Tracts are usually small, pamphlet-type publications produced by an organization in order to disseminate information about that organization's interests, doctrines, or creeds. This collection consists of numbered tracts produced by a variety of tract societies such as the New England Tract Society, the Protestant Episcopal Tract Society, the American Reform Tract and Book Society, The Worcester Temperance League, the American Woman Suffrage Association, the American Peace Society and the Universalist Tract Society. Many of the organizations were national in scope, and some were very local, such as the Universalist Tract Society.
Topics of the tracts varied, and included writings on religion, temperance, spiritualism, peace, women's suffrage, slavery, missions and conduct of life, among others.
The collection contains over 2,200 numbered tracts published in the United States between 1810 and 1883. For the most part, all numbered tracts published by a particular tract society or organization have been fully cataloged online. Exceptions to this include "adult" tracts published by the American Tract Society, the American Sunday School Union, and the American Unitarian Association which date after 1840, as well as tracts for children which were produced by any organization or tract society. The latter have been fully cataloged online in the American Childrens' Book collection.
Unnumbered tracts for adults that date through 1840 may be found in many other cataloged collections, including Dated Pamphlets, Dated Books, Pamphlets and the National and Local Institutions collections.
Many tract societies were short-lived. Religious societies were among the most durable of tract societies, and one, the American Tract Society, which traces its origins to the New England Religious Tract Society, founded in 1814, still publishes and distributes religious tracts today.
A series of tables useful in dating American Tract Society publications through 1876 has been compiled by AAS staff member S.J. Wolfe.
- by S.J. Wolfe, Senior Cataloger