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Harry E. Biedinger Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Biedinger

Scope and Content of the Collection

Personal diaries, datebooks, and financial records kept by Harry E. Biedinger between 1898 and 1949. Biedinger writes about a variety of topics, including detailed notes about the planning and building of Zion City. He provides insight into the inner workings of Zion City and its tight controls over the community. Diaries form the 1930s and 1940s are small pocket diaries or datebooks and the events recorded are increasingly briefer and less frequent. Diaries contain more detailed, personal entries while datebooks have smaller entries.

Biedinger also kept detailed financial records and expense reports from 1906-1924. Includes expenses for the Mt. Pleasant Stone Quarry, for which he may have been the general manager from 1910-1913. Also contains financial and legal materials related to a patent-infringement lawsuit filed by Biedinger and his family on behalf of their father, Charles G. H. Biedinger (1850-1908), the inventor of a machine that produced wrappers for bottles. Additionally, Biedinger owned a 1915 four-cylinder SH Studebaker and recorded notes about mileage, gas usage, cost, and repairs.


  • Creation: 1898-1949



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Harry E. Biedinger Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Harry E. Biedinger Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Harry E. Biedinger

American engineer, surveyor, and founding member of the Christian utopian community Zion City, Illinois.

Harry Eugene Biedinger was born in San Francisco, California on Dec. 19, 1880 to Charles G. and Elizabeth Biedinger. His diaries begin in October 1898 when he was a high school senior in Cincinnati, Ohio and active with the Zion Tabernacle. On July 14, 1900, Biedinger attended a consecration ceremony for Zion City, the utopian community planned by John Alexander Dowie, leader of the Christian Catholic Church of Zion. The city was devised as a place where Dowie’s congregation could worship, work, and play free from the temptations of the world. Following the ceremony, Biedinger lived in Chicago and spent the summer with Arthur G. Taylor canvassing small towns throughout the Midwest with Zion materials.

After a short stent at Zion College, Biedinger took a surveying position for Zion City on January 6, 1901, working on the foundation for the lace factory. During 1902, his mother, brother Rob and sister Carrie also moved to Zion City. Biedinger was laid off from his job in November 1902 and left Zion City for Chicago, only to return as the assistant city engineer in 1903. Diaries from this time show Biedinger becoming more disenchanted with Zion and Dowie’s leadership. By 1904, he has left Zion City again and is working in Janesville, Wisconsin as assistant to the city engineer and meets his wife, Grace Inez Ladd. They had three children, eventually divorcing in 1925. By 1932, Biedinger lives on Beacon Street in Chicago, working as an auditor, and married to his second wife Alice. He died on Dec. 12, 1958 in Hammond, Indiana.


1.3 Linear Feet (3 boxes)


Collection of more than 60 diaries, datebooks, and financial records kept over a lifetime by Harry E. Biedinger (1880-1956), who was among the founding members and builders of Zion City, a failed utopian Christian community outside of Chicago.


Materials arranged alphabetically.

Collection Stack Location

1 39 1


Purchase, 2016.

Processed by

Catherine Grandgeorge, 2017.

Inventory of the Harry E. Biedinger Papers, 1898-1949
Catherine Grandgeorge
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States