Center for Archival Collections

Reference Services | Manuscripts by Subject | CAC Homepage

The Karl Pauli Papers - MS 475

Introduction | Biographical Sketch | Scope and Content | Series Description | Inventory


The Karl Pauli Papers were donated to the Center for Archival Collections on two separate occasions by two separate donors. The bulk of the collection, about three and one-half linear feet, was donated by Bruce McGarvey on January 5, 1987. The remainder was given to the Center by Dorothy Lindzy, a longtime associate of Pauli's, on April 21, 1988. The collection consists of personal correspondence, literary productions, and published materials, both by Karl Pauli and others. In addition to having a great deal of material of a personal nature, the Karl Pauli papers also provides substantial insight into the political and religious activities of Pauli.

Occupying roughly five linear feet, the collection was processed and registered by Derek Milne, graduate student, and revised by Susan K. Irwin. The papers are open to the public on an unrestricted basis.

Biographical Sketch

Karl Pauli was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 26, 1891 and died December 31, 1977. During a long and productive career as a freethinker, Pauli embraced many social causes and issues. Pauli's family was devout Protestant and perhaps rebellion against this fact accounts for Pauli's life long devotion to Atheism. By age 18 he had left home because of the religious issue. By the following year he was a member in full standing of the I.W.W. and by 1909 had joined both the Toledo Socialist Party as well as the Secular League.

Pauli's life is a fascinating portrayal of devotion to cause with, ironically, religious fervor. In 1910 he ran for office on the Socialist Party ticket, not the last time he would do so. In 1913 he organized the Toledo Rationalist Society and in 1915 the Temple of Reason--a separate group which seemingly had nearly identical aims. As an "alternative to church" these groups jointly offered a Sunday forum. Under the auspices of these two groups Pauli lectured in the soapbox style, participated in debate and published writings on a variety of topics, usually atheism. He also brought in many acclaimed speakers, including Bill Haywood, Emma Goldman, Clarence Darrow, and Eugene Debs.

In 1912 Pauli married Elsie Peters (who died in 1958). The couple had three children.

Karl Pauli was the nineteenth man called for the draft in World War I and claimed exemption as a conscientious objector, the first in Toledo to do so. Throughout his life he sold a great deal of so-called "radical" literature and was arrested for doing so (Pauli was arrested 54 times in the Toledo area alone). When arrested for this particular offense, in the late 1910's, he was actually selling President Woodrow Wilson's book The New Freedom, which Wilson had written several years earlier. Apparently at this point, the President sent Pauli a letter of apology stating that the arrest was a misunderstanding, however, this particular letter is conspicuously missing from the Collection. Indeed, no correspondence predates 1935.

After his illness in 1924 Pauli attempted to open a tire business and ended up losing roughly $5,000. because of an "organized religious boycott". Later in the 1920's he was offered a position as State Organizing Director of the Socialist Party which he left during the Depression because of communist infiltration. Pauli then moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he was given charge of the organization of the Allegheny County Socialist Party. In this endeavor, Pauli himself claims to have been a victim of character assassination. He returned to Detroit in 1937 to became active in and ultimately a national representative of the Mechanics Educational Society of America, a rating as a vociferous alternative to the C.I.O. Pauli's work with M.E.S.A. lasted until 1944.

In the postwar years Pauli did a great deal of work with Rationalist societies and anti-religious groups, including production of writings on these themes, as well as socialism, and later environmental issues and mental health. Strangely, neither Pauli's correspondence nor his own published work concerns itself with the McCarthy-era witch hunts which surely must have affected his life. Also during this time, Pauli devoted a greater amount of time to leisure and business pursuits, selling real estate, breeding rabbits and writing anti-religious poetry. Published writings during this period in Pauli's life included "The Free Humanist" (Pauli served as field representative), and "Grandpappy's Almanac", edited by Pauli and a definitive example of his personal, albeit inconsequential radicalism.

In the years after his wife died, Pauli's own health declined and his activities followed suit. Socialism with its organizational demands, was largely left behind in the last years of his life, though he continued to follow the movement itself. Atheism continued to be an important issue and remained to the last the central cause to which Pauli's radical philosophy was applied.

During his life "the Pauli calling card" became a small pamphlet entitled, "What God has Revealed to Man", filled with blank pages. During his lifetime he estimated giving away or selling more than 100,000 of these. In 1974 he received the award of which he felt the proudest, a Lifetime Achievement plaque given to him at the 1974 American Atheist Conference in Los Angeles. Of personal note in the Collection are a photograph of Karl Pauli with Madalyn O'Hair at this Conference, correspondence from O'Hair and a cassette tape of Pauli's talk on the significance of Phallicism.

