Samuel J. May

Collections and References


1.      Substantial collections of Sam May letters are in the following locations:

a.       Rare Book Room, Boston Public Library

b.      Massachusetts Historical Society

c.       Samuel Joseph May Anti-Slavery Collection at the Cornell University Library

2.      Other materials are in the following locations:

a.       Houghton Library, Harvard University

b.      Andover-Harvard Theological Library

c.       Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse, NY

3.      Other Sam May items can be found in over 100 different repositories. Here are a few of them:

a.       The Brooklyn church records are at the Connecticut State Library, Hartford

b.      As of 1991, church records for May's tenure at South Scituate (Norwell) and Syracuse were in the respective churches (some of our are now at Syracuse University and others in our basement

c.       The Library of Congress holds documents relating to May's women's rights activity after 1860 in the Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and National American Women's Suffrage Association Papers

4.      Among May's published writings are the following:

a.       Jesus the Best Teacher of his Religion, a Discourse (1847), which is representative of May's understanding of Jesus and the basis of Christianity

b.      The Revival of Education (1855)

c.       Memorial of the Quarter-Centennial Celebration of the Establishment of Normal Schools in America (1866)

d.      A Brief Account of his Ministry (1867), which provides a succinct record of his ministerial service and what he thought important in it

e.       Some Account (Recollections) of Our Antislavery Conflict (1869)

f.        Common errors in education. American Journal of Education, IV (May and June), 213-225, 1829

g.       Capital punishment: Six reasons why it should be abolished. New York Tribune, July 25, 1851.

h.       What do Unitarians believe? Albany: Week, Parsons, and Co. (1860). A version available online at /sammaybelieve.html

5.      There are some publications about Sam May:

a.       A Memoir of Samuel Joseph May (1873) was published by his protégé Thomas B. Mumford, (ed.), with assistance from May's lifelong friend George B. Emerson, and his cousin Samuel May at the request of the May family. It includes a memoir that continued only to 1829 in the Brooklyn years, but also diary extracts, and chapters added by the editors. This is accessible through the MMUUS web page.

b.      The modern biography of May is Donald Yacovone, Samuel Joseph May and the Dilemmas of the Liberal Persuasion (1991).

c.       There are biographical entries on May by Fulmer Mood in Dictionary of American Biography (1933) and by Donald Yacovone in American National Biography (1999).

d.      There is an obituary volume In Memoriam. Samuel Joseph May (1871). Newspaper obituaries include New York Times (July 3, 1871) and New York Tribune (July 4, 1871).

e.       May is also featured in History of Woman Suffrage, edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage (1881-82); Jack Mendelsohn, Channing: The Reluctant Radical (1971); Lewis Perry, Radical Abolitionism: Anarchy and the Government of God in Antislavery Thought (1973); Douglas C. Stange, Patterns of Antislavery among American Unitarians, 1831-1860 (1977); Lawrence J. Friedman, Gregarious Saints: Self and Community in American Abolitionism, 1830-1870 (1982); and Julie Roy Jeffrey, The Great Silent Army of Abolitionism: Ordinary Women in the Antislavery Movement (1998).

6.      There also are at least two masters theses about Sam May:

a.       Saint Before his Time, by Catherine Covert Stepanek, Syracuse University, 1964. Her thesis also contains a fairly lengthy bibliography of material about, by, or reference to Sam May.

b.      Samuel Joseph May, 1854-1855, by Marian F. Schweizer, Syracuse University, 1934.


Roger Hiemstra

February 15, 2005