Skip to main content

Kircher Family Papers

Identifier: spe-nhrc-kir

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of an initial accession and one supplement. Its strengths lie in church history (Evangelical Synod of North America) and family history. It consists of manuscript material, oversize materials and photographs. Supplement 1 is held in Box 1, Folders 13-16.


  • 1873 - 1958

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

The two men central to this collection are Kircher (pronounced KEER-kur) brothers Johannes Gerhard (1857-1915) and Julius (1859-1940). Both born near Vincennes, Indiana, they migrated to Chicago and became pastors of the (German) Evangelical Synod of North America. This denomination continued to hold services in German during and after the first World War. Eventually, it merged with two similar denominations and is today known as the United Church of Christ.

As a recent seminary graduate, Johannes Kircher founded the Bethlehem Evangelical Church in December 1883, in what was then the town of Lake View. He remained pastor of Bethlehem until his death in 1915. The first organist of the young congregation was his brother Julius, then a student at Elmhurst College. Julius was succeeded by Miss Louise C. Niemann who eventually married Rev. Johannes. In 1884-85, a Church building was erected at the southwest corner of Diversey and Magnolia Avenue, an opulent testimony to the upper-middle-class lifestyle of the Lake View German population.

Johannes and Louise Kircher became the parents of two children, both documented in this collection: Paul (1890-1927) and Elsa Louise (1895-1967). Mrs. Kircher survived her husband by 28 years and remained active in the work of Bethlehem Church. She died in 1943 and was buried beside her husband in Eden Cemetery, Schiller Park.

Julius Kircher graduated from Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois, and from Eden Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. In 1889, he married Emma Bandow (1867-1910) and was installed as pastor of Trinity Evangelical Church at W. 22nd Place and S. Damen Avenue, in the Lower West Side neighborhood. He spent a 50-year pastoral career at Trinity, continuing after official retirement in conducting a monthly service in German.

Julius and Emma Kircher were parents of three sons, all of whom fought in World War I. Edward (d. 1958) became a professor at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Helmut (1893-1973) married his cousin Elsa and moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Armin (1894-1951) remained in the Chicago area. After the death of Emma Kircher, Julius married in 1913 her younger sister Lovesta, who died ten years later. After that, Julius made his home in Oak Park with his sisters Emma Kircher and Amalia, widow of Rev. William Grotefeld who founded Bethany Evangelical Church at Cullom and Paulina Streets in the Lake View neighborhood. Julius died in 1940 and was buried with his wives in Eden Cemetery.

For a Kircher Family tree, please see the front of box 1.


3 Linear Feet (2 linear feet in 4 boxes (including 57 photographs), plus 7 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



Johannes Kircher was the founding pastor of Bethlehem Evangelical Church. The collection includes materials relating to Kircher family history and the history of the church.


The collection is divided into two series:

  • Series 1: Documents, 1873-1958
  • Series 2: Photographs, 1874-1946

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Kircher Family Papers were donated by the Kalamazoo Public Museum in 1974.

Related Materials

  • Ravenswood-Lake View Community Collection
  • Lower West Side Community Collection

Separated Materials

  • Chicago. View book, 14 pp., no publisher, undated [circa 1893], moved to Chicago City-Wide Collection, Box 41, Folder 26
  • Chicago. View book, 13 pp. First view has in lower right corner, “Ward Brothers Ph.-V. Columbus, Ohio, U. S. A. 1893,” moved to Chicago City-Wide Collection, Box 41, Folder 10
  • The New Chicago Album. View book, 12 pp. Chicago: L. Schick, 1892, moved to Chicago City-Wide Collection, Box 41, Folder 9
  • “A Yard of the National Game,” photo-poster of Chicago Cubs baseball team. Chicago: Collection E.T. Johnson & Co., 1908. 14.5” x 48”
  • Two stereoscope pictures: World’s Columbian Exposition, moved to World’s Columbian Exposition, Photographs 2.65, 2.66
  • Report of the Commissioners and a History of Lincoln Park. Chicago: Published by the Commissioners, 1899. F548.65.L7A1 1899
  • The Story of Chicago Told in Pictures: From the Log Cabin to the World’s Fair. Chicago: F. P. Kenkel, 1893. Bound with: A Week in Chicago. Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1893 F548.3.S8 FOLIO

Guide to the Kircher Family Papers
Galen R. Wilson, December 22, 1988. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875