Days after learning that John D. Rockefeller, Sr. had made a $100,000 contribution to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, dozens of Congregationalist ministers denounced their own denomination for accepting the gift. The protest "shows that faith in money as a solvent of all ills is tottering," Charles Crane preached. He was greatly mistaken. The protests made hardly a dent in Americans' faith that money could solve a wide range of problems. They may have been willing to find new ways to raise and spend charitable contributions, but their faith in money was unshakeable. In the end, that faith even led official church representatives to promote nonreligious organizations in the hope that the additional capital could solve more ills. Faith in money guided the transition from nineteenth-century religious charity to twentieth-century secular philanthropy.
Charity and philanthropy have always depended upon the donation of excess capital and time. It was no coincidence that American philanthropies rapidly expanded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when wage laborers and wealthy industrialists became increasingly prevalent. With so much new capital, philanthropies claimed they could solve almost any problem. While historians have shown how nineteenth-century religious charities prefigured twentieth-century secular philanthropy, few have closely explored how this transition occurred.
This dissertation examines fundraising practices among Protestant foreign mission boards between the Civil War and the Great Depression. In the 1880s, mission board officials adopted the slogan "the evangelization of the world in this generation," an expression of postbellum beliefs in the urgency and possibility of foreign missions. Mission boards built extensive, centralized organizations to distribute American money in order to achieve this goal. Giving needed to increase rapidly, but for decades, attempts to multiply personal interest in and support for foreign missions largely failed. Officials eventually discovered they could best achieve certain foreign mission objectives outside denominational structures. Many missionaries, mission board officials, and donors consequently helped construct twentieth-century nonsectarian philanthropies, not as secular alternatives to foreign missions, but as partner organizations.
Table of Contents
Introduction: "Faith in Money"--The Constant of American Philanthropy
Chapter 1: The American Civil War and the Continuity of Foreign Missions, 1860-1880
Chapter 2: The Picket Line of Missions: Journalism, Missions, and Humanitarian Heroism in the 1890s
Chapter 3: "Money itself can never be evil": James Barton and the Decline of Grassroots Missionary Fundraising
Chapter 4: Beginnings and Endings: Systematic Giving, the European War, and the Constant Failures of Mission Movement Financing
Chapter 5: Not Letting Go! Lifting "Non-religious" Philanthropy: Near East Relief and the Foreign Mission Movement, 1915-1930
Epilogue: The End of "Faith in Money"
About this Dissertation
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