Richard R. Seidel Archives

The Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago

The Richard R. Seidel Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago are housed in spacious and secure, climate-controlled quarters in the St. Jude League/Claretian Publications building at 205 West Monroe Street, in the heart of Chicago’s Loop, and easily accessible by the CTA, Amtrak or Metra rail lines. Built by Chicago architecture firm Holabird and Roche in 1898, the building is also the repository for the archival collections of the Claretian Missionaries of North America, and the Cenacle order of Roman Catholic women religious.

The Episcopal Church’s diocesan archives are stored in a room equipped with customized shelving; an office-library for the historiographer of the diocese completes the separate space. Shared space includes a reading room for visiting scholars and a processing area. Currently, the Episcopal archives has a vast, well-organized collection of more than 1,300 archival boxes on its shelves. There are 36 banker boxes of active parish records, and 340 banker boxes of unprocessed historical materials.

Historiographer and Registrar

The historiographer has custody of the documents belonging to the diocese and keep as far as practicable, documents pertaining to the history of the diocese, and of its institutions, parishes, and missions. The Archives and Records Management Committee advises and supports the historiographer.

Parish and Mission Archives 

Because the diocesan archives does not maintain the records of active parishes and mission congregations, it is important that each congregation do so. The historiographer is available for consultations.

See the documents, Guidelines for Parish and Mission Archives and Records Management for Congregations: A Manual for Episcopal Parishes and Missions and E-Records – FAQs and Recommendations for Parishes and Dioceses for information about establishing and maintaining these archives.

A Major Repository of Church and American History

The Richard R. Seidel Archives holds materials about the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of American’s (now The Episcopal Church) beginnings in the Midwest, from the start of the nineteenth century. Organized in 1835 as the Diocese of Illinois (and comprising the entire state), the holdings of this diocese (reorganized as the Diocese of Chicago in 1877) reflect the settlement of church and society in rural, urban, and suburban settings. The collections for Chicago include pre-and post-fire documents, and especially of interest, the era of the Civil War. In addition, the Episcopal Church in Chicago pioneered the cathedral system of diocesan organization and installed the first American cathedral chapter in 1861 in what had been a parish church on the western border of the City of Chicago, becoming the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, closed by a fire in 1921. A Pro-Cathedral was established in Evanston’s St. Luke’s parish, and finally, St. James, Chicago, became the Cathedral in 1955.

The collection is rich in nineteenth-century history, an era marked by church controversies, the rise of women’s organizations and innovative new agencies reflecting the social Christian approach to industrial and urban crises. The shift from agricultural to industrial society is well documented in the minutes, correspondence, and financial reports of the diocese and in the Bishops’ Papers beginning with Philander Chase (1835-1852) and his efforts to found Jubilee College, Peoria County, Illinois; the papers of Henry John Whitehouse (1852-1874) reveal controversies surrounding the Civil War, questions of the bishop’s authority in the American church, and the 1869 trial of Charles E. Cheney, one of the break-away clergy in Chicago who was a founder, with others nationally, of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Whitehouse’s papers include also the James W. Cracraft case in which the latter, a parish rector, spoke out from his pulpit on political matters during the Civil War, and was disciplined by the bishop.

The Ritualist Controversies, Renewal of the Order of Deaconesses, Revival of Sisterhoods, The Chicago Quadrilateral (1886), and the Modern Catholic Movement 

Bishop Henry John Whitehouse’s tumultuous episcopate was followed by a series of elections of bishops that dramatically reveal the significance of the Midwest in the rise of the Anglo-Catholic party in the Church; information on the Ritualist controversies can be found in parish and diocesan records, including the bishop candidacies of George E. Seymour and James DeKoven in 1874, and the Father Arthur Ritchie case (1878-79). The election of William E. McLaren (1875-1905) ushered in a period of growth and, in keeping with the movement toward Anglo-Catholicism, was a period of great reception for renewal in the deaconesses and sisterhoods of worldwide Anglicanism. The archives have the rare records of the Order of Deaconesses and the Sisters of St. Mary and their work in this diocese. Women’s religious orders are documented through the 20th Century. The records of the General Convention meeting in Chicago in 1886—whence came the Chicago Quadrilateral—was a defining moment in the national church. The records of the modern Catholic Movement include the Catholic Union of Chicago, the Catholic Congresses, the American Church Union Papers, and documents relating to talks on ecclesiastical relations with Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, Roman Catholic, Assyrian, and Polish National Catholic churches. Mid-twentieth century negotiations with the Roman Catholics, and agreements with the Lutherans during the episcopates of James Winchester Montgomery (1971-1987) and Frank Tracy Griswold, III, (1987-1998) are documented in their papers.

The Work of the Laity

In the 19th Century the parish files of the congregations throughout the State of Illinois reflect the activism of community builders–men and women–who constructed civic and religious institutions and developed the economic and social fabric of the society. The Richard R. Seidel Memorial Archives houses parish records for parishes and missions in Illinois from the 1830s; materials include records of baptism, confirmation, marriage, death; parochial reports; vestry minutes, correspondence; biographical material; historical material; and photographs and architectural records. In addition, there are papers of men’s and women’s voluntary associations. The major collection is that of the Women’s Auxiliary (now the Episcopal Church Women –ECW) from 1875 to the present. An important men’s organization is the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew Papers (1884-1947); and the Church Club Papers (1874-1966).

Missionary Efforts and Church Agencies

The record is rich for city missionary work including record books from 1835, Cathedral and City Missions Newsletter (1908-1921), Town and Country Papers (1934-1965); Church Extension Papers, Metropolitan Affairs records, and the Canon Missionary Papers of the Rev. Tyndall, Archdeacon Deppen, and Canon David N. Harris all relate to parishes and missions. Social service and charitable institutions tell the story of the Church’s engagement with immigrants and other newcomers; with social justice concerns; with rehabilitation and therapy; with orphans and the sick. The archives have the records of the following institutions and agencies/programs: Randall House; Benton House; Bishop Anderson House/Foundation; Cathedral Shelter; Chase House; Church Home for the Aged; St. Mary’s Home for Children; St. Luke’s Hospital; Chicago Home for Boys; Lawrence Hall; St. Leonard’s House; St. Alban’s’; Waterman Hall.