Archives & Manuscripts - Guide to the Collections
The collections of the Birmingham Public Library Archives contain more than 400,000 photographs and 30,000,000 documents, including government records, business records, maps, letters, diaries, scrapbooks and architectural drawings.
Alabama's Episcopal Archives
Episcopal Diocese of Alabama Archives
For more than a quarter century the Birmingham Public Library and the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama have worked in partnership to preserve the church’s history. In 1989, the Diocese, at the invitation of the Birmingham Public Library’s first archivist Marvin Whiting, designated the library as the official archives for the diocese. A large number of historic records were transferred from Carpenter House to the library (to join other records that had been deposited at the library as early as 1981), and the archives staff has worked diligently for nearly two decades to preserve this material and make it available for research. Added together, there are now more than 300,000 documents relating to the history of Alabama’s Episcopal Church preserved in the Birmingham Public Library Archives. In 2004 the archives initiated a project to collect information from parish registers into a unified database. Now available via the Internet (http: //, this database allows researchers to search these records by names of individuals as well as names of parishes. To date, several thousand names have been entered from more than fifteen parishes, with accompanying information about baptisms, deaths, marriages, conformations, and transfers. Parishes are encouraged to submit information for this database.
The Collections
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Apostle, The
Subject Files
This collection contains clippings, photographs and other material gathered by the staff of The Apostle, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. The files relate to parishes, clergy, church related organizations and other topics.
Size : 4 linear feet (5 boxes)
Collection Guide Available : No
Beckwith, Charles Minnegrode
Papers, 1903-1928
Charles Minnegrode Beckwith served as the fourth Episcopal Bishop of Alabama. He had previously been dean of St. Luke’s Cathedral in Atlanta and a missionary priest in the Diocese of Texas. Beckwith instituted Alabama’s first Episcopal college chaplaincy at Auburn University and expanded the church’s outreach to the deaf. Considered by many to be authoritarian, Beckwith often clashed with clergy and lay members of the diocese. He died in 1928. This collection contains correspondence relating to parishes in the diocese as well as some personal papers and publications.
Size : 4 boxes
Collection Guide Available : No
Birmingham Youth Incorporated
Records, 1973-1976
Correspondence, by-laws and constitution of this organization affiliated with St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham.
Size : ¼ linear foot (1 box)
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Carpenter, Charles Colcock Jones
Papers, 1920-1969
Born in Augusta, Georgia, Charles Colcock Jones Carpenter was an Episcopal priest and served bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama from 1938 to 1968. He died on June 29, 1969. The papers contain the files compiled by the bishop’s office and are divided into four series: parish files, office files, financial files and supplemental files transferred from the diocesan offices at a later time. In addition to correspondence, the files include such things as bulletins, pamphlets, news clippings, photographs, sermons and building plans. The parish files contain much routine correspondence between the bishop and the parish priest and between the bishop and parishioners concerning such matters as the formation of a new mission, property purchases, new building, divorce and remarriage, loss of a priest, and the calling of a new one. The office files include correspondence with various diocesan officials, information about organizations within the church, various discern facilities and other miscellaneous matters. There is a significant amount of material relating to the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama and the nation. The financial files contain material relating to various bequests and trust funds set up for the diocese.
Size : 21 linear feet (21 boxes)
Collection Guide Available : Yes (online)
Cathedral Church of the Advent (Birmingham, Alabama)
Records, 1888-1991
In 1872 the Elyton Land Company, the real estate concern that founded the City of Birmingham, deeded a lot on 20th Street for the construction of an Episcopal Church. A wood frame structure was built the following year, and in 1893 the present structure was completed. In 1982, Advent was consecrated as the cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. Today, Advent has a congregation of more than 3,800 members and is one of the largest Episcopal parishes in the United States. The collection includes vestry minutes, parish registers, records of the Altar Guild and other women’s organizations, scrapbooks and records documenting the founding and early history of Advent Episcopal Day School.
