Henry Hitt Crane Papers

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Henry Hitt Crane Papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Henry Hitt Crane manuscript collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Methodist clergyman, pastor of the Centre Methodist Church in Malden, Massachusetts, the Elm Park Methodist Church in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Central Methodist Church in Detroit, Michigan. This online collection includes digitized sound recordings produced from analog materials held by the Bentley Historical Library.

Henry Hitt Crane was born in Danville, Illinois on February 2, 1890, the son of Charles A. Crane and Sallie Hitt Crane. In his boyhood he traveled as his father, a Methodist minister, was transferred about to different pastorates in Danville, Colorado Springs, and then Boston, where Charles Crane accepted appointment as pastor of the People's Temple. Coming from five generations of Methodist ministers, Henry Hitt Crane early on decided to follow in this family tradition. After graduating from Boston Latin School, he graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut in 1913. Next came seminary work at the Boston University School of Theology, during which time in 1915 he married Helen Beck. He graduated from seminary in 1916 then followed this up with post-graduate work at Harvard.

Crane's first pastorate in Gorham, Maine was interrupted by the First World War. In 1917, he took a leave from his church to serve with the Y.M.C.A. in front line duty. His exposure here to the brutalities of war transformed Crane into a pacifist, a position to which he would adhere for the remainder of his life. Crane returned to Gorham for a brief period of time, then moved on to a Newton, Massachusetts church for two years from 1918 to 1920. For nine years (1920-1928), he was pastor of the Centre Methodist Church in Malden, Massachusetts. In 1928, he was appointed pastor of the Elm Park Methodist Church in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Located in the heart of the anthracite coal region, Elm Park was ranked as one of the three greatest Methodist Episcopal churches in the nation. Here Crane bolstered his reputation for controversy, organizing meetings of the American League Against War and Fascism, which the American Legion had labeled as "communistic." While at Elm Park, Crane took a year-long (1936-1937) sabbatical to tour the world to study for himself world conditions and the political tumult then occurring in Europe and the Far East.

In June 1938, Crane was appointed to the pastorate of the Central Methodist Church of Detroit. Central Methodist, located at the juncture of Woodward and Adams, had been built in 1866, and had a reputation of a "free and liberal pulpit." Crane was to flourish in this setting. He was both a gifted and prolific speaker, a writer of some note, and a champion of liberal causes. In the tradition of many nineteenth-century pastors, Crane used his pulpit to speak out on the issues of the day. Most especially, he espoused the cause of peace, supporting those who would be conscientious objectors during World War II and speaking out against the confrontational policies of the Cold War. He was a committed pacifist whose views during the 1950s and 1960s brought him much public attention and notoriety. Crane never backed down in his beliefs despite being listed as a suspected subversive by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Crane was also involved in other liberal causes. A staunch opponent of bigotry, Crane often spoke out against anti-Semitism and race discrimination. Through his efforts the Detroit Round Table of Catholics, Jews and Protestants was formed, a group that was influential in Detroit religious affairs.

Crane served at Central Methodist for twenty years before retiring in 1958. For the next nearly twenty years, Crane continued traveling and speaking throughout the country. He died May 19, 1977 at age 87.


Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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