The purpose of the Huston Smith Archive is to preserve and make available to the public Huston Smith’s pioneering NET television series from the 1950s and later materials featuring Huston Smith in interviews, lectures, and workshops.

For much of the last half of the 20th Century, Huston Smith was the leading scholar of the world’s enduring religions. His groundbreaking 1955 TV Series, The Religions of Man introduced American audiences to Eastern Religions and was nationally broadcast on National Educational Television, NET, which was the precursor to PBS. That series led to the publication of his book, The Religions of Man – since retitled The World’s Religions – which has sold over 3 million copies and was used as a textbook in leading universities and colleges. His influence on the American spiritual landscape cannot be overstated. 

In the TV series, Search for America, Huston Smith interviews legendary mid-century icons in a wide range of interests on subjects from Race Relations to Economics and World Politics. Huston interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kenneth Galbraith and Paul Samuelson, Dr. Margaret Mead, Mark Van Doren and William Ernest Hocking, Dr. Erich Fromm, Reinhold Niebuhr, William Ernest Hocking, and Paul Tillich.

Hartley Films was started in 1971 by founder Elda E. Hartley. Elda and Irving Hartley made newsreels and travel films from the 1930s through the 1960s. Some of the images that now illustrate American history were shot by Irving Hartley, including the explosion of the Hindenburg zeppelin in 1937. He and Elda also produced a series of Pan Am travelogues, a prototype for travel shows on television today. Huston Smith narrated three shows for Hartley Films on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and Islam. Hartley released a lecture given by Huston Smith titled, The Way Things Are.

Coming in the future will feature an archive of films made by Gary Rhine, who worked with Huston for decades, traveling the world with him and filming A Seat at the Table

Also, a third Huston Smith NET series, Science and Human Responsibility, is waiting for funding.

We’d like to thank the following organizations and people who helped bring these influential films to the public, after nearly being forgotten for 50 years: KETC St. Louis, Amy Shaw, Cathy Peterson; Washington University in St. Louis, Tyler Bequette, Sonya Rooney; WNET, Jenn Bertani; the Library of Congress; Bill Moyers, Gary Rhine, Phil Cousineau, Hartley Films, Dana Sawyer, Kendra Smith, Gael Smith, and Kim Smith. And a special thanks to Lisa Mechele, who had a critical role to preserving and making these films available for public viewing. 

From Dana Sawyer, Huston Smith Biographer

In 1955, a small miracle occurred in St. Louis when an affable and enthusiastic young professor from Washington University offered a landmark series of talks on the World's Religions at KETC television, and broadcast nationally on National Educational Television - NET.  Huston Smith, whom the Christian Science Monitor would later call "Religion's Rock Star," opened the minds of Americans, using public television to reveal exactly why members of the various religions found their faith traditions compelling.  Even now, more than sixty years later, Smith's descriptions of the various faiths are entirely relevant and compelling -  a refreshing tonic for a troubled world.  And now these films are once again available!

Huston Smith Biography


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