In 2019 the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietists Studies at Elizabethtown College purchased the Clarence E. Spohn Collection. Spohn, a life-long resident of Ephrata, worked at the Ephrata Cloister from 1968-1996, serving as Museum Educator from 1988-1996. The collection includes rare imprints from printers active in Ephrata from 1745 to about 1830, as well as artifacts pertaining to the Ephrata community (Ephrata Cloister), records and notes pertaining to legal transactions about the property, and Spohn’s copious research notes. The collection is the single most important grouping of imprints from the various printers who worked at Ephrata, including the Cloister press and the Baumann and Ruth presses that followed. Because of his extensive work at Ephrata Cloister, Spohn’s research notes are a rich source of information about the imprints and the Ephrata community. Among the objects are a rare woodblock engraving of the Ephrata seal used in printing and a rare wooden communion chalice and bread plate (paten). The collection is housed at the Hess Archives in the High Library at Elizabethtown College. Hess Archives recently digitalized fifty-nine of the imprints and have made them available through Brethren Digital Archives. They can be accessed by way of the High Library’s research guides at: https://libraryguides.etown.edu/spohn.
The imprints include a rare liturgy printed by the Ephrata brothers in 1785 for the Moravian congregation in Lititz. The only other known copies are in the Moravian Music Foundation library in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and in the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Another imprint, Das Andencken etlicher Heiligen Martyrer (The Memorial of a Few Holy Martyrs), has special importance for Mennonites and Brethren. It is a small volume of two martyrs stories from the Dutch Mennonite Martyrs Mirror, translated into German by Bro. Theophilum, which was the spiritual name for Alexander Mack Jr., the youngest son of the founder of the German Baptist Brethren. Printed in 1745, the book was one of the earliest imprints of the Ephrata press. It was printed at about the time that Alexander Mack Jr. left Ephrata with his friends Israel and Gabriel Eckerlin, who were expelled by Conrad Beissel, the founder of Ephrata. By 1748, Mack had rejoined the Brethren in Germantown. This little book was a precursor to the complete translation of the Dutch Martyrs Mirror printed by the Ephrata brothers in 1748. Among the other Mennonite related imprints available are the first and second printings of Mennonite bishop Christian Burkholder, Nützliche und Erbauliche Anrede an die Jugend (1804); and two printings of the Mennonite prayerbook, Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht (1785) and (1808).
Edsel Burdge, Jr., research associate, Young Center
I was reshelving some boxes in the Eastern Mennonite University Archives when I noticed a small, nondescript box with a label that simply read, “John W. Minnich Diaries”. Inside I found three diminutive diaries, one for 1870, 1871, and 1872 and some photocopies of genealogical information, including the marriage certificate of J. Wallace Minnich and Elizabeth Coffman, who were wed on February 22, 1872. On the eve of their 150th wedding anniversary, I thought it would be nice to highlight this collection and explore the customs, culture, and daily rhythms of life in Rockingham County, Virginia.
John W. Minnich was born March 30, 1839 and died August 4, 1917. His obituary recounts that during his life he was a “post master and merchant at Dale Enterprise”.1 He was not raised or baptized into the Mennonite church, but many of his close friends and associates were Mennonite and his first wife, Elizabeth Coffman, was the daughter of Bishop Samuel Coffman and Frances Weaver. Through this marriage he was brother-in-law to John S. Coffman and Lewis J. Heatwole. His second wife was Lucinda Gaines.
Minnich helped to establish the post office at Dale Enterprise, and Minnich’s friend C.H. Brunk was the first postmaster.2 Through his diary entries we can see the work he put into establishing his store and the post office in the beginning of 1872.
His daily notes recount the weather, his personal and business accounts, travels around the county, and activities of daily life. He was a faithful journalist from January until the end of March, when I imagine that both his work and home life became too busy to retain the habit.
Wednesday, January 10, 1872
“After breakfast I went to Harrisonburg to inquire how to proceed in order to establish a post office at “Dale Enterprise”. Saw P.M [Postmaster] Sullivan + contractor Wm A. Gay, and made the necessary arrangements with Mr. Gay, returned home about noon wrote out a petition and rode out for signers at night I had about 30.”
Thursday, January 11, 1872
“…went out to finish up my petition. I rode till noon and had 42 petitioners…I went to Harrisonburg and presented my petition to the P.M. + he endorsed it + sent it on to Hon J. T. Harris.”
