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Francis August Otto Pieper (1852-1931) Collection, 1878-1932.

  • Collection Number: M-0007
  • Collection Size: 10.6 linear feet



Francis August Otto Pieper

Francis August Otto Pieper was born on 27 June 1852 in Karwitz, Pomerania, as one of seven children born to August Pieper and his wife, Bertha Lohf. His father was the town’s mayor. After finishing grammar school, he attended the junior colleges (Gymnasien) at Koeslin and Kolberg. In the spring of 1870 he accompanied his widowed mother and three of his siblings (Karl, August and Anton) as they emigrated to America. His older brothers, Julius and Reinhold, had left for America earlier, and his oldest sister, Minnie, remained in Germany.


In the fall of 1870 Pieper enrolled in Northwestern College, Watertown, Wisconsin, and graduated from this institution in 1872. He next studied at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, where he graduated in June 1875.

Pieper’s first call brought him to the Wisconsin Synod congregations of St. John and St. Peter at Hika (then Centerville), Wisconsin, which he served until November 1877. He then he accepted a call to the First German Evangelical Lutheran Church, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. In June 1878 Pieper was called to fill the vacant professorship in the dogmatics department at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

At this time Pieper was the youngest professor called to teach at Concordia Seminary. Only nine years later, after the death of Dr. C. F. W. Walther, he was named president of the seminary and remained in this position until his death in 1931. From 1899 to 1911 he also held the position of president of the Missouri Synod. From 1882 to 1899 he also served as secretary for the Board of Colored Missions of the Lutheran Synodical Conference.

On 8 September 1903 an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on him by Northwestern College, Watertown, Wisconsin. Just three weeks later representatives of the Norwegian Synod presented Pieper with an honorary Doctor of Theology degree bestowed by Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. During Pieper’s administration as president the new seminary facilities on DeMun Avenue in Clayton were built and dedicated in 1926.

Pieper was well known outside of Missouri Synod circles because of his publications and editing. He wrote many articles for Der Lutheraner and Lehre und Wehre, and translations of his work also appeared in the Concordia Theological Monthly. Among his most valuable literary contributions were the essays he presented at numerous synodical and district conventions. His most well known work is the three-volume Christliche Dogmatik, published between 1917 and 1924 and translated into English in the 1950s.

On 2 January 1877 Pieper married Minnie Koehn at Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The marriage was blessed with thirteen children: Paula (Mrs. Julius Cloeter, b.3 Jan. 1878), Francis (27 July 1879-15 Nov. 1932), Theodore (17 Aug. 1912-23 Aug. 1946), Eric (17 Mar. 1897-23 Mar. 1965), Clara (Mrs. Rudolf Ressmeyer, m.4 Aug. 1915), Lucie, Emma (Mrs. George F. Schmidt, b.9 Nov. 1888, m.17 June 1909), Else (Mrs. L. Blankenbuehler, b.19 July 1892, m.18 July 1913) , Irene (medical doctor, Mrs. George C. Koenig, d.18 June 1967), George, Arthur, Julia (d.1908), and Ada (d.1926). On 6 August 1884 Pieper became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Pieper died after a short illness on 3 June 1931 at St. Louis and was buried in Immanuel Cemetery (Western Lutheran Cemetery) in St. Louis, where the family had been members and where he served as assistant pastor to J. F. Buenger.


The Francis Pieper Collection contains primarily materials created and collected by Francis Pieper. The collection has been arranged into five series: Profile, Correspondence, Subject Files, Writings by Pieper, and Writings by Other Authors.

The Profile series consists of material that provides a brief overview of Pieper’s professional and personal life, such as anniversaries, general biographical information, class and curriculum material from both his student and teaching careers, congratulations, invoices, handwritten notebooks from his student days and photographs. The obituary file contains newsclippings, copies of memorial service programs and memorial addresses by friends and officials. The folders are arranged in alphabetical order.

The Correspondence series is arranged in chronological order with the original letters appearing first, followed by transcriptions and translations, if they exist. The dates of the letters appear in the form Day/Month/Year. A database of the letters has been kept and is available in the CHI reading room.

This series contains all correspondence found in the collection, which includes a fair amount of correspondence not written by or directed to Pieper. In some cases it is evident who authors and addressees are (e.g., Bente to Schwan). Since these letters were found in the Pieper collection, they have been left there.

