    Thomas Starr King collection, GTU 93-5-01. Graduate Theological Union Archives, Berkeley, CA.

    Acquisition Information

    Charles Wendte, Unitarian minister in Oakland, who had known Thomas Starr King when a young man in the 1860's (See introduction in Wendte's scrapbook, Folio 1) collected much of the material. This material was donated to the then Pacific Unitarian Seminary, which became the Starr King School for the Ministry. Over time, other materials were added from individuals and from the San Francisco First Unitarian Church. The collection is owned by Starr King School for the Ministry: GTU Archives is the designated repository. Transferred May, 1993.

    Custodial History

    Charles Wendte, Unitarian minister in Oakland, who had known Thomas Starr King when a young man in the 1860's, created the initial collection. Among his many actitivities, he worked on the committee to build the monument to TSK in Golden Gate Park, SF, 1892; authored a book, Thomas Starr King, Patriot and Preacher, 1921; and worked on designating TSK as one of the representatives in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall, 1927. The collection contains materials he gathered for these projects. This material was donated to the then Pacific Unitarian Seminary, which became the Starr King School for the Ministry.
    Other materials from individuals and from the San Francisco First Unitarian Church were added to what came to be known as the Starr King Collection. If indicated, the sources of items are identified in the container listings. Many items, particularly the printed materials, have the name of the school and the collection, and assigned call numbers written on them. Included in the Starr King Collection at SKSM were books, pamphlets, and other published material either original to TSK, or about him after his death. These were not transferred with the archival collection, but are maintained in the SKSM Rare Book Room. The majority of letters and sermons original to TSK in this collection are from his early years in Boston.

    Biography / Administrative History

    Thomas Starr King (1824-64) was born December 17, 1824, his parents, Thomas Farrington King, a Universalist minister, and Susan Starr, both of New York. T.F. King was called to the Universalist Church, Charlestown, MA in 1835, serving there until his death in September 1839. After the death of his father, Starr (as he was known in the family), had to leave school to help support his mother and five brothers and sisters. He worked in a dry goods store, then as a teacher, becoming principal of the West Medford Grammar School at age 18. He resigned this position to accept a clerking job in the Navy Yard were he had a larger salary and more time for independent study. Through self study, he mastered the requirements for entrance to the ministry.
    He preached his first sermon at Woburn, MA, 1845, receiving a call to his father's old pulpit in Charlestown which he accepted in 1846. The following year he began his career as a public lecturer, a career in which he became extremely popular and sought after. In 1848, he accepted a call to the Hollis Street Unitarian Church. At the time, Universalist and Unitarian were separate denominations. "Mr. King openly adopted the Unitarian fellowship, although his relations with his Universalist associates continued to be of the warmest and most friendly character." Starr and Julia M. Wiggin were married, December 17, 1848 shortly after his installation. They had two children: Edith and Frederick.
    In 1859 King received several invitations from churches calling him to be their pastor. "San Francisco prevailed." Sailing from New York in April 1860 via Panama, he found SF Unitarian "a moribund church, a depleted society, with an insufficient income and a heavy debt." Landing on April 28 and, with no preparation or advanced notice, King preached the next day to an overflowing crowd. "When his first year closed the debt was paid and the church was on a solid basis, the strongest Protestant parish in the city." With the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861 and the beginning of the war, the position of California was uncertain. Powerful interests in California leaned toward secession, others toward declaring California an independent republic. King decided "California must be won over at any price" and began his crusade for the Union. He lectured and preached from one end of the state to the other "in an earnest fight against secession." He faced hostile crowds, threats of harm, even threats against his life. In the fall election, the loyalty of the state was settled by an overwhelming majority. It was felt that "no one force had done so much to save the State as Mr. King."
    With the loyalty of California safe, King turned to other service. He entered in to the movement for the sick and wounded soldiers fund-raising throughout the entire west coast for the Sanitary Commission. He raised a million and a half dollars in 1862. He also began work on raising the money for and then construction of a new church building for SF Unitarian. "At last, his overtaxed powers gave way." The new church, in which he preached seven Sundays, was completed and dedicated in January 1864. He contracted diphtheria, then after a second bout of pneumonia, died on March 4, 1864.
    The city of San Francisco, and the entire state, went into mourning. "One wild, wild wave of excitement rolled over this city when the flag, at half-mast, and rumor from ear to ear announced the departure of a mighty spirit. From the gilded saloon to the Christian parlor --wherever he was hated most or loved best, men stopped to pause and ponder, and to simply say, with more than eloquence: 'Starr King is dead!'" (G.G.F., Alta California, March 4, 1864)
    This biographical sketch is taken from "Thomas Starr King", by Horace Davis, in the Pacific Unitarian, March, 1904. See Box 4, ff 18.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection includes original papers (letters and sermons), copies, printed material, photographs, scrapbook, newspaper articles, and King's leather traveling case. The majority of letters and sermons original to TSK in this collection are from his early years in Boston. Materials include Charles Wendte's work on the committee to build the monument to TSK in Golden Gate Park, SF, 1892, and to designate TSK as one of the representatives in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall, 1927.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.

    Subjects

    King, Thomas Starr, 1824-1864.
    Wendte, Charles William, 1844-1931.
    French, Daniel Chester, 1850-1931.
    King, Thomas Farrington, d. 1839.
    Norris, Julia Wiggin King, d. 1904.
    Unitarians--History--Sources.
    Clergy--Correspondence.
    Unitarian Universalist Churches--California--History--Sources.
    Unitarian Universalists--History--Sources.
    Clergy--Political activity.
    California--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--History--19th century.