Tuesday, February 6, 1872
“…I went with C. H. Brunk to town to arrange + send off his bond as Post Master, Dale Enterprise.”
Tuesday, February 13, 1872
“Foggy and misty this morning. I do not feel very well this morning the vaccine on my arm seems to be taking effect, and feel dull, with slight pains all through my system.”
Wednesday, February 14, 1872
“….I have not felt very well to day, but feel better than I did yesterday. My arm where I was vaccinated is slightly swollen and smartly inflamed.”
“After supper I rode down to Rev. Samuel Coffman’s, about 9 O.C. I went to old folks room and asked their consent the marriage of their daughter Elizabeth + myself to which they agreed. I spent the remainder of the evening with Miss Lizzie.”
Wednesday, February 21, 1872
“After breakfast I cleaned out my stall, washed and dressed etc. About 10 O’Clock Mr. A. A. Hess arrived with his buggy, we took his horse out and put my “Jinnie” mare in and drove to Harrisonburg. Put my mare up at Paul’s Stable paid 25 cts. Bought at Swisher’s 1 fine shirt $2.75. [–] 1 lb brown sugar 12 cts. Vanentines [sic] 4 cents sent one to Miss Sarah Good, Broadway Va Postage stamps 12 cents Paid Dr. Williams, Gordon + Williams for medical services $4.00. Paid County Clerk for marriage license $1.50. On my return home I called at Toll Gate + received $14.00.”
Thursday, February 22, 1872
“Forenoon I shaved, washed, dressed etc. Afternoon about 2 O.C. I hitched “Jinnie” in the buggy + C.H. Brunk + myself drove down to Rev. Samuel Coffman’s. At 3 O.C. Miss Lizzie Coffman and I were married by Rev. Price. Attendants Jacob Coffman + Miss Bettie Brunk and Abram D. Weaver and Miss Annie Coffman–persons present except the family John Coffmans wife, Grandmother Weaver, C.H. Brunk, Mr. William Moyers and Miss Peggy [Arvers]. Paid Rev. Price $2.00. Dinner at 4 O.C. a few young folks came in after dark and amused themselves in play etc. Early this morning cloudy, cleared off about 8 O.C. and remained very bright and pleasant all except a little wind.”
J.W. Minnich and Elizabeth Coffman’s wedding was mentioned in Barbara Coffman’s biography of her grandfather, John S. Coffman. In it, she imagines a conversation between John and his wife Bettie as they left the event:
“Well, that’s the second wedding in the family,” John said as he and Bettie were riding home from Father Coffman’s home that February evening. It was Lizzie’s wedding they had attended. There had been consternation at first when she insisted on marrying Wallace Minnich, a former quartermaster in the southern army, but everyone hoped for the best.
“Do you ‘spose they can really be happy together, not believing quite alike?” Bettie wondered.
“Oh, I reckon so,” drawled John. “They love each other, but it can’t be quite the same. We can pray that he’ll see things differently after a while. At least he’s not taking her away from the church.”
“He’s right gentlemanly, too,” added Bettie, “and a good talker. I like to listen to him.”
“You’re not trying to make me jealous, are you?” teased John.
“Land sakes, no,” replied Bettie with fervor, “There ain’t nobody half as good as my man.”
“But he’s a good businessman, And I reckon he’ll be able to provide for his family better than I can.”3
Monday, April 22, 1872
“Last night Lizzie and I slept in the store room. C.H. Brunk came down early this morning and brought breakfast for himself and me. We opened store this morning and commenced selling goods. Our first bill we sold to Jacob Coffman, Father and Mother [Coffman] came over and bought a bill of Queensware and other goods for Lizzie. Lizzie moved after dinner. She scoured the kitchen before dinner. Father hauled her furniture over.”
J.W. Minnich continued his work running the store and post office at Dale Enterprise for 45 years until his death in 1917. His wife Elizabeth had died twelve years prior,4 and their youngest son, Charles, died unexpectedly of tuberculosis the year after her.5 Minnich’s daughter, Lillian, ran the Dale Enterprise store and post office during his illness and after his death until her untimely passing in 1919.6 His middle son, Wade H. Minnich, also became a postal clerk.
