- Topics & Settings
Spread to the U.S.
The first public mention of the Bahá'í Faith in the United States was on September 23, 1893, at the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. Reverend Henry Jessup, a retired Presbyterian missionary from north Syria, wrote a paper that was read at the conference by Syrian missionary Reverend George A. Ford:
"In the Palace of Bahji, or Delight, just outside the Fortress of 'Akka, on the Syrian coast, there died a few months since, a famous Persian sage, the Babi Saint, named Bahá'u'lláh -- the "Glory of God" -- the head of that vast reform party of Persian Muslims, who accepts the New Testament as the Word of God and Christ as the Deliverer of men, who regard all nations as one, and all men as brothers. Three years ago he was visited by a Cambridge scholar and gave utterance to sentiments so noble, so Christ-like, that we repeat them as our closing: "That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened ; that diversity of religions should cease and differences of race be annulled. What harm is there in this? Yet so it shall be. These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come. Do not you in Europe need this also? Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind."(The Bahá'í World, Vol. 2, p. 169)
In September of 1912, Abd'ul Baha visited the United States, making a stop in Minneapolis. The event was widely covered by the main newspapers of the time: the Minneapolis Journal and the Minneapolis Tribune.
Ibrahim George Kheiralla was the first Bahá'í in the United States, emigrating from Cairo to New York in December of 1982. He began converting people in Chicago, and by 1895, there were four people who completed Kheiralla’s class about the Bahá'í Faith. One of these men, Thorton Chase, is considered to be “the first American believer” by `Abdu ́l-Bahá’. By 1899, there were about 1500 American Bahá'ís, with about 700 in Chicago and the rest in or around Enterprise, Kansas; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Ithaca, New York; New York City; Philadelphia; and Oakland, California. When Kheiralla broke with `Abdu ́l-Bahá’, Chase helped reorganize the followers. By 1901, `Abdu ́l-Bahá’ had sent four Persian Bahá'ís to help American Bahá'ís deepen their knowledge of the Faith and continue spreading the Faith throughout the United States.