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About WU Archives

This guide will help you navigate University Archives' more than 300 unique collections, most of which document the history of Washington University from 1853 to today. Other collections are related to 20th century St. Louis history.

About William Greenleaf Eliot

William Greenleaf Eliot (1811-1887), a Unitarian Minister, co-founded Washington University and was involved in many reform efforts including:

Brief Biography: WG Eliot

Brief Bio:
Born August 5, 1811 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, William Greenleaf Eliot attended the Friends Academy, and later continued his education at Colombian College in Washington, D.C. In 1831 he entered the Cambridge Divinity School, and on August 17, 1834 he was ordained a Unitarian minister in Boston. In 1834 he went to St. Louis as a missionary, and became the first Unitarian minister west of the Mississippi. Eliot spent the remainder of his life in St. Louis, becoming one of the city's most influential and respected citizens.Portrait of WG Eliot

Eliot led in the efforts to establish and strengthen the St. Louis Public School System. In 1853 Wayman Crow, a friend of Eliot's, secured a charter for a proposed college to be named Eliot Seminary. From that time Eliot was to become the most important figure in the development of the renamed Washington University. In 1870 Eliot assumed the Chancellorship, which he held until his death.

Prior to the Civil War, Eliot was a moderate abolitionist and when the war broke out he came out strongly in favor of union and emancipation. With friend, James B. Yeatman, he helped create the Western Sanitary Commission that mitigated to the medical and spiritual needs of all afflicted by the Civil War, both union and confederate, throughout the Mississippi Valley. After the war Eliot became increasingly active in reform and benevolent movements such as temperance and women's rights. Eliot died in 1887, a figure of influence in the cultural and education development of St. Louis, and of national prominence in social reform and a man respected by his fellow Unitarians.

Online: Digital Content

This is a large collection, and only a portion is in digital form.
  Please ask if you need help locating something.

Select documents and correspondence (with typed transcript if available) are linked below:

Online: Published Works

From the Desk of...

A closer look at select documents:

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Eliot Family Collections

Other collections at University Archives:

Published works:

Further Reading