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Wesleyan Bible Class Records

Identifier: spe-wbc

Scope and Contents

This collection primarily contains materials produced by the Wesleyan Bible Class to advertise its meetings. The collection documents the heavy publicity campaign which the class used to make itself known in the church community and to the public in general.

Of particular note are programs in the Anniversaries section which are elaborate paper cuts. Included are programs in the shape of a maple leaf (1:3), a writing pen (1:6), a fishing basket with fish (1:10), a sailboat (1:11), a star of David (1:12), an American flag (1:13), a bell (1:17), the number 4 (1:18), a palette (1:19), a radio microphone (1:22), a hatchet (1:25), and a shoe (1:27).

News clippings, The Wesleyan newsletter, programs and photographs also appear. Photos 1.1 to 1.15 are postcards, produced in the first decade of the 20th century. Photos 2.1 to 3.9 are 3.5" x 5.5" black and white snapshots. Photo 4.1 is a 6 3/4" x 8 1/2" print.


  • Creation: 1903 - 1952


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 Wesleyan Bible Class was founded in 1880 by Calla Scott Willard, with twelve boys as members. Over the next sixteen years, the class was taught by six different teachers and then disbanded. In September, 1896, the class was reorganized under Frank L. Wood (1864-1945) with 27 members. Wood continued to lead and teach the class until his death 48 years later. At its height, the class numbered some 900, although membership included persons in forty states and twelve foreign countries. Nevertheless, attendance was large, being on the average 626 per meeting in 1940. The motto of the class was "Search the Scriptures" and throughout its history the emphasis remained that of Bible study. Rather than being linked to one congregation, it was designed to serve churches on the West Side of Chicago. While Wesleyan / Methodist in doctrine, the class stressed an interdenominational character. The class met on Sunday afternoons so as not to conflict with Sunday school and church programs. From its founding until 1929, the class met at the Western Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church on the Near West Side at the corner of Western Avenue and Monroe Street. When that church building was closed, the class moved to the Olivet Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of Adams and Keeler in the West Garfield Park neighborhood.

Following the death of Frank L. Wood in 1945, the class officially disbanded and a "Wesleyan Association" was founded to keep the members together via occasional social fellowship. But not many months had gone past before the class members had reorganized and prevailed upon the current pastor of Olivet Methodist Church to teach it. The Wesleyan Bible Class was instrumental in starting other Wesleyan classes, and in its annual "Other Class Sunday" program invited all these other classes to join it for a day, and attendance at these events often numbered 800.


3.5 Linear Feet (in 5 boxes (including 39 photographs), plus 2 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



The collection primarily consists of promotional materials for the class. The Wesleyan Bible Class was organized in 1880, but is best known for the years (1896-1945) it was led by Frank L. Wood. Under his leadership, the class numbered some 900, with an average attendance of 626 per meeting in 1940. The focus of the class was on Bible study. It was interdenominational and designed to serve all churches on the West Side. The collection contains newsletters, programs, invitations and anniversary brochures.


Items are arranged alphabetically by subject or name. They are chronological within.

Custodial History

The material in this collection was collected by Wesleyan Bible Class member Mabel Kennicott, who lived at 300 [S.] Hamilton Avenue, Chicago. Miss Kennicott spearheaded the attempt to hear from past class members for the 1951 and 1952 reunions.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials found in collection; no documentation concerning the provenance of these materials exists.

Related Materials

  • Frank L. Wood Scrapbooks
  • West Garfield Park Community Collection, especially Box 4, Folder 9 and Box 1, Folder 15
  • West Side Historical Society Records

Guide to the Wesleyan Bible Class Records
Original author and process date unknown. 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