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SERIES Identifier: HUM 9

Diaries of John and Hannah Winthrop, 1739-1789

Scope and Contents

This series contains one daily pocket journal and sixty-one annotated and interleaved almanacs used by Hannah and John Winthrop to make sporadic and brief entries over a fifty-year period. The first almanac in the series was annotated by John when he was twenty-four, and he made his last entry in an almanac on May 1, 1779, two days before his death. Hannah's handwriting first appears in a 1758 almanac (two years after their wedding), and after John's death in 1779, her almanacs continue until 1789. The almanacs are arranged into subseries based on the handwriting found in each almanac.

The almanacs were used to variously note the weather, astronomical and scientific phenomena, local social engagements and travel, community events including burials and baptisms, household activities and accounting information. The entries are typically minimal and Clifford Shipton noted in his biographical sketch of John Winthrop that, "As a whole they are extremely disappointing." The only almanacs with near-daily entries are John's kept between 1770 and 1779 that include interleaved pages with regular notes of his social engagements and travel. Among the general recording patterns that emerge, John noted astronomical and meteorological phenomena (such as earthquakes, the aurora borealis, and planetary visibility) in his almanacs between 1741 and 1752; in the shared almanacs, Hannah and John recorded short notes about household activities such as taking livestock to pasture, firing chimneys, and butter amounts; and after John's death, Hannah's almanacs from 1780 to 1780 become financially focused and include regular entries about boarders.

One of the regular annual uses of the almanacs, begun by John but later shared by the couple, was as a repository for burial and baptismal statistics in the community (Boston, Cambridge, or Charlestown in different years). The information varies by year between short statistics of the number of burials and baptisms for white and black residents to entries containing names, ages, and reasons of deaths for members of the community. The bills of mortality, as they are often titled, also include periodic statistics of deaths by age group and by cause.

The almanacs provide a resource for studying different components of the Winthrops' lives: glimpses of John's work as a scientist, the travel and social engagements of a prominent American professor, the household activities of an 18th century Cambridge family, and after John's death in 1779, the life of a widow trying to manage an altered financial situation.
Scope and Contents There are no almanacs in the collection for 1740, 1749, 1750, 1762, 1763, 1782, and 1783. Almanac publication information necessary to identify the specific edition is noted at the item level.

Dates

  • 1739-1789

Researcher Access

The Papers of John and Hannah Winthrop are open for research.

Extent

.62 cubic feet (62 volumes)

Arrangement

The diaries are arranged in four series by author.
  1. Almanacs of John Winthrop, 1739-1779
  2. Almanacs of John and Hannah Winthrop, 1758-1779
  3. Daily pocket journal of John and Hannah Winthrop, 1766-1779
  4. Almanacs of Hannah Winthrop, 1766-1789

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
Pusey Library
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