Thomas Starr King Collection

  Thomas Starr King
  Thomas Starr King, Unitarian minister, died at
the age of 39

Thomas Starr King, to the Sunday School Scholars and Teachers of Hollis Street Society, Boston, Massachusetts, May 25, 1860:

You cannot imagine, children, how splendid the flowers are here. Three weeks ago, before the leaves had come out on the trees in Boston, the whole country was brilliant with the brightest colors of wild flowers.

Mountains that had no trees on them were carpeted with blue, and yellow, and violet, and splendid banks of orange- colored poppies. It was a glorious sight to see acres and acres of such beauty without a stone, or fence, or tree to mar the spectacle.

And all over the country now, the roses are in full bloom, and will be until next December. Strawberries are very plentiful and very large, and they will be in market until November. It is a wonderful land.

San Francisco is not handsome, not very pleasant, but all around it the climate is fine, and the loveliness very charming....

When the Rev. Thomas Starr King died on the morning of March 4, 1864, the City of San Francisco went into mourning. Federal and state offices closed, flags flew at half mast, and buildings were draped in black. Newspaper accounts describe a scene of mourning befitting a head of state as thousands filed silently through the church where his body was laid out.

Yet the man who legend proclaims "saved California for the Union" is mostly unknown to many Bay Area  residents.While California history scholars debate the extent of King's contribution to the Union efforts, the Starr King Collection shows the profound impact the preacher had on many people in his day.

  Julia King  
  Julia King, married in 1848,
died in San Francisco in 1904.
Detail from an ambrotype.

The collection, on permanent loan from the Starr King School of Ministry, contains original letters and  sermons, photographs, news articles and a scrapbook compiled by Charles Wendte, a Unitarian minister and friend of King.  The majority of the letters are written to Randolph Ryer, a friend,  during the years King lived in and around Boston.

For a list of the contents in the collection see the Finding Aid. Arliss Ungar, chair of the Balázs Scholars Committee, former chair of the Board of Trustees, and author of With Vision and Courage: Starr King School for the Ministry: The History of its First Hundred Years, reveals King's significance in three different presentations: reflections on his life, his reverence for nature, and on social justice.