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Oscar C. McCulloch papers

Identifier: L363

Scope and Contents

This collection includes Oscar C. McCulloch’s diaries, clippings, papers, letters, and many materials for the Plymouth Church and McCulloch Club. The bulk of the collection consists of McCulloch’s diaries (1877-1891). The collection is grouped into letters, papers and clippings, diaries, memorial scrapbooks, and McCulloch club materials. All groups are arranged chronologically.

There is also an oversize folder, which contains a National Conference of Charities and Correction appointment document, Christian Register clippings (1885-1889), other oversize clippings, and a Plymouth Church broadside, 1890s (OBD031).

The collection also includes a pamphlet with an oversize fold-out diagram of the family lineage of the "Tribe of Ishmael" also called the Ben-Ishmael Tribe, a poor, white Protestant family in Indianapolis, Indiana. The chart was prepared for Reverend Oscar C. McCulloch's paper, read at the National Conference of Charities in Buffalo, New York during July 5-11, 1888 (OBF003).


  • 1860-1924


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Oscar Carleton McCulloch was born July 2, 1843 in Fremont, Ohio to C. G. and Hattie McCulloch. McCulloch was educated in Portage, Wisconsin, and at Eastman Business College in New York. He worked as a government clerk in Springfield, Illinois and as a salesman in Chicago before entering the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1867. He became the minister of the First Congregational Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1870. Around this time McCulloch married a woman named Alice and they subsequently had five children: Carleton, David, Agnes, Margaret, and Ruth.

McCulloch came to Indianapolis in 1877 and headed up the Plymouth Church. He moved the congregation toward a social gospel mission. He would often visit the poor in their homes or institutions, which led him to begin a study of the genetic and environmental factors affecting poverty. In particular, he studied what he called “The Tribe of Ishmael” and published a pamphlet on the subject in 1888. He played a critical role in the evolution of charity in Indianapolis, moving to a more proactive organized state from its earlier informal iteration. He assisted in the coordination of the Indianapolis Benevolent Society (IBS) and other local charitable organizations, which led to the creation of the Charity Organization Society (COS). McCulloch was president of the COS from 1882 until his death as well as the president of the IBS. McCulloch was also actively involved with the Board of State Charities and the Flower Mission Society. He became president of the National Council of Charities and Correction in 1891. Oscar C. McCulloch passed away on December 10, 1891.


Forbes, J. Thomas. “Oscar Carleton McCulloch.” Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Indianapolis: IU Press, 1994.


3.3 Cubic Feet (6 manuscript boxes, 1 extra-large oversize folder, 1 oversize object)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from Agnes McCulloch Hanna.


No further additions are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digitized images of the "The Tribe of Ishmael: Diagram" pamphlet is available online in the ISL Digital Collections:

Related Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN:

OBD031: Oscar C. McCulloch oversize papers

OBF003: Oscar C. McCulloch, "Tribe of Ishmael" chart

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 1997/09 by Jill Costill. Collection re-processed 2007/04 by Elizabeth M. Wilkinson. Finding aid updated 2015/11/04 by Laura Eliason. EAD finding aid created 2018/05/04 by Lauren Patton. EAD finding aid revised 2021/09/15; 2021/11/24 by Lauren Patton; 2022/04/05 by Brittany Kropf.
Oscar C. McCulloch papers
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.