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Daniel Steele Papers

An inventory of his papers at the Syracuse University Archives

Finding aid created by: Sean Molinaro
Date: 2012


Daniel Steele

Daniel Steele (1824-1914), born in Windham, New York, attended Wesleyan University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts (1848), a Master of Arts (1851), and a Doctor of Divinity degree (1868). Following his undergraduate graduation, Steele joined the New England Conference of Methodist Episcopal Church, and he would continue working as a pastor in Massachusetts churches until 1862, when he turned his attentions to professorship and school administration. He began his career in education as the Professor of Ancient Languages and Literature at Genesee College in Lima, New York. In 1869, after several years of teaching, Steele became the acting president of Genesee College until 1871.

By 1871, Genesee College was having significant administrative struggles, while the newly founded Syracuse University offered many promising opportunities. Steele decided to join Syracuse University, where he was appointed the Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy, one of only five faculty positions in the College of the University (later called the College of Liberal Arts). Syracuse University, preparing for its first year of classes, also needed to find administrators, and here, too, the University turned to Steele. He was selected to be the Vice President of the College of the University which, in the school’s earliest stage, also made him the University’s first acting Chancellor.

Steele’s time as Syracuse University’s first head administrator would be short, however, ending just a year later in 1872. Steele decided to leave his positions at SU in favor of returning to the ministry. This decision would take him back to Massachusetts to serve as a pastor in various churches. A few years later, Steele began to publish some of the theological books and writings that would establish him as a prominent figure in the Holiness Movement (a 19th-century Methodist movement informed by the teachings of theologian John Wesley).

In 1886, Steele would return to academia once more, becoming the Professor of Doctrinal Theology at Boston University. He would continue to write while holding this position, just as he would continue to write well into his final years. His last published essay was printed in 1911, just a few years before his death on December 2, 1914.

Scope and Content Note

Dating between 1851 and 1877, the Daniel Steele Papers contains Steele's personal diaries and some of his published sermons.

The Diaries series spans from 1851 to 1875, with one diary for almost every year within that range. The 21 personal diaries in this collection typically consist of Steele's list of activities for the day, his reactions to items in the news, notes related to his sermons and classes, and other brief entries. The diaries from his time at Syracuse University, 1871 to 1872, will occasionally make note of duties related to the school, such as faculty meetings. Two additional diaries include Steele's record of the sermons he gave and a diary of "memoranda" from Wesleyan University.

The Published Sermons series contains printings of seven of Steele's sermons. Although this brief sampling cannot begin to cover the breadth of subjects Steele covered in his nearly 600 sermons on record, it does feature sermons that were given at an especially important time in U.S. history. Three of these published sermons were delivered during the American Civil War and candidly addressed the pressing issues of the day. Steele was a passionate, outspoken abolitionist who sharply criticized irresolute politicians and others who were not willing to recognize the "rebellion," as Steele described it, as directly resulting from the nation's long-standing failure to address its most heinous crime: the institution of slavery.

This collection's three sermons from the Civil War era, "The Cause, the Crime, and the Cure of Our National Suicide," "Thanksgiving by Faith for Our Country's Future," and "Benjamin and American Slaveholders," are discourses on the war, the moral and historical implications of its causes, the character of the Confederacy's actions, the devastating iniquity of slavery, and other topics, often presented in terms of Christian theological thought.

Of more local historical significance, this series also includes a speech Steele gave at Syracuse University's inauguration ceremony. As the University's first acting Chancellor, Steele discusses the evolving state of education, the University's desire to maintain the best of traditional education while also incorporating the best of the new educational approaches, changing views on the role of religion, and the potential the new University holds at its earliest state.

Also included in this series are sermons to the Genesee College graduating class of 1869 and two religious sermons delivered in Massachusetts in the 1870s.


Access Restrictions:

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

The Archives hold a clipping file and portrait file for Daniel Steele.

Selected Search Terms


Steele, Daniel, 1824-1914.
Genesee College.
Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University.


College faculty.
Holiness movement.
Methodist church (U.S.)
College teachers.
Higher education.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Daniel Steele Papers,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

A note kept with the collection states that it was "Presented by [the] Iliff School of Theology" of Denver, Colorado in February, 1951.

Processing Information

Materials were placed in acid-free folders and boxes.


Folders are arranged in chronological and alphabetical order within series.

Table of Contents


Published Sermons