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Ayer family papers


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Joseph Cullen Ayer (October 15, 1839-1918), commonly called Cullen, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was educated at Harvard (1859-1860) and served as a Lieutenant in the 18th Regiment Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War from 1861-1864.

Trained as a lawyer, Ayer began a career as a businessman in Boston following his military service. He subsequently was involved in land speculation in Tennessee and in mine speculation in New Zealand. Ayer married Caroline (Carrie) E. Roberts (June 22, 1840–1890) on December 25, 1860. Although Carrie and Cullen produced three children--John Lovering (1862), Joseph Cullen, Jr. (1866), and Francis (1874-1877)--the two seldom lived together during their married life and eventually separated. Carrie worked by necessity to support her children as a matron and cook at the Peeksville Military Academy in Peeksville, New York, and at other jobs.

Joseph Cullen Ayer, Jr. (1866-1944), the second son of Joseph and Carrie Ayer, was educated in theology and philosophy at Harvard (AB, 1887), and in Europe at Leipzig (PhD, 1893).

Ayer had a long career as a clergyman and theologian and served as Rector of St. Peter's Chapel, Osterville, Mass. (ca. 1903-1913); Rector of St. Philip's Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1929-1936); and as Professor of Theology at the Philadelphia Divinity School of the Protestant Episcopal Church (1913-1936).

The Ayer family papers document the lives of two generations of the Ayer family of Massachusetts, and later Pennsylvania.

The papers are arranged in two series. Series I consists of correspondence between Caroline E. Roberts and Joseph Cullen Ayer. The bulk of this series dates from 1860-1880. Series II contains correspondence and other papers of Joseph Cullen Ayer, Jr., the second son of Caroline and Joseph Cullen Ayer, who was an Episcopal minister and Professor of Theology. Bulk dates of this series are 1920–1935.

Boxes 1-11: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes

Gift of the Moyerman Family, 1972.

Processed by Lori A. Bridgers, 1990-1991. Encoded by Thomas Pulhamus, March 2010. Further encoding by Lauren Connolly, July 2015, and Tiffany Saulter, November 2015.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2010 March 1
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Series I.. Correspondence between Carrie E. Roberts and Joseph Cullen Ayer., 1859-1894, n.d.
Box 1-4 Folder F1-F51
Scope and Contents

The correspondence consists primarily of letters from Carrie to Cullen and concerns their marriage, children, and related matters. Also included are letters to and from the Ayer children to their parents, letters from other relatives, and a few business letters. Although Joseph Cullen Ayer served nearly three years in military service during the Civil War, only two letters written by him during this period are present (1862: September 11; 1863: July 23).

Physical Description

444 items

Scope and Contents

Includes papers relating to his professional duties as a minister and as a Professor of Theology, as well as personal and family papers.

Series II. 1.. Professional Correspondence, 1908-1940, n.d.
Box 5-6 Folder F52-F84
Scope and Contents

Consists of letters concerning Joseph Cullen Ayer, Jr.'s position as Rector of St. Peter's Chapel, Osterville, Mass.; St. Philip's Church, Philadelphia, PA; and Professor of Theology at the Philadelphia Divinity School of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Also includes letters from other clergy on matters of Church polity, doctrine, and creed; matters concerning the existence of the Divinity School; and his pension. Also includes letters to and from parishioners, students, faculty, and various organizations. Primary correspondents include: William Stetson Merrill, Dean George Bartlett, and Edward A. Pedrette.

Physical Description

507 items

Series II. 2.. Personal Correspondence, 1910-1940, n.d.
Box 7-8 Folder F85-F124
Scope and Contents

Consists of personal correspondence with friends, professional associations, merchants, and private contractors. Much correspondence concerns his summer home and vacations in Randolph, New Hampshire, primarily directed to Charles E. Hunt, the gardner for the summer house, and John H. Boothman, proprietor of Mt. Crescent House in Randolph. Also includes extensive correspondence with William (Billie) Stetson Merrill (a second cousin) and his brother John W. Merrill. Also includes one letter from George A. Barton, of Florida.

