John Lancaster Spalding

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John Lancaster Spalding
Bishop of Peoria
John Lancaster Spalding.png
ChurchRoman Catholic
SeeDiocese of Peoria
In officeMay 23, 1877 – September 11, 1908 (retired)
SuccessorEdmund Michael Dunne
OrdinationDecember 19, 1863
Personal details
BornJune 2, 1840
Lebanon, Kentucky, USA
DiedAugust 25, 1916
Peoria, Illinois, USA

John Lancaster Spalding (June 2, 1840 – August 25, 1916) was an American author, poet, advocate for higher education, the first bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria from 1877 to 1908[1] and a co-founder of The Catholic University of America.

The diocesan offices of the Diocese of Peoria are located in the Spalding Center, named for him. Peoria's Catholic high school for boys, Spalding Institute, was named for him; the school was closed in 1989 during the Peoria Notre Dame High School merger. Spalding Hall at The Catholic University of America was also named for him.

Early years[edit]

He was born on June 2, 1840 in Lebanon, Kentucky and ordained a priest at age 23, on December 19, 1863, in the Diocese of Louisville.[2] His uncle, Martin John Spalding, later became Bishop of Louisville then Archbishop of Baltimore, but did not live to see John himself become bishop.[3]


On November 11, 1876, Pope Pius IX appointed Spalding as the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria, newly created out of part of the then-Diocese of Chicago. He was installed as the first Bishop of Peoria on May 23, 1877[4] by Cardinal John McCloskey, Archbishop of New York,[2] with Thomas Patrick Roger Foley, Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Chicago presiding.[4]

As bishop, Spalding greatly valued education. He was instrumental in the founding of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.,[5] as well as several Catholic schools in Peoria.[6] He also oversaw the construction of St. Mary's Cemetery just outside Peoria (now in West Peoria, Illinois).[4]

Bishop Spalding achieved national prominence for helping President Theodore Roosevelt and J. P. Morgan to end the Great Coal Strike of 1902 as a member of the Arbitration Commission that awarded the miners a retroactive 10% wage increase and reduced daily work hours from 10 to 9.[7]

Spalding wrote several books, including a biography of his uncle Archbishop Martin John Spalding, and poetry under the pseudonym Henry Hamilton.[4]

Spalding became paralyzed from a stroke in 1905 and, as a result,[4] retired on September 11, 1908 at the age of 68 and was appointed Titular Bishop of Scythopolis, by Pope Pius X.[2] He died on August 25, 1916, aged 76.[2]


The donations to the Catholic University of America by the Caldwell sisters of Louisville came into question when both left the Catholic Church. The sisters were related to the Breckinridge family of Kentucky, and were heiresses to the fortune of their father, William Shakespeare Caldwell, a gas company executive.[8]

Mary Guendaline Byrd Caldwell, Marquise des Monstiers-Merinville, (21 October 1863 – 5 October 1909) and her sister had become the wards of then-Father Spalding after being orphaned. When she was 21, she had given the money to buy the land for Catholic University and to build Caldwell Hall, which was named after her.[9] Mary Elizabeth Breckenridge Caldwell, Baroness von Zedtwitz, (26 December 1865 – 16 December 1910) had given the money for Caldwell Hall's chapel. When the Baron von Zedtwitz died in 1896 after his yacht, the Isolde, was struck by Kaiser Wilhelm II's yacht, the Meteor, Bishop Spalding became the guardian of Waldemar von Zedtwitz, son of the Baron and the Baroness. In 1901, however, the sisters broke with Spalding after Mary Guendaline told Mary Elizabeth about being "sexually involved with Spalding for twenty years."[9]

In 1904, the sisters renounced Catholicism. Afterward, at Mary Guendaline's request, her portrait which had been in Caldwell Hall was returned to her; it was replaced with a portrait of Cardinal Sebastiano Martinelli.[8] In 1906, Mary Elizabeth's book, The Double Doctrine of Rome, was published.[10]


Historical marker commemorating Spalding in his hometown
  • Essays and Reviews[4]
  • Lectures and Discourses[4]
  • Education and the Higher Life[4]
  • The Poet's Praise (as Henry Hamilton)[4]
  • Opportunity and Other Essays (as Henry Hamilton)[4]
  • Aphorisms and Reflections[4]
  • Socialism and Labor
P literature.svg This literature-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.


  1. ^ John Lancaster Spalding Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, Historic Peoria
  2. ^ a b c d "Bishop John Lancaster Spalding †". Catholic-Hierarchy. 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2008-01-12.[self-published source]
  3. ^ "Archbishop Martin John Spalding †". Catholic-Hierarchy. 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2008-01-12.[self-published source]
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Aspell, Albina. "Bishop John Lancaster Spalding". The Catholic Post. Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-19. Retrieved 2007-08-19.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ PD-icon.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Peoria". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  7. ^ Doris K. Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit (Simon & Schuster, 2013) p. 318
  8. ^ a b "The Caldwell Sisters of Louisville", .
  9. ^ a b Leon J. Podles, "John Lancaster Spalding: The Bishop and the Heiress", .
  10. ^ Baroness von Zedtwitz (1906), The Double Doctrine of Rome, New York: Revell.

Further reading[edit]

  • Curti, Merle. The Social Ideas of American Educators (1935) pp 348–73
  • Sweeney, David Francis. The Life of John Lancaster Spalding: First Bishop of Peoria, 1840-1916 (Vol. 1. Herder and Herder, 1966)

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Peoria
Succeeded by
Edmund Michael Dunne
Preceded by
Joseph-Marie Raya
Titular Bishop of Scythopolis
Succeeded by
Antonio Tani