American Sunday School Union

The American Sunday School Union was formed at Philadelphia, in May, 1834, by the combination of several local Societies, which previously existed, the largest of which, was the "Philadelphia Sunday and Adult School Union," formed in 1817. The objects of this Institution, as stated in the first Article, are, "To concentrate the efforts of Sunday School Societies, in different sections of our country; to strengthen the hands of the friends of Religious Instruction, on the Lord's Day; to disseminate useful information; to circulate Moral and Religious Publications, in every part of the land; and to endeavor to plant a Sunday School, wherever there is a population."

It embraces members, who belong to the following denominations of Christians; Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Reformed Dutch, German Reformed, Lutherans, Moravians, and others.

In the "Principles Of The Union,'' it is stated; That whilst members of these several denominations, thus connect themselves for this general purpose, it is mutually understood that the Society shall assume no control over any school whatever; that every Christian Church in the land, shall be encouraged to establish schools on its own principles; and that the aid of their books, and helps shall be afforded to them all, on as Cheap Terms, as they can be furnished.

To secure a more perfect concurrence of Christians, the Agents, Missionaries, and other persons employed by the Society are selected indiscriminately, as far as possible, from different denominations, regard being had only, to the piety and qualifications of the persons so engaged.''

The general object, to which the funds of the Society are appropriated, are two fold;

1st, the establishment and support of of Sunday Schools, in destitute places, especially in the western and southern states.

2nd, the distribution of the Societies' publications, at the lowest prices, or gratuitously, wherever readers can be found, not only in this country, but at various protestant Missionary stations of the earth, where they are wanted for English readers, as well as for the aid of compilers and translators, in native languages.

Annual subscribers of $3 a year, are members of the Society, and the payment of $30, at one time, constitutes a Life Member.

The receipts of the Society, for Books and Donations, during the year, amounted to $88,884 17, of which, less than $15,000 were donations.

The Constitution provides, that the Officers and Managers shall be Laymen.

The mechanical work of the Society, (paper making stereotyping engraving, printing, binding, &c, is all done by contract.

The Society own neither types, presses, or tools of trade; and is only responsible for using the best endeavors to get it done well, and at a fair price.

The time and service of the Board are bestowed gratuitously. The Superintendent of the Society's Book Store the Editors of the Society's Publications, and the Clerks, are paid for their services.

All the Books of the Society are published under the direction of a Committee, consisting of eight Members, from at least, four different denominations of Christians, and not more than two Members are from any one denomination: and no Book can be published, to which, any Member of the Committee shall object.

The establishment and support of Sunday Schools, in every part of the country, being the great object of "the Union," the Agents and Missionaries, employed by the Society, are instructed to extend their labors indiscriminately among every denomination of evangelical Christians; and men of every denomination are employed.

The entire Funds of the Society, arising from the Sale of its Publications and Contributions, from benevolent individuals, are devoted (exclusively) to the Benefit of Sunday Schools

The relation of an auxiliary involves no obligation which is not expressed, in the clause of the Constitution, referring to it; any Society or School is as independent, after it connects itself with the Society, as it was before. The Society has no control over it, and cannot interfere in any form, with its proceedings. Its patrons and friends, may have a School when, and where they please, nor can the Society oblige them to support any of its plans, or abandon their own. In addition to this, the relation may be dissolved at the pleasure of the auxiliaries; indeed, it is constituted for their benefit, rather than for that of the parent Union.

The ground and buildings of the Society (146 Chesnut Street, Philadelphia) cost $42,000, of which $20,000 were contributed for this object, by citizens of Philadelphia, and the sum of $20,000 is still due. The marble front, was put up without expense to the Society.

The Society has already published between 4 and 500 different (reading) Books, more than 300 of which, are handsomely bound, and cost one mill and two-thirds per page. The residue are put up in paper, or bound in small volumes, to the number of twenty or thirty.

These Books form an extensive Sunday School Library, suitable for Children and Youth. They are circulated through thousands of families; and every person, friend or foe, may examine them for himself. The use of the Library is gratuitous.

The Reports of the Society, up to May 26, 1835, show that, there are, or have been connected with it, upwards of 16,000 schools, 115,000 teachers, and 799,000 pupils. At least 60,000 Teachers and Pupils have become Professors of of Religion, during the 15 years of the Society's existence.

The general depository, for the sale of the Society's publications, is at No. 146, Chesnut Street, Philadelphia, and the principal branches are at No. 152, Nassau Street, New York. No. 8, Cornhill, Boston. Wood Street, Pittsburgh. Gennessee Street, Utica; and Fourth Street, Cincinnati.

A complete set of their Publications, bound in uniform style may be had for about $80; such a set would embrace 405 Volumes.

History of Philadelphia


Source: A History of Philadelphia: With a Notice of Villages, in the Vicinity, Printed and published by Daniel Bowen, 1839


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