If you would like to learn more about this collection or the many other nineteenth-century diaries we have in our archives, come visit EMU’s Special Collections the next time you are in Harrisonburg.
1. “Obituaries–Minnich.” Gospel Herald, September 20, 1917, 470. 2. John Walter Wayland. 1996. A history of Rockingham County Virginia. Harrisonburg, Va: C.J. Carrier Co., p. 208. 3. Barbara F Coffman. 1964. His name was John; the life story of an early Mennonite leader. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, p. 77. 4. “Obituaries–Minnich.” Gospel Herald, March 23, 1905, 95. 5. “Biedler Minnich’s Unexpected Death,” Daily News Record (Harrisonburg, VA), Nov. 3, 1906. 6. “MISS LILLIAN F MINNICH SUCCUMBS TO TUBERCULOSIS,” Daily News Record (Harrisonburg, VA), May 22, 1919.
Tucked away in the office of the Menno Simons Historical library is a flat file that has eleven drawers filled with various and sundry historical treasures. I thought it might be interesting to dive in and sample a few of the items housed therein.
Next is an announcement issued in March 1862 by Lt. Col. J.R. Jones at the behest of General Stonewall Jackson to muster the militia for the Confederate Army in Rockingham County. This announcement contains a provisio for conscientious objectors that states, “I am authorised to say to the Tunkers and Menonites [sic], that Gen. Jackson believes them to be sincere in their opposition to engaging in war, and will detail them as teamsters, etc. They can serve their state as well in such a capacity as if bearing arms.”
Here is a full transcript of the announcement:
Special Order Head quarters, V.P.
Non. 1853 March 31 1862
Lieut. Col. J.R. Johnes 33 D Regiment Va. Vols. is ordered to proceed to Rockingham County for the purpose of bringing out the Militia. By order of Maj. Gen. Jackson, A.S. Pendleton, A.A.G A company of cavalry has been ordered to report to me here, for the purpose of executing the above order; and any additional force necessary will be sent. I sincerely hope, therefore, that All Militia Men Will promptly report themselves, and avoid the mortification of an arrest. I am authorised to say to the Tunkers and Menonites [sic], that Gen. Jackson believes them to be sincere in their opposition to engaging in war, and will detail them as teamsters, etc. They can serve their state as well in such a capacity as if bearing arms
Come Forward, Then, Promptly.
You brethren from Rockbridge, Augusta, Shenandoah and Page are in the field, and our brave little army is hard pressed by the enemy.
You will rendezvous at the courthouse
On Thursday morning at 9 o’clock. Prepare to leave for the army.
J.R. Jones Ct. Col. 33d Regt vol
We have a poster depicting scenes from the 1936 Mennonite World Conference held in Amsterdam.
And finally, we have a number of lovely etchings depicting Mennonite groups in the Netherlands.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into the treasure chest that is our flat files. If you would like to see more, you can visit this website that contains a number of scans of other items in our collection.
2020 has been a remarkable year. It’s the kind of year that historians will write bestselling books about, as they have for the 1918 influenza pandemic or the global tumult of 1968. The list of events is long and includes pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong; disastrous fires in Australia; impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump; the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and continued aftermath; the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the global protests against racism and police brutality that followed; the stock market crash; the soaring profits of the world’s largest and most powerful corporations; more wildfires – unprecedented in scale and intensity due to human-induced climate change – on the west coast of the United States and in South America; a divisive U.S. presidential election campaign; and potentially catastrophic hurricanes on the U.S. Gulf Coast, with more storms on the way.
The list continues to grow. With no end of the pandemic in sight (at least in the United States), the northern hemisphere is bracing for a wintertime resurgence of the virus and long months of separation from friends, family, and community. The U.S. presidential election in November promises to be contentious. While President Trump seeks to rally his base, detractors continue to decry his racism, his climate change denial, his efforts to undermine the U.S. Postal Service, and his authoritarian tendencies. Some, including former President Barack Obama, have even warned that the future of democracy in the United States is at stake.1 The pandemic has exposed multiple fault lines – including systemic racism, gender inequality, and massive economic disparities – that continue to shape societies around the world, prompting some to imagine what a post-pandemic world could (or should) look like.
