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Henry Joel Cadbury Papers

Identifier: SCPC-DG-081

Scope and Contents

Henry Cadbury gave some of his papers to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection because they were, in his opinion, related to peace. Many of his other papers are housed at Haverford College. The bulk of the SCPC holdings are manuscripts (1917-1967) for articles, and notes (1917-1963) written for talks or taken at conferences, that deal with the subjects of war and religion, particularly Quakerism, civil liberties, and pacifism.

There is a small amount of correspondence (1918-1974) in Series III. In Series IV, a significant amount of correspondence and reference material pertains to teacher loyalty oaths, especially in Massachusetts (1935-1936, 1953). Other subjects treated include conscientious objectors and war tax refusal. Cadbury's obituary, biographical newsclippings, his draft card from World War I, and several printed articles written by him, are also in this collection.


  • Creation: 1917-1974


Language of Material

Materials are in English.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research without restrictions.

Copyright and Rights Information


Biographical note

The following is copied from an article by Steve Neal which appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer of October 9, 1974, at the time of Henry Cadbury's death:

"Dr. Henry Joel Cadbury, one of America's most distinguished biblical scholars and a founder of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), died Monday evening in Bryn Mawr Hospital. He was 90. According to a family spokesman, Dr. Cadbury suffered a concussion after falling down a stairway in his home at 774 Milbrook Lane, Haverford, earlier in the day. He never regained consciousness.

Most of Dr. Cadbury's long life was devoted to humanitarian causes. As a leader of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), he made significant contributions to the American peace movement and in 1947 accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of that organization. The American Friends Service Committee was proposed by Dr. Cadbury during a peace conference at Winona Lake, Ind., in 1915. His idea resurfaced two years later when the United States entered World War I. Although the Quakers opposed the war, they found, according to one historian, that "...they had become too sophisticated to explain and justify this opposition in the simple terms of their forefathers. They could no longer be simply against the use of violence, they must be for a society which was nonviolently ordered throughout its structure. They needed, in the terms of William James, to find a moral equivalent to war." The AFSC was organized in April of 1917 to offer Quakers and young conscientious objectors "a service of love in wartime." Dr. Cadbury, for some months, functioned as its chief executive with the help of one secretary. It soon established relief activities in France, Germany, Russia, Poland, Serbia, Hungary, and Austria. At war's end, the AFSC began helping in Europe's reconstruction. Dr. Cadbury organized the feeding of 1 million German children a day during the summer of 1920.

Dr. Cadbury was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 1, 1883, the son of Joel and Anna Kaighn Cadbury. He was graduated from Haverford College in 1903, then attended Harvard University where he received his Ph.D. He returned to Haverford to teach biblical literature in 1910. Dr. Cadbury generally was regarded as a rising young professor until, in the fall of 1918, he spoke out against anti-German prejudices. Americans, Dr. Cadbury charged, were carrying on an "orgy of hate" against Germans. He said that "never in the history of his greatest arrogance did the Kaiser utter more heathenish and bloodthirsty sentiments than those now current in some quarters of this country." His statement made him a controversial figure. A large group of Haverford alumni demanded his resignation. Newspapers charged that Dr. Cadbury was a German dupe. And the U.S. attorney's office threatened to arrest him on sedition charges. When Dr. Cadbury explained his views to U.S. Attorney Francis Fisher Kane, the prosecutor dropped his case. But Dr. Cadbury, still under fire at Haverford, resigned his teaching position. While college administrators said Dr. Cadbury was within his rights in making his public statements, they gave him little support other than offering him a long leave of absence. He subsequently was hired by more tolerant administrators at Harvard, where he taught from 1919 to 1954, except for a six-year term at Bryn Mawr College (1925-1934). At Harvard he spent his last 20 years as Hollis Professor of Divinity, the oldest and one of the most prestigious academic chairs in the United States.

Dr. Cadbury was a prolific writer. He wrote a column called "Letters From the Past" for the Friends Journal and hundreds of articles on biblical subjects and the history of Quakerism. He was one of the scholars who prepared the new Revised Standard Version of the Bible and was particularly noted for his contributions to the books of Luke and Acts. He wrote ten books of his own on religious subjects. One of these books, George Fox's Book of Miracles, was the result of Dr. Cadbury's discovery, in 1932, of an unknown book left by the founder of Quakerism. Dr. Cadbury made the find while researching the Fox writings and papers at Friends House in London. The manuscript had never been published. He later edited "The Narrative Papers of George Fox," published in 1972. "Certain persons appear from time to time in history who possess in a high degree this peculiar capacity of awakening faith and of carrying suggestive attitudes irresistibly into action," Dr. Cadbury wrote. "George Fox was in his day unquestionably a person of that type." Dr. Cadbury served as chairman of the AFSC from 1928 to 1934, and succeeded Rufus Jones, his brother-in-law, as chairman in 1944, retiring in 1962. He served as honorary chairman from 1960 until his death. Under Dr. Cadbury's leadership, the AFSC became involved in settlement houses, black schools in the South, and depressed areas of Appalachia. In 1931, at the request of President Herbert Hoover, they fed children of coal miners. The AFSC remained in the coal fields after the food crisis was over, establishing schools, health clinics, furniture making cooperatives, and recreation programs. For a time, during the 1930s, Eleanor Roosevelt donated all money earned by her radio talks to the AFSC for the coal fields. During World War II, Dr. Cadbury and the AFSC began working for such causes as fair housing, equal employment, and school desegregation.

