Charles Henry Appleton Dall Papers

1872-1874, 1879, 1885
Manuscript Collection #751
Dall, C. H. A. (Charles Henry Appleton), 1816-1886
Physical description
0.11 Cubic Feet, 38 items , consisting of correspondence, clippings, and a cartes de visite of Dall.
Preferred Citation
Charles Henry Appleton Dall Papers (#751), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1872-1874, 1879, 1885) including correspondence, clippings, letters, crates de visite of Dall, and miscellaneous.

Biographical/historical information

Charles Henry Appleton Dall (February 12, 1816 - July 18, 1886) was the first American foreign missionary in the Unitarian Church. He graduated from Harvard in 1837 and from Harvard Divinity School in 1840. Before his arrival in India, he had served several Unitarian churches in America as both an evangelist and a pastor. In September, 1844, he married the former Caroline Healey Wells, who later became a prolific feminist polemicist. A son and a daughter resulted from this marriage. His son, William Healey Dall, became a noted conchologist.

Dall arrived in India in 1855 and rarely returned home between his arrival and his 1886 death in Calcutta.

Scope and arrangement

Most of the correspondence was with the Reverend George L. Chaney, pastor of Hollis Street Unitarian Church in Boston. Many of the letters discuss the challenges of reaching Indians with the Unitarian message. Dall's activity in India included the operation of schools for disadvantaged children in which they would learn the English language and useful trades, the writing of pamphlets to spread the Unitarian message, and lecturing to those who would hear him.

Dall wrote more than one hundred pamphlets during his career. A clipping containing excerpts from one of Dall's most important lectures, "The Theist's Creed," appears in the collection.

The letters in the collection reflect the theological clashes of Unitarianism with Hindu pantheism. Dall centered his missionary strategy on the Brahmas (Hindus who had developed their theology into a monotheistic form of Hinduism), because he thought they would be the most receptive to the Unitarian message. His letters reveal that Dallwelcomed and took fellowship with any person who was a "theist," whether his theology was derived from a Muslim or Christian background. Also reflected in the letters was his missionary strategy of education in targeting disadvantaged groups in India and offering them an English-based education that was designed to prepare them to accept the theistic message.

Comments in one letter (July 6, 1872) concern the psychological framework of the typical Hindu of high caste. Other letters of interest describe Dall's missionary objectives and strategies and rationalize the presence of the domestic servants around him (August 5, 1872 [?]); Dall's limited financial compensation and his frugal lifestyle (September 27, 1872); and the educational challenges and propensities of "street rovers" (girls who were born out of wedlock) and Indian youths who pursued medical education and the high expenses involved with that (March 13, 1873). Additional letters discuss the building of a cemetery wall and the administration of a self-originating Indian Unitarian church at Secuderabach (April 20, 1873); the differences between the treatment of Indians by Muslims and the English, and the careers of William Roberts, the founder of India's first Unitarian Indian chapel, and his sons William Roberts, Jr., and Joseph Roberts (April 25, 1873); and the success of converting Brahmas (seekers of one God) to Unitarianism (undated).

The collection also contains a cartes de visite of Dall. Clippings in the collection, largely from the Indian Mirror, contain excerpts and transcripts of various lectures and speeches given by Dall, opinions of people who had interests in the development of India, letters to periodical editors written by Dall, and published occurrences at missionary association meetings.

Administrative information
Custodial History

November 20, 1997, 38 items; Papers (1872-1874) of Unitarian Church missionary to India, including correspondence, clippings, and a cartes de visite of Dall. Courtesy of Elizabeth Price Crockford Missionary and Church History Endowment Fund.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Elizabeth Price Crockford Missionary and Church History Endowment Fund

Processing information

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Chaney, George Leonard, 1836-1922--Correspondence
Dall, C. H. A. (Charles Henry Appleton), 1816-1886
Unitarian churches--Missions--India