Scope and Content

The Karl Pauli papers, with a few exceptions, exclude the early years of Pauli's life and instead document his activism from the Depression to the end of his life. The material includes a great deal of correspondence and literary productions, both by Pauli and by others. Many pamphlets and books that obviously influenced him are also included, as is virtually everything he wrote both in published and manuscript form. Magazines and publications by the various groups to which he belonged are also included as are many personal items such as reminiscences, correspondence, snapshots, and poetry.

The Collection begins with correspondence, arranged chronologically, and some of Pauli's reminiscences. Literary productions follow and are arranged by subject: from taxation of the church to phallic "worship", as well as Pauli's poetry. Some background sources directly affecting and contributing to Pauli's work in these specific subjects are included in the literary productions. More indirect influences on Pauli's philosophy may be found in the printed material section, including various subscriptions Pauli held later in his life, and some books and pamphlets. Printed materials are arranged in an essentially chronological manner with those that Karl Pauli had a direct involvement with, preceding those he merely subscribed to and collected. The Karl Pauli papers conclude with photographs of Pauli and his family, a scrapbook, cassette tapes of several of his talks, and a plaque Pauli received.

Series Description


Arranged chronologically
Incoming correspondence largely relating to Pauli's organizing activities, group involvement, etc. Some personal correspondence as well--including greeting cards. Also scattered copies of Pauli's own letters kept for reference.


1914-1917, n.d.
Arranged by topic since dates are not always given and Pauli's contributions in various subjects overlap to a great degree and span many years.
Writings included on rationalism, socialism, environmentalism, Phallic worship, education, etc. Also included are drafts for specific writings (some later published), several folders of miscellaneous notes and loose pages of narrative, manuscripts, and Pauli's poetry.


1953-1954, n.d.
Arranged chronologically
Very scant amount of Pauli's financial and legal documentation--budgets, financial reports, stock certificates and real estate information.


1914-1915, n.d.
No arrangement.
Various documents, diagrams, maps, lists, and Pauli's scrapbook of pertinent clippings with commentary on them.


1939-1971, n.d.
Arranged chronologically
These include pamphlets by Pauli as well as articles, letters to the editor and publications edited by Pauli.

1935-1978, n.d.
Arranged chronologically within subject.
These include some newsletters which Pauli was involved with, as well as publications for organizations Pauli belonged to and subscriptions Pauli had. An extensive collection of pamphlets and small books that obviously influenced Pauli's rationale conclude the printed materials portion of the collection.


No arrangement.
Photographs of Pauli and his family, including Pauli with Madalyn O'Hair and the posthumous photo of Pauli in his coffin. Many earlier pictures of Pauli and his wife, as well as a family scrapbook are included.


No arrangement.
Three cassette tapes of various Pauli speeches, including Phallic worship, among others.


Box 1


  1. Correspondence (personal), Mar. 22, 1935-Nov. 12, 1959
  2. Correspondence (personal), Jan. 3, 1960-Dec. 4, 1960
  3. Correspondence (personal), Feb. 15, 1961-Oct. 31, 1962
  4. Correspondence (personal), March 11, 1963-May 29, 1969
  5. Correspondence (personal), Feb. 18, 1971-1978
  6. Correspondence (personal), n.d.
  7. Correspondence (personal), n.d.
  8. Correspondence (personal), n.d.
  9. Correspondence (personal), n.d.
  10. Correspondence (greeting cards), Aug. 6, 1977; n.d.

Box 2


  1. Personal reminiscences and information, 1978, n.d.
  2. Anti-religious material, n.d.
  3. Anti-religious material, n.d.
  4. Atheism, rationalism, etc., n.d.
  5. Writings on organizing, n.d.

Box 3


  1. Materials pertaining to rabbit breeding, n.d.
  2. Pauli's writings on education, n.d.
  3. Communism and socialism, Aug. 1933-June 1960
  4. Taxation of the church, March 1969, n.d.
  5. Mental Health, 1960-1964; n.d.
  6. Phallic worship, 1924; n.d.
  7. Religion in government, n.d.
  8. Environmental issues, 1959-1963; n.d.
  9. "God's Long Kept Secret", n.d.
  10. "Nuts for Atheists to Crack", n.d.
  11. "Marriage", n.d.
  12. "Chuck and Bill", n.d.
  13. "The Fantastic Experience of an Atheist", n.d.
  14. "Have You Paid Your Church Dues", n.d.
  15. "The Philosophy of Atheism", n.d.

Box 4


  1. Miscellaneous notes, loose narrative, n.d.
  2. Miscellaneous narrative, May 1963-June 1976
  3. Miscellaneous notes, loose narrative, n.d.
  4. Miscellaneous notes, loose narrative, Jan. 1964; n.d.
  5. Proposals and regulations, July 1957; n.d.