Size : 8¾ linear feet, 11 flat boxes
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Claiborne, Randolph Royall
Papers, 1949
Randolph Royall Claiborne served as Bishop Suffragan in the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama from 1949 to 1952. Born in Virginia in 1906, Claiborne was the son of an Episcopal priest. He graduated from the University of Virginia and Virginia Theological Seminary. Claiborne served as rector of a Georgia parish and rector of Church of the Nativity in Huntsville from 1938 to 1949. He was elected suffragan bishop in 1949, and in 1952 was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, where he served until his retirement in 1972. This small collection contains some correspondence, sermons, newspaper clippings, a scrapbook and other material.
Size : 2 boxes
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Cobbs, Nicolas Hammer
Papers, 1847-1861 and 1944
Nicholas Hamner Cobbs served as the first Episcopal Bishop of Alabama. Consecrated in 1844 at Christ Church, Philadelphia, Cobbs served until his death in 1861. Born in 1795 in Virginia, Cobbs worked as a teacher and was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church at age 29. He served as chaplain at the University of Virginia and as rector of the Episcopal parish in Charlottesville, Virginia. From 1839 until 1843 Cobbs was rector of St. Paul’s church in Petersburg, Virginia, and rector of St. Paul’s in Cincinnati, Ohio from 1843 until his election as Bishop of Alabama. During his tenure as bishop Cobbs oversaw modest but steady growth in the Alabama Episcopal Church and served as rector of Christ Church, Tuscaloosa and St. John’s, Montgomery. An opponent of secession in the months leading up to the Civil War, Cobbs died in Montgomery on the same day that Alabama withdrew from the union. The papers include a small amount of correspondence generated by Cobbs and two sermons. The collections consists primarily of material about Cobbs, such as sermons and newspaper clippings.
Size : 1/6 linear foot (1 box)
Collection Guide Available : Yes (online)
Episcopal Diocese of Alabama
Records, 1830-
The records of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama include correspondence and financial records; parish registers, vestry minutes and other material from active and defunct parishes; photographs; newspapers and other publications of the diocese; and other material.
Size : 50 boxes
Collection Guide Available : No
Faunsdale Plantation
Papers, 1840-1970
In 1843 Thomas A. Harrison, a native of Virginia, traveled to Alabama accompanied by a party of slaves, and purchased the property in Marengo County that became Faunsdale Plantation. Harrison later sent for his new wife, Louisa Collins Harrison, a native of North Carolina. In 1844 the Harrisons had their only child, Louise Collins Harrison. Thomas A. Harrison died in 1857. Louisa managed Faunsdale and her late husband's estate until 1863 when she married William A. Stickney, a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church and a native of Alabama. Stickney served in several parishes and ministered to the slaves and later freedmen at Faunsdale. Louisa died in 1896, William in 1907. The plantation remains in the family today. The collection contains extensive correspondence, diaries, photographs, financial records, slave records (including births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and harvest records) and other material documenting several generations of the family.
Size : 56 boxes
Collection Guide Available : Yes (online)
Federation of Women's Missionary Society of Birmingham
Minutes, 1911-1923
This volume contains minutes of the semi-annual and occasional meetings of the General Board of the Federation. The group included representatives of missionary societies from the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopal and Christian denominations.
Size : ¼ linear foot (1 volume)
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Grace Episcopal Church, Woodlawn at Birmingham
Records, 1905-1998
Established as a mission in 1889 to minister to workers and their families from the nearby textile mills, foundries, and blast furnaces, Grace Episcopal Church has served a diverse community in Woodlawn and the Birmingham area for over 100 years. The collection includes minutes from vestry meetings and annual parish meetings, monthly treasury reports, correspondence, church bulletins, newsletters, membership directories, newspaper clippings and photographs. Financial documents detail several building programs, memorials, donations, and stewardship campaigns.
