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John Haynes Holmes, c. 1939–1941. Photograph by Louis Fabian Bachrach. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112447).

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Holmes, John Haynes (29 November 1879–03 April 1964), Unitarian and later independent minister and a leading advocate of pacifism, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Marcus M. Holmes, a businessman, and Alice Haynes. Holmes was educated at Harvard College (A.B. 1902) and Harvard Divinity School (S.T.B. 1904) and entered the Unitarian ministry, holding early pastorates at Danvers (1902–1904) and Dorchester (1904–1907), Massachusetts, before moving in 1907 to the Church of the Messiah in New York City, where his influence as a minister dedicated to social reform began to be felt. In 1904 he married Madeleine Baker, with whom he had two children....

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Lathrop, John Howland (06 June 1880–20 August 1967), Unitarian minister and peace advocate, was born in Jackson, Michigan, the son of Arthur D. Lathrop, a banker, and Alice McDora Osborne. At seventeen Lathrop started a two-year stint in a wholesale grocery house in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended alternately the congregation of Moses J. Gries, a celebrated Reform rabbi, and the Unitarian church of Marion E. Murdoch, the first woman to receive a B.D. degree from Meadville Theological School in Pennsylvania (relocated to Chicago in 1926). Following in Murdoch’s footsteps, Lathrop attended Meadville, graduating in 1903. Moving on to Harvard University, where he started as a junior, Lathrop was profoundly influenced by the philosopher ...

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May, Samuel Joseph (12 September 1797–01 July 1871), Unitarian minister and radical reformer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph May, a merchant, and Dorothy Sewall. May graduated from Harvard College (1817) and Harvard Divinity School (1820) and filled pulpits in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. In 1825 he married Lucretia Flagge Coffin, the daughter of a Boston merchant. Rearing their four children preoccupied his wife, but it also allowed her time to improve her French and learn Italian and promote the temperance cause....

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Palfrey, John Gorham (02 May 1796–26 April 1881), clergyman, author, and politician, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Palfrey, an unsuccessful merchant and shipmaster, and Mary Sturges Gorham. After his mother’s death in 1802, his father left him (the eldest) and his four brothers with relatives. Two years later his father moved permanently to New Orleans, taking only his four youngest sons with him, and became a plantation owner and slaveholder. Meanwhile, left behind, young John attended the Berry Street Academy in Boston and Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, where he was a charity student. With no encouragement and little financial support from his father, Palfrey attended Harvard as a scholarship student, graduating in 1815. He studied at the Harvard Divinity School from 1816 to 1818, graduated and was ordained in 1818, and served as pastor of the prestigious Unitarian Church at Brattle Square, Boston, from 1818 until 1831. He developed into a respected religious, social, and intellectual leader known throughout Boston and beyond....

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Toulmin, Harry (07 April 1766–11 November 1823), clergyman, statesman, and judge, was born in Taunton, England, the son of Joshua Toulmin, a Unitarian clergyman, and Jane Smith, a bookstore proprietor. Toulmin attended Hoxton Academy, but much of his education came from spending time in his mother’s bookstore....

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Upham, Charles Wentworth (04 May 1802–15 June 1875), historian, minister, and politician, was born in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, the son of Joshua Upham, a lawyer and entrepreneur, and Mary Chandler. Joshua Upham’s Royalist politics and service in the British military led to the confiscation of his property by the state of Massachusetts in 1778. He fled with his wife to the British province of New Brunswick and in 1784 was appointed an assistant justice to its first Supreme Court. The position, however, was more prestigious than profitable, and his death in 1808 left Mary Upham and her son with little means of support. At age ten Charles worked in an apothecary shop, mixing medicines and teaching himself the trade by reading a pharmacology text. At age twelve he was a day laborer on a farm in Annapolis, Nova Scotia....