Box 5


  1. Knights of Reason, Inc., 1914-1959
  2. Allegheny County Socialist Party, et al., 1933-1945
  3. Society of Separationists, 1970-1975
  4. Mechanics Educational Society of America, 1937-1944
  5. Poetry, 1918-1946
  6. Handwritten, unsigned poetry, 1962-1964
  7. "Some Verse, Different and Indifferent", n.d.
  8. "The Free Lance" (poetry by others), 1957
  9. Poetry, various authors, 1924-1972

Box 6


  1. Manuscripts, n.d.
  2. Mock-ups for booklets, flyers, etc., Nov. 1961; n.d.
  3. Stock certificates, financial information, 1953-54; n.d.
  4. Scrapbook, 1914-1915
  5. Memberships and mailing lists, n.d.

Box 7


  1. Diagrams and maps, March 1973; n.d.
  2. "What God has Revealed to Man", n.d.
  3. "Collective Bargaining", n.d.
  4. Assorted pamphlets by Pauli, 1939; n.d.
  5. "Erie Township News", May 1957-Aug. 1959
  6. "The Free Humanist", July 1960-Feb. 1962
  7. "Grandpappy's Almanac", Sept. 1961-Jan. 1963
  8. Pauli's letters to the editor, Nov. 1970-Jan. 1971

Box 8


  1. Miscellaneous newspapers, Dec. 1935-May 1972
  2. MESA Newsletters; "Catholic Worker";"Industrial Unionist", Dec. 1935; May 1972
  3. Miscellaneous specialized periodicals June 1937-1965; n.d.
  4. Religious and anti-religious periodicals, Oct. 1940-Jan. 1977
  5. Miscellaneous popular periodicals, 1956-1976
  6. "Age of Reason", Sept. 1957-Aug. 1961
  7. "Good Government", April 1965, May 1965
  8. "Humanist", 1965-1970

Box 9


  1. "Osmosis", Apr. 1962-Oct. 1963
  2. "Truth Seeker", Dec. 1968-1976; n.d.
  3. "Secular Subjects", Jan. 1971-Sept. 1977
  4. "The Journal", Feb.-Mar. 1973
  5. "The Quester", July 1975-Oct. 1976
  6. "American Atheist", Nov. 1975-Nov. 1977
  7. "Director's Digest", Feb.-Apr. 1976
  8. Miscellaneous newsletters, Jan. 1936-1979
  9. Miscellaneous newspaper clippings, April 1937-Aug. 1977
  10. "Benefactor", n.d.

Box 10


  1. Pamphlets; miscellaneous, 1908-1964
  2. Pamphlets; labor, 1919-1962
  3. Pamphlets; economics, 1923-1935
  4. Pamphlets; socialism, 1927-1936
  5. Pamphlets; communism, 1933-1967
  6. Pamphlets; humanism, 1945-1946
  7. Pamphlets; atheism, anti-religion, 1947-1976
  8. Pamphlets; disaster preparedness, etc., June 1959; n.d.
  9. Pamphlets; pollution, 1959-1970

Box 11


  1. Pamphlets; religious tracts, 1975-1976
  2. Miscellaneous booklets, 1956; n.d.
  3. Convention booklets, 1934-1964
  4. Little Blue Books, 1923-1931
  5. Flyers, 1961; n.d.
  6. Misc. membership and advertising cards, 1930, 1948
  7. "Modern Queen Rearing", 1921
  8. "The Bible Unmasked", 1926
  9. "What is Religion? And Other Essays...", (1915)
  10. "Paganism vs. Americanism", 1917
  11. "Mistakes of Ingersoll", 1879
  12. "A Few Reasons for Doubting the...Bible", 1915

Box 12


  1. "Direct Credits for Everyone", 1931
  2. "The Jew and His Destiny", 1931
  3. "Osteopathy--The Murdered Art", 1972
  4. "Palestine and the Jew Today", 1934
  5. "Will Russia Invade Palestine", n.d.
  6. "The Smear Terror", n.d.
  7. Photographs, n.d.
  8. Postcards, photos, negatives, n.d.
  9. Photographs, n.d.
  10. Photographs, n.d.
  11. Scrapbook, n.d.
  12. Photographs, n.d.
  13. Cassette tapes, n.d.
  14. American Atheist Pioneer Award, 1974

Box 13


--------. What Has Religion Done for Mankind? Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1951.

Adler, Alfred. The Science of Living. World Publishing Company, 1929.

Hurst, John F., D.D. Short History of the Church of the United States. Chautauqua Press, 1890.

Stirner, Max. The Ego and His Own. Thurland and Thurland, n.d.

Watson, John B. and MacDougall, William. The Battle for Behaviorism. W.W. Norton and Company, 1929.

Manuscripts by Subject | Political Collections