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Thomas R. Kelly papers

Identifier: HC.MC-1135

Scope and Contents

The papers of Thomas R. Kelly consist of correspondence, studies, sermons, photographs, miscellaneous, and posthumous collections of some of his writings, as well as a biography written by Richard Kelly and his correspondence concerning the book Thomas Kelly, a biography.

Thomas Kelly's correspondents include Mary Farquhar, Rufus Jones, Lael Macy Kelly, Clarence Lewis, Legh Reid, Merrill Root, and Douglas Steere. There are peaks in the correspondence in the year 1917, when Thomas Kelly was in England with the Y.M.C.A., in the years 1924 and 1925, and the summer of 1938, when he was in Germany as a representative of the American Friends Service Committee. On his first mission, Kelly worked in an army canteen and with German prisoners of war. His second mission was to bring the Quaker message to Germany, as well as to nurture the young German Quaker movement. In 1938, he met with German Friends bringing support in a time of crisis. In between these “peaks”, his correspondence reveals a drive for academic achievement.

Kelly's field was philosophy (he was also an ordained minister), and he made his greatest contributions in the field of mysticism. Studies include drafts and copies of speeches, sermons, reviews, and papers which he wrote. Philosophy course materials include class notes on Indian and Buddist philosophy.

Sermons, photographs, and miscellaneous materials includes sermons, personal and family photographs, and a diary and daybook.

Eternal Promise and Testament of Devotion inlcude various drafts and versions of these two works.

Biographical materials include drafts and versions of a biography by Thomas Kelly's son Richard. Richard Kelly's correspondents included Moses Bailey, Howard Brinton, Senator O. Vincent Esposito, Eugene Exman, Mary Farquhar, Dean Freiday, T. Canby Jones, Clarence Lewis, Herbert Nicholson, Clarence Pickett, Merrill Root, Douglas Steere, and Elizabeth Yarnall. Also included are biographical sketches by others, including Lois Stabler and B. Burns Brodhead.

A 1992 additional donation includes additional letters, drafts of works, and the outline and manuscript for Holy Obedience.


  • Creation: 1915-1947


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Raymond Kelly (1893-1941) was born on a farm near Chillicothe, Ohio, the son of Carlton W. Kelly and Madora Kersey Kelly. Thomas Kelly received a B.S. in chemistry from Wilmington College in 1913, then became a science student at Haverford College. He began a teaching career at Pickering College in Canada in 1914, and received a B.D. in 1919 and a Ph.D. in 1924 from Hartford Theological Seminary. In 1919, Kelly married Lael Macy. A Quaker, Kelly was head of Friends' work in Berlin, Germany, after World War I, and continued to teach philosophy at several colleges, including Haverford College in 1936, and returned to Germany in 1938 to again perform work under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. Kelly was an author of several works, perhaps his most famous, Testament of Devotion, was published posthumously.

Biographical information from the Dictionary of Quaker Biography, biographical sketches in typescript, Special Collections, Haverford College.


3.75 Linear Feet (8 Boxes)




The papers of Thomas R. Kelly (1893-1941) pertain to his work as a Quaker in Germany representing the American Friends Service Committee before and during World War II, to his academic work, and to his close ties with his family. There is also material relating to a biography of Kelly written by his son, Richard Kelly.


  • Correspondence
  • Studies
  • Philosophy sources
  • Sermons, photographs, miscellaneous
  • Eternal Promise and Testament of Devotion
  • Biographical Materials
  • 1992 addition


Majority of the collection donated in the mid-1970s by Richard Kelly. The donor of the 1992 addition is unknown.

Related Materials

The American Friends Service Committee archives contain some Kelly letters.

Thomas R. Kelly's Haverford College senior thesis written in 1914 entitled "An Historical Sketch of the Friends Africa Industrial Mission" is available in the Haverford College archives.

Separated Materials

Several printed items on Thomas Kelly and on his biography have been removed to the pamphlet collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Diana Franzusoff Peterson. Reboxed and finding aid updated October 2021 by Hannah Kolzer.

Thomas R. Kelly papers, 1915-1947
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • October, 2021: Reboxed and finding aid updated

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting reproductions from Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

370 Lancaster Ave
Haverford PA 19041 USA US