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Zion City (Ill.) records

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Zion

Scope and Content of the Collection

Mainly newspaper clippings pasted into bound volumes, but also correspondence and other miscellaneous material relating to Zion City, John Alexander Dowie, Wilbur Glenn Voliva, and the Christian Catholic Church.

Forty-five volumes of newspaper clippings, 1897-1919 (bulk 1900-1907) contain articles from newspapers in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, London, etc., mainly concerning the activities of John Alexander Dowie, his ministry, and Zion. Also some correspondence, publications, photographs, postcards, accounts, and other miscellaneous materials extending into the period when Wilbur Glenn Voliva assumed leadership of the church and city.


  • Creation: 1888-1974
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1899 - 1907



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Zion City (Ill.) records are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Zion City (Ill.) records 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 at

History of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church, Zion City, and John Alexander Dowie

Evangelical minister and founder of the Christian Catholic Church (later Christian Catholic Apostolic Church) and the Christian utopian city of Zion, on Lake Michigan near the northern border of Illinois.

John Alexander Dowie, founder of Zion City, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 25, 1847, to an evangelical family. By the age of six he had completely read the Bible and had taken the pledge against tobacco, opium, and alcohol. The family immigrated to Australia in 1860, with Dowie returning to attend the University of Edinburgh from 1867 to 1872, at which time he once more sailed for Australia. In 1876 Dowie married and he began his evangelistic ministry three years later in Melbourne.

Dowie immigrated to San Francisco in 1888 where he founded the Ministry of Divine Healing. After years of traveling across the country preaching and healing, he finally settled in Chicago and in 1893 set up a tabernacle at the World's Columbian Exposition. During the next seven years, Dowie founded the Christian Catholic Church (Protestant-Evangelical) that met in several city locations including the Chicago Auditorium (1896). He continued his preaching, teaching and healing, while encountering increasing criticism from local press and police. Finally, Dowie secretly purchased a frontage on Lake Michigan between Chicago and Milwaukee, and on July 14, 1900, the land was dedicated and formally consecrated to God as Zion City. The Christian utopian city opened its gates on July 15, 1901.

Dowie was able to persuade the federal government to let him import the machinery and personnel from England to create a lace-making industry, the first of its kind in America. Its products were eventually sold through the best downtown Chicago department stores. His reputation and message were spread by means of several serial publications (e.g., "Leaves of Healing"), and through his preaching tours. He continued to develop his utopian community until a stroke took his life on Mar. 9, 1907.

Wilbur Glenn Voliva (1870-1942) succeeded Dowie as General Overseer of Zion City, 1906-1942. Voliva was born on a farm in Indiana on Mar. 10, 1870. In 1889, he entered Union Christian College at Merom, Indiana, and graduated five years later into the ministry of the Christian Church. In 1898 he was drawn to Dowie's teachings and eventually joined his congregation. He succeeded Dowie only a few years later. Voliva is perhaps best remembered as the originator of the Zion Passion Play, an annual production that debuted in 1935.


10.4 Linear Feet (1 box and 34 oversize boxes)


Mainly newspaper clipping scrapbooks, but also correspondence, and miscellaneous material relating to John Alexander Dowie and the founding of the Christian Catholic Church and Zion City, Illinois.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Scrapbooks, 1897-1919, bulk, 1899-1907
Boxes 1-34
Series 2: Miscellaneous Papers, 1888-1974, bulk 1900-1946
Box 35

Collection Stack Location

1 12 2


Gift of Evelyn Lampe, 1991-2004.

Location of Copies

Scrapbooks also available on microfilm at the Newberry Library.

Related Archival Materials

Additional printed materials have been cataloged separately and are housed in the library collections. See also "Leaves of Healing" (fD 624.5), "The Coming City" (+Case D 624.187), and "The Zion Banner" (Case fBX 7401.Z56), successor to "The Coming City."

Processed by

Monica Petraglia, 2004.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Zion City (Ill.) records, 1888-1974, bulk 1899-1907
Monica Petraglia, Martha Briggs
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