American Tract Society
- Paul C. Echols
An American interdenominational Protestant organization devoted to the publication and distribution of religious literature. It was founded in Massachusetts in 1814 by Ebenezer Porter, a Congregational minister, and adopted the name American Tract Society in 1823. In 1825 it merged with a similar group, the New York Religious Tract Society, and the resulting national organization operated for many years from headquarters in New York. In 1978, the society relocated to Garland, Texas. The society was especially influential during the 30 years before the Civil War, after which newer religious agencies became more active. In addition to publishing millions of copies of tracts, the society issued a number of hymn and tune collections, aiming for the broadest possible circulation among middle- and working-class families. These collections became progressively less Calvinist and more evangelical in outlook, and they provide an interesting and useful record of changing tastes in American hymnody, their contents ranging from traditional 18th-century melodies through hymn tunes of the Mason–Hastings reform movement and popular sacred songs in the style of Bradbury and the Methodist revivalists to early gospel hymns. The society’s most important publications were ...