May 17, 1849 (Thursday)

Fine clear weather, but rather cool for the season.

Attended the anniversary of the American Sunday School Union, at the Musical Fund Hall.  Several addresses were delivered—quite interesting.  Hall was crowded.

The American Sunday School Union had its roots in Philadelphia dating back to 1790 with the formation of the “First-day or Sunday-School Society of Philadelphia.” By 1817 there were many similar organization in and around Philadelphia and they had the desire to join together under an umbrella organization; thus “The Sunday and Adult School Union” was formed.  Within seven years, the Union had ten auxiliary organizations in neighboring states and the District of Columbia.  The various groups wanted an organization national in stature. In 1824, the multi-denominational American Sunday School Union (ASSU) was formed in Philadelphia with headquarters at 146 Chestnut Street.

"The Little Artist"

from The Amaranth: A Gift for All Seasons (Philadelphia: American Sunday School Union 1841), 115.

The mission was nothing less than the moral education of America’s youth. Since appropriate teaching materials did not exist,  the ASSU established a publishing arm and eventually became the leading publisher of children’s literature in the 19th century.  In addition to primers, moral tales, tracts, and Sunday school books, the ASSU published several periodicals such as the Sunday School Journal and the Youth Penny Gazette.  The ASSU had much to celebrate in their twenty-fifth year. For example, they distributed in the previous year publications valued at more the $130,000, a record. The AAS has more than 1500 items published by or relating to the American Sunday School Union.  For a complete list, click here.

Nathan was joined by at least 1,500 people at the Musical Fund Hall.  Members of the lay leadership, as well as, ministers from Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New York spoke at the meeting.


“Anniversary of the American Sunday School Union.” North American (Philadelphia), May 18, 1849, 2.

“Anniversary of the American Sunday School Union.” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 18, 1849, 2.

Little, Ellen. “American Sunday School Union.” The Elizabeth Nesbitt Room: American Sunday School Union Collection : accessed May 16, 2011.

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