American Board of Control

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NOTE: For the similarly named body that governed the Adyar headquarters during the absence of President-Founder Henry Olcott, refer to Board of Control.
Letterhead for Board of Control, 1886.

After Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott departed for India in 1882, their friend and co-Founder William Quan Judge was left to look after the welfare of the Theosophical movement in the United States. The American Board of Control was constituted on May 13, 1884 by "Special Order" of President-Founder Henry Olcott to establish central management of the American branches of the Theosophical Society. Elliott B. Page of St. Louis was President; Mrs. Josephine Cables of Rochester, New York was corresponding secretary; and Dr. J. D. Buck served as recording secretary and treasurer. Other Board members were Abner Doubleday, William B. Shelley, George Frederic Parsons, Thomas Moore Johnson, and Mordecai D. Evans. Professor Elliott Coues was also a member for a time.

Forming the American Section

In 1886 the Board followed Olcott's instructions in forming the American Section, the first national section of the Theosophical Society.

With the further growth of branches or lodges in the United States, the General Council of the Society authorized Olcott to send instructions to Judge to organize the American branches into a "Section" of the Society... Accordingly, delegates from the various branches met in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 30, 1886, and voted to organize the American Section as successor to the Board of Control, unanimously electing Judge as General Secretary and Treasurer. This was the first time in the Society's history that the term "General Secretary" was adopted to describe a member so elected to serve "as the official channel of communication with the Adyar Headquarters."[1]

By the end of 1886, branches had been established in the following locations:

Final Board convention

In 1887, A. J. Cooper-Oakley reported,

The Board of Control held a Convention in July, at Rochester, N. Y., when various matters relating to admission of members and other details of organization were discussed. In accordance with a resolution passed on June 6th by the Executive Council, Adyar, the Board of Control has been abolished and instead therof [sic]a Council, composed of Presidents of Branches and other leading members of the Society has been formed, in order to bring the organization of the American Societies more into harmony with that of the Society at large. The Council is a Branch of the General Council of the Society. A Convention of this Council has been held at Cininnnatti [sic].[2]

Additional resources

  • Bowen, Patrick D. and K. Paul Johnson, eds. Letters to the Sage: Selected Correspondence of Thomas Moore Johnson Volume One: The Esotericists. Forest Grove, OR: The Typhon Press, 2016. Several letters among members of the Board to and from Thomas Moore Johnson.
  • Chapter XII of "The Theosophical Movement" printed in Theosophy (January, 1921), 75-76.
  • "Comment and Criticism," Science Volume 6 (July 31, 1885), 81. Available at Google Books.
  • Olcott's original announcement was printed in The Platonist, available at Google Books.
  • The Path: 1886-1887, Volume 1 at Google Books.


  1. "American, Theosophy in," Theosophical Encyclopedia (Quezon City, Philippines: Theosophical Publishing House, 2006), 22. Online version is at Theosopedia.
  2. A. J. Cooper-Oakley, "NAME OF ARTICLE," General Report of the TS or Theosophist??? (January, 1887), ???.