This collection includes the Lincoln-related papers of Robert S. Barton (1894-1954) and both Lincoln-related and other papers of his father, Rev. William E. Barton (1861-1930). Series I and II contain Rev. Barton's papers; Series III, Robert Barton's.
Rev. Barton was a leading Congregational minister and an important Lincoln biographer. Born in Sublette, Ill., he graduated from Berea College in 1885, after which he preached for the American Missionary Association at Robbins, Tenn. He studied divinity at Oberlin Theological Seminary, serving as pastor at Litchfield and Wellington, Ohio, during and after receiving his B.D. degree in 1890. His first major pulpit was at the Shawmut Congregational Church in Boston, 1893-99. His pastorate at Oak Park, Ill., to which he was then called, lasted a quarter century, until his retirement in 1924.
Series I. Rev. Barton's Lincolnian writings include several book-length manuscripts, one of which ("Abraham Lincoln American") is unpublished, and also copies of 34 articles, 19 speeches, several sermons, and many reviews. His research notes emphasize, among other topics, Lincoln in Kentucky; Mark W. Delahay, a cousin of Lincoln's; and Lincoln and the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad.
Series II. Non-Lincolnian papers of Rev. Barton include about 120 sermons, many written at Wellington and Boston, a sampling of public lectures, and a quantity of short articles, editorials, and parables, many of which appeared in The Youth's Companion, The Advance, and The Congregationalist. When the latter two publications merged in 1913, Barton was for four years editor-in-chief. The collection also reflects Barton's activities in many religious and denominational committees, including the Billy Sunday Chicago campaign of 1915 and the National Congregational Council of 1925. Much of the correspondence in the collection is similarly non-Lincolnian in orientation. Materials by or about the Barton family, including Bruce, Fred B., and Agnes Barton, are placed at the end of Series II.
Rev. Barton was a commanding figure in Lincoln scholarship in the 1920s, and the collection illustrates his productivity. See The Autobiography of William E. Barton (with an introduction by Bruce Barton)(1932); Robert Barton, "William E. Barton, Biographer," Abraham Lincoln Quarterly, 4 (June 1946), 80-93; and Benjamin P. Thomas, Portrait for Posterity: Lincoln and His Biographers (1947), ch. 9.
Series III. Robert Barton, after a career in advertising, concentrated on his life-long interest in Lincoln. His papers include notes, correspondence, drafts, and published copies of numerous articles, and also a book which he co-authored with Zarel C. Spears, Berry and Lincoln, Frontier Merchants: The Store that "Winked Out" (1947). Other materials in the collection relate to the activities of the Lincoln Group of Boston and to the opening of the Robert Todd Lincoln papers in 1947. Among Robert Barton's correspondents are other Lincoln scholars, including Paul M. Angle, Roy P. Basler, R. Gerald McMurtry, J. Monaghan, William H. Townsend, and Louis A. Warren. See Fred B. Barton, Robert S. Barton Memorial (1954)
The University of Chicago acquired an important collection of Rev. William E. Barton's papers in 1931. At that time, his youngest son, Robert S. Barton, retained at the family home in Foxboro, Mass., certain materials which, together with his own papers, were acquired by the University of Illinois Library in 1969.