Physical Description

602 items

John L. Roberts Correspondence., 1880-1930.
Box 9 Folder F125-F127
Scope and Contents

Correspondence regarding the estate of John L. Roberts (maternal grandfather of Rev. J. C. Ayer) and its distribution. Includes copy of will, court papers, accounting sheets, and letters to George B. Dewson, lawyer, concerning income of Boston real estate.

Physical Description

35 items

Joseph Cullen Ayer., 1916-1918.
Box 9 Folder F128-F129
Scope and Contents

Letters to Rev. J. C. Ayer from his father, during the latter's time in the National Soldier's Home, Tennessee, until his death in 1918.

Physical Description

30 items

Caroline Ayer., 1921-1922.
Box 9 Folder F130-F131
Scope and Contents

Letters to and from Caroline Ayer, daughter of Rev. J. C. Ayer. Concerns work at Vassar College and her various beaux.

Physical Description

13 items

Lewis C. Cassidy., ca. 1920-1939.
Box 9 Folder F132-F133
Scope and Contents

A suitor of Caroline, ca. 1920-1921.

Physical Description

25 items

Carl W. Ziegler., 1929.
Box 9 Folder F134
Scope and Contents

A suitor of Caroline, 1929.

Physical Description

5 items

John Lovering Ayer, (1862-1918)., 1881-1937.
Box 9 Folder F135-F141
Scope and Contents

Correspondence to and from John L. Ayer, the older brother of Rev. J. C. Ayer. John changed his name to Guy Carleton Lee, ca. 1894. As John L. Ayer, he was a practicing lawyer primarily in Portland, Oregon. As Guy Carleton Lee, he was a professional editor for a publishing company. He moved to Carlisle, PA, ca. 1910.

Physical Description

83 items

Miscellaneous correspondence., 1921-1938.
Box 9 Folder F142
Scope and Contents

Letters from cousins, aunts, other relatives of Rev. J. C. Ayer. Includes one letter to Richard Ayer, the son of Rev. Joseph Cullen Ayer.

Announcements, publications, pamphlets associated with Philadelphia Divinity School and St. Philip's Church.
Box 10 Folder F143-F145
Physical Description

40 items

Examination Sheets.
Box 10 Folder F146
Scope and Contents

Autograph and typed exam questions for various classes in theology which Rev. J. C. Ayer taught.

Physical Description

16 items

Box 10 Folder F147-F148
Scope and Contents

Various pamphlets, printed announcements and related material for churches, conventions, cemetery regulations, etc.

Physical Description

22 items

Box 10 Folder F149
Scope and Contents

Church calendars listing holy days, feast days, passages from the Bible, Psalms, etc. Four different styles of calendars, all dated 1933, and a partial order form.

Physical Description

5 items

Box 10 Folder F150-F151
Scope and Contents

Map, advertisement for Holderness Boy's School, information about various associations, tax form, etc.

Physical Description

23 items

Receipts and bills from booksellers, publishers, insurance companies, charities, contract work, auto companies, seed companies, etc.
Box 10 Folder F152-F155
Physical Description

122 items

Diaries, 1904.
Box 11 Folder F156-F160
Scope and Contents

All belonged to Rev. J. C. Ayer. All are only partially filled with entries. All published by Standard Diary Co., with a calendar of the year, moon & sun calendars, charts, tables of measures, city populations, postage rates, pages for memoranda, accounts, addresses & lists, etc.

Autograph Book., 1876-1878.
Box 11 Folder F161
Scope and Contents

Book belonged to John L. Ayer. Contains messages and signatures of friends, relatives, fellow students.

Physical Description

Three photos.

Ledger, 1903-1918.
Box 11 Folder F162
Scope and Contents

Ledger & account book from St. Peter's Chapel, Osterville, Mass. where Rev. J. C. Ayer was rector.

Print, Suggest