Indeed, future historians will have much to ponder about 2020 and its significance as a watershed moment in history. They will also have an abundance of sources to consider. The internet continues to democratize access to information and provides a ready platform for any person or organization with an agenda to promote. The proliferation of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and “fake news” will further complicate efforts to understand this moment in history. Despite these challenges, on the surface it seems that access to sources of information will not be a problem.
Yet, as historian Jill Lepore reminds us, historical sources do not preserve themselves, even if they are posted on the internet. Historians of the future will continue to rely on librarians and archivists to preserve and provide access to the primary sources they need for their research. In recognition of this fact, cultural institutions around the world have launched collecting initiatives to make sure that the historical record of the unprecedented events of 2020 is not lost to future generations. To track these documentation efforts, the International Federation for Public History and the Made By Us consortium created a map, which now includes information about almost five hundred different collecting projects. In the U.S. and Canada, colleges and universities, local public libraries, state historical societies, and federal governments are all getting involved.
At the beginning of August, sixteen Anabaptist and Mennonite archives and history organizations in the United States and Canada joined these efforts by launching Anabaptist History Today (AHT). AHT is a collaborative storytelling project that seeks to document the events of 2020 “through an Anabaptist lens.” We created a website where people in the Anabaptist and Mennonite community can submit stories and digital files (photos, audio recordings, videos, screenshots, and more) to illustrate how the events of 2020 have impacted their lives, their congregations, and their communities. After volunteer curators have a chance to review submissions, we post them to the public on an exhibit page.
People and organizations across the Anabaptist community have responded to the crises of 2020 with creativity, compassion, solidarity, and generosity. But the responses have not been uniform. The interconnected events of the last several months have also magnified rifts and strained ties that bind the faith community together. Our job as historians, librarians, and archivists is to document this moment in history in all its diversity and complexity.
Anabaptist History Today has the potential to play a critical role in this regard. The project is open to anyone who identifies as Anabaptist, regardless of political or religious convictions or denominational affiliation. The website also provides an important tool for capturing personal stories and experiences that might not otherwise be recorded or preserved. Due to web-archiving tools like Archive-It, the response of the institutional church (including denominational agencies, conferences, and other partners) will already be well documented. These accounts are important, but we want to create a fuller picture by recording stories and reflections that are happening behind the scenes, ones that capture the daily, lived experiences of people in the Anabaptist and Mennonite community.
As a crowdsourced project, AHT relies on the interest and engagement of the public. We’ve already received some good contributions, including a description of a typical Sunday morning during the pandemic in Harrisonburg, Virginia; an eighty year old Mennonite’s reflection on Black Lives Matter; and a podcast documenting experiences in the Portland Mennonite Church community. At the same time, we realize that these are difficult times. Amid ongoing stresses and challenges and the pressing needs in our communities, documenting our lives for posterity may not be a priority for many people.
I encourage people to view AHT as an opportunity to take an active role in a project that will enrich understanding of the Anabaptist community during a defining moment in history. AHT provides a chance to take a step back and reflect on how your life has changed over the course of this year. You do not have to be a trained theologian to get involved. We are not looking for polished treatises. What we want are individual snapshots that reflect your personal experiences in your local congregation or community. Scroll back through your camera roll and find that photo you took at your church’s physically distanced worship service. Type out that poem or reflection you wrote in your journal in April. Take a screenshot of the Facebook post you wrote after attending a Black Lives Matter protest in June. Record a short interview with your pastor about their experiences. Then take five minutes and submit your story on the Anabaptist History Today website.2
People around the world are coping with new realities in 2020 and hundreds of cultural institutions are working to document the human stories that are emerging. How have you acted on your faith during this time of crisis? How has your local community responded? What has been unique about your experiences? Anabaptists of the future will want to know.
The brutal murder of George Floyd has exposed again the systematic injustices perpetrated by institutions of power against black and brown people in the United States and around the world. We, the board of Anabaptist Historians, are enraged and heartbroken. To stand in solidarity with those protesting police violence and interrelated forms of institutionalized racism, we have put together the following Anabaptist Anti-Racist Reading List. We have been inspired by other anti-racist reading lists recently circulated, and we hope our contribution will be as useful as possible for readers. We have thus compiled specifically Anabaptist ways of saying: Black Lives Matter.