Size : 20 linear feet (21 boxes)
Collection Guide Available : No
Jefferson County Board of Equalization
Appraisal Files, 1939-1977
The Board of Equalization is the agency that appraises property in Jefferson County, Alabama for purposes of taxation. Established in 1938, the BOE maintains files on each piece of taxable property in the county. The appraisal files contain basic information on structures (such as whether the structure is wood frame or brick, the type of roofing, heating, plumbing, number of rooms, size of structure) and the accessed value of the property for various years (but not every year). The files usually include an exterior photograph of the façade of the structure and sometimes date the structure. The structures appraised include residences, commercial and industrial buildings, schools, and churches. Some files include references for deeds and mortgages. Structures built before 1938 are included if they were still standing at the time of the Board of Equalization's first appraisal (generally 1938 to 1940). Structures built after the mid 1970s are not included in these files. The files do not include interior photographs, floor plans or other architectural drawings, names of architects, or detailed information on owners or occupants of a structure. In some cases files for demolished structures were discarded by the Board of Equalization before these files were transferred to the Archives Department in 1981. The collection includes several thousand photographs showing African American homes, businesses, schools and churches.
Size : 1,460 linear feet (1,500 boxes)
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Jemison, Robert, Jr. (A) Papers
Papers, 1900s-1960s
Robert Jemison, Jr. was one of Birmingham’s most prominent and influential real estate developers of the twentieth century. Born in Tuscaloosa in 1878, Jemison attended the University of Alabama and the University of the South at Sewanee. In 1903 he organized the Jemison Real Estate and Insurance Company and would later organize more than a dozen additional companies. Jemison developed the industrial town of Corey (now Fairfield) as a model community for the United States Steel Corporation. During his long career he built developments for wealthy people and people of modest means, including Forest Park and Redmont in Birmingham and the suburb of Mountain Brook. He served as president of the Birmingham of Commerce and was an active vestry member at Birmingham’s Episcopal Church of the Advent. Jemison’s extensive papers include correspondence, clippings, publications, photographs and other material documenting in detail his personal and business life and his community activities.
Size : 200 linear feet (154 boxes)
Collection Guide Available : Yes
London, Edith Ward and Family
Papers, 1881-1961
Born in Birmingham in 1881, Edith Ward London was the daughter of Thomas Ward, an early Birmingham industrialist. London was an avid reader and writer, and in her papers she chronicles her childhood, family life, her poor health, social activities, literary aspirations, religious beliefs, her travels in the United States and abroad, her opinions on literature and the events of her day. Edith Ward grew up near the Birmingham Rolling Mill where her father was a manager. After marrying John London in 1901, Edith resided briefly in Ensley, but most of her life was spent in the Southside neighborhood of Birmingham. The Londons had one child, John London III (Jack). In addition to pursuing her interest in writing, Edith was a member of the Nineteenth Century Club, the Birmingham Camera Club and the Birmingham Amateur Movie Association, for which she wrote movie scripts. She was an active, and sometimes questioning, member of St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands Episcopal Church. Edith London died in Birmingham in 1933. In addition to correspondence this collection includes examples of Edith Ward London’s poetry, short stories, religious writings, essays, and scrapbooks. The scrapbooks are typical of the kind kept by women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and include photographs, clippings, dance cards, calling cards, poetry, pencil drawings, dried flowers, letters, and greeting cards. The collection also includes material relating to Edith’s husband and son, including correspondence, newspaper clippings, educational records, photographs, and material relating to the Birmingham Amateur Movie Association. The two volumes of Edith’s diaries included in this collection are extensive typed excerpts that provide a detailed chronicle of the life of an upper middle class girl and woman. The location of the original diaries is not known. The bulk of the material in this collection covers the 1880s to the 1930s.
Size : 4 linear feet, 1 reel, 9 flat boxes
Collection Guide Available : Yes
McDowell, William George
Papers, 1906-1938
William George McDowell served as the fifth Episcopal Bishop of Alabama. Born in 1882 in Lexington, Kentucky, McDowell was a graduate of Washington and Lee University and Virginia Theological Seminary. He served as rector of two parishes in Virginia and rector of Church of the Holy Innocents in Auburn, Alabama before being elected Bishop-Coadjutor in 1922. McDowell became Bishop of the diocese in 1928. He died March 20, 1938 in Mobile. The papers include correspondence relating to McDowell’s service as Episcopal Bishop of Alabama, a journal kept by McDowell for the years 1909-1918, photographs, newspaper clippings and a scrapbook of clippings about McDowell’s life and career.
Size : ¼ linear foot and one flat box
Collection Guide Available : Yes (online)
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