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American Sunday School Union Collection

Date range: c.1830-1840

Medium: Printed

Number of items: 232 items.

The American Sunday School Union was founded in Philadelphia in 1817 as the Sunday and Adult School Union, and changed its name to the ASSU in 1824. Its aims were to establish Sunday schools and to educate children and adults, teaching them to read through the use of booklets published by the Union.

The moral tracts and chapbooks published by the Union were strictly non-denominational and were intended to promote literacy, moral conduct and good citizenship. The majority of the publications contain illustrations, ranging from crude woodcuts to highly finished line engravings. Many of the stories are set in specific locations, providing a fascinating picture of mid-19th-century America.

The chapbooks are bound in 50 volumes and housed in their own miniature pedimented bookcase. Although published in high quantities, survival rates among these ephemeral pamphlets are low, and all of the tracts appear to be scarce, even in American library collections.

See also:

Further information:

  • Recorded in Library Search.
  • B. J. Scragg, 'A Collection of American Chapbooks in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester', American Studies Library Newsletter, 22 (1986), 4-7.


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