For the years 1901-1903 there is a large amount of correspondence between Trinity Lutheran Church, Cincinnati, Ohio; Pastor Alexander von Schlichten; and Pieper that pertains to the “Cincinnati Case.” Other documents pertaining this incident are in the Subject File series in folders 115 and 116.

In order to maintain the completeness of the C. F. W. Walther letter collection, the following letters have been removed and added to the C. F. W. Walther Papers, 1828-1972:

  1. 11 March 1883 Letter from Walther to “Mein teurer Herr Praeses” (Schwan?)
  2. 12 May 1879 Letter from Sihler to “Mein theurer Walther” (C.F.W. Walther)
  3. 13 May 1879 Letter from Sihler to “Mein theurer Walther” (C.F.W. Walther)

It is unclear why these letters were filed in Pieper’s papers.

Several letters written by Pieper are addressed to Herr Praeses (Mr. President). These letters could be meant for Praeses Schwan (Synodical President), a Missouri Synod district president, or the president of another Lutheran church body.

The Subject Files series is arranged alphabetically by topic and includes printed materials and a variety of handwritten notebooks. The notebooks are possibly class notes taken by Pieper’s students. These notebooks are in alphabetical order according to the first title found in the book. They may contain more subjects than listed in the title. The name in parenthesis on the file label is the name of the writer and/or owner of the book.

The Writings by Pieper series contains mainly lectures and/or manuscripts in his own hand. They are filed alphabetically by topic and also include mimeographed copies of lectures conducted by Pieper.

The Christliche Dogmatics subseries to Pieper’s writings are the notes and/or manuscripts of three volumes of Christliche Dogmatik. They are filed in the same topical sequence in which the printed volumes are organized. Only parts of the chapters were found and identified; the majority of the information pertains to Volume I. The filing label does not identify the volume of the books.

The Writings by Other Authors series are manuscripts composed and written by authors other than Pieper. Some are lectures and/or articles sent to him either for publication (in Lehre und Wehre) or just for review. These lectures are filed topically in alphabetical order.

Single unidentifiable fragments, newspaper clippings, and envelopes from correspondence comprised a large part (3 linear feet) of the Francis Pieper Collection. Each single piece of paper was handled separately and examined. Once it was determined that an item did not fit into one of the above categories, it was separated for destruction. A very concentrated effort was made by the arranger of the collection to identify as many fragments as possible. These fragments are located in folders 182 and 183.


Profile Series

f.1 Anniversary (50th) of Ordination
f.2 Biographical
f.3-10 College Matters: 1918-1925
f.11 Congratulations (General)
f.12 Invoices
f.13 Notebook (2 each)
f.14 Notebook (9 each small)
f.15 Geschichtliche Anmerkung
f.16 Mathematics
f.17 Obituaries
f.18-20 Photographs

Correspondence Series

f.21-114 Chronological Correspondence: 1868-1933

Subject File Series

f.115 Case: Cincinnati
f.116 Case: Cincinnati (printed material)
f.117 Case: Student Knief
f.118 Case: Wisconsin/Missouri
f.119 Delegiertensynode 1917
f.120 Delegiertensynode: Eingabe an
f.121 Incomplete Letter
f.122 Intersynodale Thesen
f.123 Joint Lutheran Conference
f.124 Logen
f.125-151 Notebooks
f.152 Notes from Students
f.153 Pastoralkonferenz 1890
f.154-168 Printed Material

Writings by Pieper

f.168-190 Articles, Lectures, and Manuscripts
f.191-f.200 Mimeographed Textbooks
f.201 Miscellaneous
f.202 Lectures 1891 (7 each)
f.203 Minority Matters
f.204 Open Questions
f.205 Philosophisches Geheimnis
f.206 Prayers
f.207 Request for Opinion
f.208 Taufe und Abendmahl
f.209 Theologie und der Mensch 1
f.210 Theologie und der Mensch 2
f.211 Thesen (variety)
f.212 Thesen 1932
f.213 Various Articles
f.214 Wortverkündigung durch Laien
f.215-319 Notes about Christliche Dogmatik

Manuscripts Written by Other Authors

f.320-f.353 General Writings


The Francis Pieper Collection was donated to the Concordia Historical Institute by the Pieper family after his death.

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