This Anabaptist Anti-Racist Reading List features short and online-accessible articles and essays on the relationships between Anabaptist history and matters of race, racism, and violence. Each thematic section also includes suggestions for further readings, including articles and books that may require purchase. In such cases, we recommend supporting local bookstores, ordering used copies, or you can submit a purchase or interlibrary loan request through your local library. And of course, if you like what you read, be sure to share recommendations with friends and family!
Anabaptists over the past five hundred years have been deeply entangled with racism and racial violence. From European imperial expansion and the Dutch slave trade to settler colonialism and displacement of native peoples, the origins and development of Anabaptist churches have been shaped and reformed in crucibles of injustice. As individuals and as communities, Anabaptists have struggled with these contexts, often developing sophisticated ways of naming and resisting state violence although more typically deploying such strategies to serve themselves than others.
If the story of Anabaptism is inextricably bound to race and racism, then the process of doing Anabaptist history must be understood as an anti-racist calling. The readings highlighted below share a common mission to bring about a more equal church and a more just future. Historians may take different approaches toward this end. Some uncover troubling examples of racism in the church. Others explore cases when Anabaptists meaningfully spoke truth to power within their own denominational contexts or beyond. All recognize that these stories resonate today.
We acknowledge the profound incompleteness of this anti-racist reading list. The brokenness of our wider society impedes efforts to fully grasp systemic injustice. Working toward restitution will mean changing how we think about the Anabaptist past alongside reformulating our public institutions. We invite readers to submit further reading suggestions in the moderated comments section. We also welcome submissions and pitches for short historical essays and think-pieces. Anabaptist Historians looks forward to publishing a new anti-racism series over the coming year.
Drew G. I. Hart, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism (Harrisonburg, Herald Press, 2016).
We hope that these readings offer entry points into deep, long-lasting movements that address racism and violence in Anabaptist communities and beyond. We see scholarship and education as elements of larger struggles against structural injustice that also include organizing, protests, voting, and other strategies for systemic change. We hope that this Anti-Racist Reading List will inspire fresh research into the subjects covered here as well as new areas like Anabaptism and policing. If you are conducting such scholarship, please contact us about featuring your work.
This Anabaptist Anti-Racist Reading List was compiled by the Board of Anabaptist Historians: Ben Goossen, Simone Horst, Ted Maust, and Christina Entz Moss, as well as by Coordinating Editor, Joel Horst Nofziger. Thanks to Rachel Waltner Goossen and Madeline J. Williams for providing comments.
The Classics of the Radical Reformation Series is published under the auspices of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s Institute for Mennonite Studies and overseen by a reference council of scholars from Canada and the United States, a group I joined in 2018. Since the 1970s, the series has existed “to offer in the English language, scholarly and critical editions of the primary works of Reformers of the Radical Reformation…also intended for the wider audience of those interested in Anabaptist and free church writers of the sixteenth century.” The first nine volumes, published from 1973 to 1999, were published by Herald Press, while the remaining five volumes, which first appeared between 2001 and 2017, were published by Pandora Press. The series included the writings of such prominent sixteenth-century figures as Pilgram Marpeck, Balthasar Hubmaier, Michael Sattler, Andreas Karlstadt, and David Joris, as well as collections organized by genre (confessions of faith) and loose geographical networks (Swiss Anabaptism and South German/Austrian Anabaptism). They have proved an indispensable resource for both academics (I cited multiple volumes in my doctoral dissertation) and interested pastors and laypeople.
As some of the older titles fell out of print, however, it has become increasingly difficult for those without borrowing privileges from well-stocked university libraries to access the full series. In the interests of making all the volumes accessible to a new generation of readers, the entire series was republished by Plough, the publishing house of the Bruderhof, in late 2019. Plough marked the republication of the series with a November 23rd launch in San Diego, during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature. The first nine volumes, originally published by Herald Press, also have updated prefaces (from the author where possible, and otherwise from top scholars in the field).