As always, Dr. Cadbury spoke out against U.S. involvement in war. "The longer this war is waged," he told the Race Street Forum in 1944, "the more badly conditioned we are for making a good peace. Either we have victory without peace or peace without victory." One member of the audience asked Dr. Cadbury, "How is it possible to negotiate with a Japanese who would rather commit suicide than talk to you?" The AFSC was active in post-war relief work in Germany, France, Italy, Finland, and Japan. In 1947 the group was awarded the Nobel prize. Before Dr. Cadbury flew to Oslo for the presentation ceremony, he was advised that he would need a full-dress suit. Since he did not own one, and wasn't particularly anxious to buy a suit with tails, Dr. Cadbury appealed to the Friends warehouse at 23d and Arch sts. He managed to find one. It wasn't a perfect fit, but with pressing, the suit was adequate for the occasion. In accepting the prize, Dr. Cadbury said, "The common people of all nations want peace. In the presence of great impersonal forces, they feel individually helpless to promote it. You're saying to them today that common folk - not statesmen, nor generals, nor great men of affairs - but just simple plain men and women, like the few thousand Quakers and their friends, if they devote themselves to resolute insistence on good will in place of force, can do something to build a better, peaceful world." Dr. Cadbury told an interviewer, shortly after his 90th birthday, that while the Nobel Prize was a tremendous honor, "the work of the Service Committee made more converts through action than the Nobel Prize ever could."

After retiring from Harvard, Dr. Cadbury moved back to Haverford. He lectured at Haverford College, Temple University, and, for 12 years (1956-1968), was chairman of the board of directors at Bryn Mawr College. In his last interview, Dr. Cadbury seemed optimistic about the future of American pacifism. "Vietnam was more largely disapproved of than any other American war since the Mexican war. We can be more hopeful for peace now, especially if there remains a strong moral tinge to our objections, not just an economic or political one." Dr. Cadbury received honorary degrees from the University of Glasgow, Haverford College, Whittier College, Swarthmore College, and Howard University. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an honorary member of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology. He was also a member of the American Oriental Society, the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, and the American Society of Church History. He is survived by his wife, the former Lydia C. Brown, to whom he was wed on June 17, 1916, two daughters, Mrs. John K. Musgrave, of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Mrs. Martin Beer, of Haddonfield, N.J., two sons: Christopher Joel, of Clinton Corners, N.Y. and Warder Henry, of Albany, N.Y., and nine grandchildren.


1.25 Linear Feet (1.25 linear ft.)


Henry J. Cadbury (1883-1974) was a distinguished Biblical scholar, teacher, and a member of the Society of Friends. Cadbury was one of the founders of the American Friends Service Committee. He served as its chairman from both 1928 to 1934 and again from 1944 to 1960. Cadbury supervised famine relief both in the United States and in Europe.


Printed articles, manuscripts, and notes written by Cadbury were placed together in Series I by type of document, in chronological order. The titles of these documents can be found in the checklist. Cadbury's original files were preserved and often contain correspondence, reference material, and his own writing. Most of these are in the subject file series, but some are in other series, depending on the predominant kind of material within the file. There were many printed documents from the American Friends Service Committee and from other groups for whom SCPC maintains collections. They were moved from the Cadbury papers to these collections, with removal sheets to document the transaction. A large collection of pamphlets was similarly placed in the Peace Collection pamphlet file. Newsclippings were saved only if Cadbury's name appeared in them. Other collections of newsclippings about particular subjects were noted on removal sheets and discarded.

Other Finding Aids

For the catalog record for this collection and to find materials on similar topics, search the library's online catalog.

Custodial History

The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these papers/records.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Henry J. Cadbury, 1973, 1974 [acc. 73-303, -304; 74A-28, -70]

Bibliographic References

Guide to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, 2nd ed., p. 16.

Legal Status

Copyright to the resources created by Henry Joel Cadbury has been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Copyright to all other materials is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Local Note

Henry Joel Cadbury was a Haverford alumnus, class of 1903.

Processing Information

Processed by Martha P. Shane, April 1985; this version of the finding aid was revised by Eleanor A. Fulvio, July 2009.

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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