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Catalog Data

Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979  Search this
Ford, Henry, 1863-1947  Search this
Pelley, William Dudley, 1890-1965  Search this
9 Cubic feet (27 boxes, 1 map-folder)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Letters (correspondence)
Audio cassettes
1919-2015, undated
Scope and Contents:
This refence collection was assembled to assist in writing a biography of the Reverend Mr. Charles E. Coughlin. The collection contains books, booklets, published sermons, published lectures, pamphlets and other printed materials. Of these, 57 were written by Coughlin. The remainder of the materials relate to him directly or have chapters or passages relating to him. Additionally, there are periodicals, including newspaper and magazine articles, and a full set of Coughlin's weekly publication, Social Justice, 1936-1942; other periodicals such as William Dudley Pelley's weekly Liberation Journal, 1938-1948; copies of Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent; original photographs, including images of Coughlin and of his church; letters; copies of the FBI's files on Coughlin; and (non-original) recordings of his broadcasts.
The collection is arranged in four series. Series 1: Coughlin, Charles E., Writings and Speeches, 1930-1972, undated Series 2: Photographs and Ephemera, 1927-1979, undated Series 3: Periodicals and Publications, 1919-2012 Series 4: Reference Materials, 1933-2015, undated
Biographical / Historical:
Charles Edward Coughlin was born on October 25, 1891 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to Thomas J. and Amelia Mahoney Coughlin. He was educated in Canada and attended St. Michael's College, Toronto. After graduation he prepared for Holy Orders within the Basilian Fathers at St. Basil's Seminary. He was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1916. Coughlin left the Basilian order after 1923 and moved to Detroit, Michigan. Coughlin was accepted into the Roman Catholic Archidiocese of Detroit in 1923. He was eventually assigned to the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. His reputation for formidable preaching led to the growth of his congregation, and in 1926 Coughlin began broadcasting after a Klu Klux Klan cross burning on the lawn of the church. He eventually expanded the topics of his broadcast to the political arena. It was with this programmatic change that Coughlin became one of the most controversial figures in the first half of the twentieth century. Described as the "Radio Priest," "The Fighting Priest," and the "Angel of the Airways," Coughlin broadcast weekly from a radio studio in Royal Oak from 1926-1940. Taking a strident and nationalistic tone, he lambasted immigrants, bankers, Communists and other groups. Breaching the line between religion and politics he also lectured and sermonized on government policy. While initially favoring the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, he eventually became one of the president's harshest critics. In 1936 he began publishing Social Justice a weekly paper. Coughlin's broadcasts were so successful that between 1931-1936 a new Shrine of the Little Flower was built. The zig-zag Art Deco style of the Shrine became a tourist destination for Coughlin's fans. His increasingly harsh rehtoric coincided with the outbreak of World War II. While stating he was not antisemitic, he professed support for some of the governmental policies of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in part because they were a check on Communist Russia. The Vatican and many Roman Catholic American bishops disagreed and wanted Coughlin to leave the airwaves. Eventually he was forced off the air and publication of Social Justice was halted. Coughlin remained parish priest at the Shrine of the Little Flower until his retirment in 1966. He spent his retirement publishing and giving the occasional interview. Coughlin died on October 27, 1979. He is buried in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan.
Separated Materials:
Objects related to Father Charles E. Coughlin are held in the Division of Cultural and Community Life (now Division of Cultural and Community Life).
The collection was purchased by the National Museum of American History from Todd Moriarty. Moriarty had acquired the collection from an individual who amassed the materials with plans to write a book on Coughlin.
Collection is open for research.
Reproduction restricted due to copyright or trademark. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Anti-communist movements -- United States  Search this
Religion and politics  Search this
Catholic Church  Search this
Radio in religion  Search this
Priests  Search this
Catholicism  Search this
Radio broadcasting  Search this
Radio in politics  Search this
Letters (correspondence) -- 20th century.
Pamphlets -- 20th century
Periodicals -- 20th century
Lectures -- 20th century
Articles -- 20th century
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- 20th century
Books -- 20th century
Speeches -- 20th century
Audio cassettes -- 20th century
Charles E. Coughlin Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Father Charles E. Coughlin Collection
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History