The following volumes are now available from Plough: 
The Legacy of Michael Sattler (edited by John H. Yoder, with a new preface by C. Arnold Snyder)
The Writings of Pilgram Marpeck (edited by William Klassen and Walter Klaassen, with a new preface by John D. Rempel)
Anabaptism in Outline: Selected Primary Sources (edited by Walter Klaassen, with a new preface by John D. Roth)
The Sources of Swiss Anabaptism: The Grebel Letters and Related Documents (edited by Leland Harder, with a new preface by Andrea Strübind)
Balthasar Hubmaier: Theologian of Anabaptism (edited by H. Wayne Pipkin and John H. Yoder, with a new preface by Brian Brewer)
The Writings of Dirk Philips, 1504–1568 (edited by Carnelius J. Dyck, William E. Keeney, and Alvin J. Beachy, with a new preface by Piet Visser)
The Anabaptist Writings of David Joris (edited by Gary K. Waite, with a new preface by the editor)
The Essential Carlstadt (edited by E. J. Furcha, with a new preface by Amy Nelson Burnett)
Peter Riedemann’s Hutterite Confession of Faith (edited by John J. Friesen, with a new preface by the editor)
Sources of South German/Austrian Anabaptism (edited by C. Arnold Snyder)
Confessions of Faith in the Anabaptist Tradition 1527–1660 (edited by Karl Koop)
Jörg Maler’s Kunstbuch: Writings of the Pilgram Marpeck Circle (edited by John D. Rempel)
Later Writings of the Swiss Anabaptists 1529–1592 (edited by C. Arnold Snyder)
We hope that this re-launch will prompt new interest in the CRR series and that it will continue to be useful both inside and outside academia.
As young students in their early 20s, J.D. Graber and Minnie Swartzendruber thought they were headed toward careers as educators. A new set of correspondence at the Mennonite Church USA Archives sheds light on their early lives, their courtship, and their decision to serve as missionaries in India. The mostly handwritten letters between the two span a period of four years (1921-1925) and contain rich details about their family life, social networks, educational pursuits, and Mennonite faith.
About the decision to serve in India, J. D. wrote, “I’m absolutely sure if we make this a matter of earnest prayer God will take care of all difficulties and will open the door for us to go if He wants our lives in India.” In her letter of response, Minnie wrote that God’s strength gave her courage “and makes me willing that our comfortable little home in some college town should fade away. Such is alluring to a young lover’s eye but God forbid it should blind our eyes from the realities of life, the responsibility to be met, and the joy of doing it.”
After seventeen years in India, J. D. later served as the first full-time general secretary of the Mennonite Board of Missions from 1944 to 1967. Minnie was the president of the Women’s Missionary and Service Commission from 1950 to 1959 and spoke widely throughout the church. The collection also includes diaries and journals, sermon notes, and a series of published and unpublished manuscripts that J. D. authored over the course of his career.
This past semester I had the privilege of spending a few months looking through a new collection donated to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, housed in the Milton Good Library at Conrad Grebel University College. The collection is a gift from Thomas A. Brady Jr. and Katherine Gingrich Brady. Thomas Brady, the Sather Professor Emeritus of History at UC Berkeley and his wife Katherine, an expert paleographer, have spent decades studying the history of the Reformation(s) in Strasbourg and Reformation-era politics more broadly.1 During that time, they gathered a wealth of early modern primary sources on microfilm, which they have now donated to Conrad Grebel University College. The collection promises to be a great resource for scholars interested in the late medieval/early modern history of Strasbourg and politics in the Reformation era.
city of Strasbourg is of particular interest to scholars of early
Anabaptist history, both for the number and diversity of Anabaptists
it attracted and the relatively mild punishments Anabaptists and
other religious dissenters faced there. While Strasbourg’s
Anabaptists alone numbered as many as 2000 in 1530—a substantial
minority of the city’s population—only two Reformation-era
non-conformists received a death sentence from Strasbourg’s
magistrates: Claus Frey, who practiced bigamy, and Thomas Salzmann,
who called Christ an imposter.2
As the spiritualist chronicler Sebastian Franck put it, “he whom
one hangs elsewhere, one drives out of Strasbourg with rods.”3
While some scholars have attributed Strasbourg’s relative tolerance
for dissent to the irenicism of its reformers—and Martin Bucer,
Wolfgang Capito, and Mathis Zell were certainly less quick to burn
bridges than many of their contemporaries—Brady has argued
convincingly that the primary impetus for toleration came from
Strasbourg’s magistrates, who sought peace and order more than they
While few of the documents in the collection deal directly with
Anabaptists, the primary sources the Bradys donated shed light on the
inner workings of Strasbourg politics and the history of the city
leading up to and during the Reformation era, all of which helps to
illuminate the context in which so many sixteenth-century Anabaptists
managed to survive and even thrive to some extent.
