"Uncle Tom['s Cabin] may all be found in our own tracts!" ——
    A Wesleyan preacher, quoted in the Christian Inquirer (1853)
"From the most ignorant and wretched of mankind we are furnished with some of the finest
    illustrations of the power of truth and grace." —— Black Peter (1842)

American Tract Societies

    As Jane Tompkins notes, the American Tract Society was "the first organization in America to publish and distribute the printed word on a mass scale."* Along with groups like the American Sunday School Union (publisher of the first two texts below), it printed millions of copies of hundreds of pamphlets and books during the 19th century. On this page is a sampling of those works, including one by Stowe herself.
    The typical tract was bound in paper, about 36 pages long, and often included woodcuts, signs that they were mainly intended for younger or lower class readers. Many, like four of the ones here, tell the story of a non-white "heathen" brought to God, as a testament to the fact that Jesus died to save all mankind, regardless of color, as an admonitory example to white Christians who neglect their faith, and as a more or less subtly worded appeal for funds to support missionaries. There is a lot of repetition in the stories tracts tell, but in a sense that is the point: that wherever one looks — into one's heart, at the landscape, in the Bible or the words of a hymn, among all the classes and colors people are found in — there is one great story being told: that God is, and will redeem the faithful from sin. Thus while instances of social injustice are often mentioned, the wrongs of this temporal and transient world pale before the promise of the everlasting home that lies in the world beyond.

Frontispiece, The African Servant
(Detail; The Barrett Collection)
  • Memoir of Catharine Brown, a Christian Indian [Excerpt]
        By Rufus Anderson, 1824; rpt. 1831
  • Hymns for Infant Minds [Excerpts]
        American Sunday School Union, 1832
  • The History of Anna Emery
        Anonymous, c. 1840
  • Memoir of Thomas H. Patoo
        By Harlan Page, c. 1840
  • "Black Jacob," A Monument of Grace [Excerpt]
        By A. D. Eddy, 1842
  • Counsels to Young Men, or Modern Infidelity [Excerpts]
        By John Morrison, c. 1842
  • The Bible Not of Man [Excerpt]
        By Gardiner Spring, 1845
  • The Newfoundland Fishermen: A True Story
        By Charlotte Elizabeth, 1850
  • The Great Day
        Anonymous, c. 1850
  • The African Servant
        By Rev. Legh Richmond, rpt. c. 1850
  • Earthly Care, a Heavenly Discipline
        By Harriet Beecher Stowe, c. 1850, rpt. 1852

  • SPECIAL THANKS: "Shaping the Values of Youth: Sunday School Books in 19th Century America"
    A Project of the Digital & Multimedia Center and Special Collections, Michigan State University Libraries.

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