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H. Daniel Smith Papers

An inventory of his papers at the Syracuse University Archives

Finding aid created by: Sasha Solomon
Date: 2023


H. Daniel Smith (1928-2013) was an emeritus professor of religion in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. Smith taught at the University from 1958 to 1993, and was a white, American, Christian scholar who specialized in Hinduism and Asian religions. His primary research interests were Hindu "god poster" art, the Ramayana (a Hindu epic focused on the life of prince Rama), and the Pancaratra Agamas (Hindu ritual texts).

Smith had received his A.B. from Harvard in 1950, and his B.D., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University in 1954, 1955, and 1960, respectively. Smith was also ordained as a teacher by the Church of the Redeemer (United Church of Christ) in 1957. He maintained formal ties with the New York State Oneida Association of U.C.C. churches during his time at the University.

Throughout his professional career, Smith had the opportunity to travel to India on multiple occasions through grants and fellowships. This included the Ford Fellowship in 1957-1958, the Senior Fellowship of the American Institute of Indian Studies in 1966-1967, 1970, and 1988, and the Fulbright Senior Faculty Research Fellowship in 1975.

Smith was a member of various organizations dedicated to religious study. This included Theta Chi Beta, now Theta Alpha Kappa, an honorary society for religious studies that was founded at Syracuse University in 1915. He was also active in the American Committee for South Asian Art, the American Oriental Society, and the American Academy of Religion, of which he acted as the chair of the Religion in South Asia Section from 1984 to 1986.

In addition to teaching, Smith was a documentary film maker and author. He produced a series of eleven documentary films in the late 1960s focused on Hindu domestic rites and temple-oriented celebrations in urban south India called Image India: the Hindu Way. He authored and co-authored several works, such as Handbook of Hindu Gods, Goddesses and Saints and Picture Book Ramayana: An Illustrated Version of Valmiki's Story.

As a self-identified gay man, Smith was an advocate for the LGBT community on campus. In addition to serving as the faculty adviser for LGBT student run organizations in the early 1990s, such as the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Student Organization (GLBSA), he was a member and promoter of groups for LGBT University employees and alumni. After his retirement from the University, he continued this work by founding Service and Advocacy for Gay Elders (SAGE) Upstate, an organization dedicated to the support of LGBT elders.

Scope and Content Note

The H. Daniel Smith Papers consists of materials related to Smith's time as a professor at Syracuse University, as well as materials related to his other professional work and his LGBT rights advocacy. The collection is composed of six series:

Correspondence-subject files consists of correspondence, records and notes of Smith's research trips, and other content related to his professional work, such as reviews and correspondence about his published books.

Documentary materials consists of film reels, scripts, and other materials produced during the creation and distribution of the documentary film series Image India: the Hindu Way.

LGBT advocacy contains materials related to the LGBT community. This includes content related to informal campus organizations, such as the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Student Association (GLBSA) and Gay and Lesbian University Employees (GLUE), as well as documents related to su.rainbow, a newsgroup dedicated to connecting lesbian, gay and bisexual students to other LGBT individuals and resources.

This series contains homophobic language that users may find objectionable. The language contained in this collection was prevalent at the time of its creation, although no less harmful and inaccurate than it is today. The collection is preserved and presented for its historic and research value.

Other recordings consists of two tapes of Vedic chanting in Sanskrit by Hindu priests. More recordings can be found in other series of the collection.

Teaching materials consists of materials related to courses Smith taught at Syracuse University, including class syllabi, recorded lectures with scripts, and workbooks.

Writings consists of scholarly works produced by Smith, either for publication or presentation at conferences and events. This includes some materials related to his study of Hindu 'god posters', the Ramayana, and the Pancaratra Agamas.


Access Restrictions:

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Access to audiovisual material requires advance notice to produce a use copy.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from the Syracuse University Archives and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

The Special Collections Research Center holds the H. Daniel Smith Poster Archive. The Syracuse University Art Museum holds Indian art that Smith donated upon his retirement.

Selected Search Terms


Smith, H. Daniel, 1928-
Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University.


Hindu gods in art.
Hindu gods in literature.
LGBTQ issues.
Popular culture -- India.
Popular culture -- Religious aspects.
Sexual minorities in higher education.
Sexual minority activists.
Sexual minority college teachers.
College teachers.
Higher education.

Types of Material

16mm (photographic film size)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Film reels.
Papers (documents)
Printed ephemera.
Programs (documents)
Scripts (documents)
Sound recordings.
Super 8.
Tote bags.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

H. Daniel Smith Papers,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of H. Daniel Smith in 1993.

Processing Information

Photographs were placed in mylar sleeves. All materials were placed in acid-free folders and boxes.

Folder titles assigned by Smith were maintained when possible.


Materials are arranged alphabetically within their series.

Table of Contents

Correspondence-subject files

Documentary materials

LGBT advocacy

Other recordings

Teaching materials