majority of the microfilms in the collection contain copies of
documents housed in the Archives
de la ville et de l’Eurométropole de Strasbourg (the
Strasbourg municipal archives, which also house the Archives
de St. Thomas, dedicated
to Strasbourg church history), the Archives
départementales du Bas-Rhin
(the regional archives for the Lower Rhine), and the Bibliothèque
nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg
(the Strasbourg university library, which houses a substantial
collection of premodern manuscripts and rare books). Other microfilms
include copies of documents from a number of other European and North
American libraries and archives, including the Bibliothèque
Paris, the Weimar
the Danish Royal Library, the Newberry Library, and the Harvard
University Library. The contents of these documents include multiple
late medieval and early modern chronicles of Strasbourg history,
large amounts of sixteenth-century correspondence from Strasbourg’s
Reformation-era political and religious leaders (including the entire
a collection of nineteenth-century copies of the Strasbourg
reformers’ correspondence), sixteenth-century notes from Strasbourg
Senate meetings (particularly focused on the years of the
Schmalkaldic War), and many other treasures. For scholars interested
in Reformation-era religion and politics, the collection promises to
yield the raw material for several fascinating projects.
Among Professor Brady’s best-known books are Ruling Class, Regime, and Reformation at Strasbourg, 1520-1555 (Leiden: Brill, 1978), Protestant Politics: Jacob Sturm (1489-1553) and the German Reformation (Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1995), and German Histories in the Age of Reformations, 1400-1650 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).↩
John David Derksen, From radicals to survivors: Strasbourg’s religious nonconformists over two generations, 1525-1570 (Goy-Houten, Netherlands: Hes & de Graaf Pub., 2002), 53; Camill Gerbert, Geschichte der Strassburger Sectenbewegung zur Zeit der Reformation, 1524-1534 (Strasbourg: Heitz & Mundel, 1889), ix. ↩
Cited in Bodo Brinkman and Berthold Hinz, Hexenlust und Sündenfall: Die Seltsamen Phantasien des Hans Baldung Grien (Petersberg: Imhof, 2007), 181.↩
Lockets are perhaps the most well-known form of hair memorial: a slip of hair tucked in a piece of jewelry or perhaps framed next to a photograph. But there is another medium, especially if one needed to preserve and display a large quantity: the hair book. I know of two examples, one in the possession of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, and another in a private collection.
The first belonged to Elizabeth Eby, born in 1835 to Sem Eby and Anna (Frantz) Eby in Leacock Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She married Milton Shertzer in 1860 and had five children. She died in 1922 at the age of 87 and is buried in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
In 1866, at the age of 31, Eby made the hair book–or at least the cover. The cover is Berlin-work glued to paper. Stitched on are a border of roses and the text “hair B[o]ok/ ma[de] by /Elizabeth/ Eby AD/1866.” The back cover is an arrangement of five flowers. Those in the corner are two shades of green, red, and pink. The central flower arrangement shows three blossoms in the same colors, but includes yellow, orange, and blue.
Inside Eby’s book are seven used pages, but only one side is used per leaf. Arrayed on each page are lockets of hair, fifty-two in total, and all but one are neatly labeled in the same hand–albeit with different inks. Picture a photo album–but with lockets of hair, instead of photographs.
Each lock, braided or unbraided, is secured with a ribbon–similar to the Hershey hair poster I discussed previously. While most are attached directly to the paper, four have an additional backing. The locks are attached to the page mainly by glue, but others are stitched to the paper.
The second hair book is in a private collection in Fayette, Fulton County, Ohio, and has no Mennonite connections. The book dates to 1871 and was made in Wright Township, Hillsdale County, Michigan. It was made for Rachel (Lickley) Woods by her Sunday School Students at Lickley’s Corners Baptist Church.
The cover is card stock, embellished with cutouts from a box, and features fruits and baroque flourishes. It is bound by two ribbons, red with gold trim.
The book contains locks of hair from each of her twenty-nine pupils, arrayed on pages similar to the Eby book. Each locket is looped and secured with a ribbon–either blue or red–and stitched to the page.
In my next post, I will examine how artifacts like these served as totems of memory in connection to the broader Victorian cultural context, as well as how they might be read in Mennonite-specific settings.
I am still looking for hair memorials, in any form, that have Mennonite connections to provide comparative analysis. If you know of one, please contact me.