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The Edwin Harold Rian Manuscript Collection

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: SCM 158

Scope and Content

This collection includes biographical materials, autobiographical materials, news clippings about Dr. Rian's career, and various mementos from his life.


  • 1927 - 1990

Language of Materials



There are no special restrictions to the access of this collection. It may be examined by library patrons under the normal rules and conditions of Special Collections.

Preferred Citation

The following is the acceptable citation for publication: The Edwin Harold Rian Manuscript Collection. Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.


1900 April 27
Born, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Graduated, University of Minnesota
Student, Bachelor of Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary
Graduated, Master of Arts, Princeton University
1927 April 27
Ordained, Presbytery of New Brunswick
Princeton Fellow, University of Berlin, Germany
Princeton Fellow, University of Marburg, Germany
Assistant pastor, Presbyterian Church, Westfield, New Jersey
President, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Vice-President, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas
Honorary doctorate, Bob Jones University
Vice-President, Beaver College (now called Arcadia University), Glenside, Pennsylvania
President, Jamestown College, North Dakota
Honorary doctorate, Huron College
Honorary doctorate, Jamestown College
President, Biblical Seminary, New York City
Honorary doctorate, Moravian College
President, Institute for Educational Planning
Assistant President, Princeton Theological Seminary
1995 August 22
Died, San Diego, California

Biographical Information

Dr. Rian was a young leader of that conservative segment of the Presbyterian Church which formed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church denomination and Westminster Theological Seminary. After serving as an assistant pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Westfield, New Jersey, Dr. Rian became field secretary for Westminster Theological Seminary, 1931-36, in charge of raising support. He served as president of that school's board of trustees, 1936-46. In 1940 he wrote The Presbyterian Conflict, a history of the controversies within the Presbyterian Church, which has recently been reprinted.

In 1947, Dr. Rian announced he had come to a new understanding of the unity of the Church and resigned his positions within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He was subsequently re-ordained by the PCUSA which had earlier defrocked him. He went on to serve as vice-president or president at several significant educational institutions, including Trinity University (Texas), Beaver College (Pennsylvania, now Arcadia University), Jamestown College (North Dakota), Biblical Seminary (New York), and the Institute for Educational Planning (New York). He became the assistant to the President at Princeton Seminary in 1969, where he served for more than ten years. He also authored and edited several books.


1.0 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Related Material

See also the following materials in Special Collections:

Tapes #0331 - 0334, PTS Archives Audio Collection, 1990 oral histories by Dr. Rian outlining his career with particular reference to his relationship with Professor J. Gresham Machen, the difficulties at Princeton Seminary and the development of Westminster Seminary. Also included is a lengthy discussion of student life in Germany in the mid-1920s and his relations with Professor Harnick. Dr. Rian Gives many details about his boyhood and youth, his return to the Presbyterian Church USA and his career as a college administrator. Dr. Rian had these tapes transcribed and they were sent to his home in California. The Library does not have a copy of the transcription of the tapes.

The PTS Media Services Department has archived three audio tapes of Dr. Rian's 1979 and 1983 class lectures on the conflicts of the 1920s and 1930s. These two lectures were delivered in the course on American Church History and are largely devoted to Dr. Rian's relationship to Dr. Machen and the division in Princeton Seminary in the late 1920s.

The Abigail Rian Evans Manuscript Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary Library, Special Collections

Processing Information:

This collection of was given to the Seminary Libraries by Dr. Rian in 1994, with additional materials given by his family in February of 1997. This collection was processed, and the original finding aid was written in the September of 1996, by Raymond D. Cannata, under the direction of William O. Harris, Archivist. The finding aid was revised in May of 2002, and edited by Sarah Seraphin and Daved Anthony Schmidt in May of 2009. Additional materials were received in August, 2013 from Abigail Rian Evans, and the additions were processed by Bob Golon, Manuscript Librarian.

The Edwin Harold Rian Manuscript Collection
Raymond D. Cannata
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Princeton Theological Seminary. Library. Special Collections Repository

Princeton Theological Seminary
Wright Library
25 Library Place
Princeton NJ 08540 USA