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William McElwee Miller papers

 Collection — Box: 1-12, 16-31, 33-34, 41, 44-45, 49-51, 53, 56-61
Identifier: SCM 276

Scope and Contents

The William McElwee Miller papers consist of documents related to his personal life, his missionary work in Persia, authored books, and post-retirement activities. The most prevalent materials in the collection are his personal letters. From the start of his missionary work, Miller wrote and received correspondences related to his missionary work, personal life, and the political and religious atmosphere of Persia. Diaries and personal notes related to his travels as well as slides and photographs from various points in his life are included. The collection also contains drafts and manuscripts of Miller's books, documents related to his involvement with religious and missionary organizations, miscellaneous documents of interest collected throughout his life, and personal artifacts.


  • 1899 - 1993

Language of Materials

English and Persian.

Conditions Governing Use

Certain materials have been marked as restricted. Some individual restrictions also apply. Other material may be examined by library patrons under the normal rules and conditions of Special Collections. Consult an archivist for assistance.

Biographical / Historical

William McElwee Miller was a Presbyterian missionary and author who served in Persia from 1919 to 1962. He was born in Middlesboro, Kentucky in 1892 to a family with a history of serving as Presbyterian ministers. He attended Washington and Lee University in 1908 and received his Master's degree in 1913. He was greatly inspired by the missionary work of men such as Samuel Marinus Zwemmer, Robert Elliott Speer, and John Raleigh Mott, who spoke at the Northfield Mission Conference in Northfield, Massachusetts in 1912 and the Student Volunteer Movement convention in Kansas City, Missouri in 1913.

After working as an English teacher for the Marion Institute in Alabama, Miller attended Princeton Theological Seminary 1914 to 1918 and was ordained in 1916 by the Lexington Presbytery of the Synod of Virginia. He also worked as a travelling secretary for the Young Men's Christian Association. Upon graduation, he sailed to Meshed, Persia as a missionary for the Presbyterian Church in the USA and began his work there in 1919.

Miller spent his first year in Tehran studying the Persian language. He then relocated to Meshed in 1920 and was based there until 1932. During this time he performed various duties related to the establishment of Christianity in the region as well as the evangelism, education and support of local converts. He also wrote several books, the most controversial of which was The Baha'i Faith; Its History and Teachings. Throughout his career, he returned to the United States intermittently where raised his family and gave speeches. In 1932, he was transferred back to Tehran where he would work until 1953. In Tehran he worked as a pastor and founded the School of Evangelism outside of the city. Between 1952 and 1962 he worked in Tabriz, Resht and Tehran again until his retirement.

Miller returned to the United States in late 1962 and lived with his family in Mount Airy region of Philadelphia. He continued to write books related to Christianity and the Middle East. He also held leadership positions for several organizations related to evangelical work in the Middle East – particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He died on July 7, 1993 in Philadelphia.


31 Linear Feet


William McElwee Miller was a Presbyterian missionary and author who served in Persia from 1919 to 1962. This collection consists of the correspondence, works, documents, and memorabilia accumulated over the period of his lifetime from 1899 to 1993 and beyond.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was given to PTS Special Collections over several years, beginning in 1987 and through 2016, by William McElwee Miller Jr.

Arranged in the following series: Correspondence, Writings and Publications of William McElwee Miller Sr., Writings and Publications by Others, Media, Personal Information, Others.

  1. Correspondence
  2. Writings and Publications of William McElwee Miller Sr.
  3. Writings and Publications by Others
  4. Media
  5. Personal Information
  6. Others


  • World Heritage Encylopedia. "William McElwee Miller". Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press.
  • "Guide to the William McElwee Miller Papers". Presbyterian Historical Society.
  • "Interview with William McElwee Miller - Collection 387". Billy Graham Center.

Processing Information

The collection originally was organized by Douglas Denne, supervised by William O. Harris, in 1996. Megan Corbi did further processing and arrangement in 2015. Andrew Punk integrated accruals, completed processing, and wrote the finding aid in 2016.

William McElwee Miller papers
Under Revision
Andrew Punk (Rutgers School of Communication and Information, graduate of 2016)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

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

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