The American Bible Society's founders conceived the organization in 1816 as a traditional missionary moral reform agency. By the mid-nineteenth century, the ABS more closely resembled a modern national nonprofit corporate bureaucracy. Important changes in institutional recordkeeping accompanied and reinforced this change in mission. Increasingly, ABS field agents and employees were discouraged from presenting rich narrative reports, and were required to quantify their work into narrow statistical compilations. Recordkeeping case studies, sensitive to the broader process of institutionalization, can contribute to bureaucratization theory, expose institutional power relationships, and help archivists better appraise the informational value and limitations of their collections.

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