Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Kyle G. Volk
Kyle G. Volk, Jody Pavilack, Tobin Shearer
Armour Institute of Technology, Chicago, industrial capitalism, Protestant Christianity, social class, theology
University of Montana
History of Religion
Frank Wakeley Gunsaulus was a preacher who began his ministry in 1875 as a little-known itinerant Methodist in rural Ohio. Within two decades, he became one of America’s most influential religious figures with a popular style and message of hope for the future. This paper examines the mission of this pulpiteer, who believed Jesus and industrial capitalism could solve the problems of labor conflict, poverty, and sin as the kingdom of God was gradually realized on earth. Where many social gospelers challenged the interests of capital to varying degrees, Gunsaulus was both the businessman’s firm defender and an advocate for social and cultural transformation. His social gospel was the gospel of upward mobility. His vision was pursued through Christian missions and the work of the Armour Institute of Technology, where Gunsaulus served as president from 1892 until his death in 1921, overseeing the training of thousands of engineers. Tracing his thought and practice, this project examines what Gunsaulus’s specific case reveals about the social gospel, arguing that the social gospel bolstered industrial capitalism. This work also adds to the scholarship on this understudied but influential preacher with a narrative biographical approach, making use of Gunsaulus’s writings, press coverage, personal correspondence, and institutional records. Archival sources are primarily drawn from the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago.
Pretzer, Joshua, "A Capitalist's Social Gospel: Frank Wakeley Gunsaulus and the Promise of Upward Mobility, 1875-1921" (2019). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 11369.
© Copyright 2019 Joshua Pretzer