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SUB-SERIES Identifier: HUM 9

Almanacs of John Winthrop, 1739-1779

Scope and Contents

This subseries contain thirty almanacs annotated and interleaved by John Winthrop. John used these almanacs to record various information including scientific phenomena, personal travel and social engagements, births and deaths in the family, community events such as burials, hangings, military events, alcohol consumption.

The almanacs offer only brief mentions of Winthrop's scientific observations. Events such as earthquakes, and meteorological and astronomical phenomena described at great length by Winthrop in printed sources are noted only in passing in the almanacs. For instance, after the appearance of Halley's Comet on April 3, 1759, Winthrop provided information for two articles in the Boston Newsletter (April 12 and May 3, 1759) and published Two lectures on comets, that was reprinted through 1811. But Winthrop's 1759 almanac has only two relevant notes: an annotation on the April calendar page, "Exptd lectr prevntd by y comet," and a note on an interleaved page, "3 April y Comet discovered."

While entries in the almanac are brief, they do provide information on the types of scientific observations Winthrop made at specific points in his life. Notably in 1757-1759, Winthrop began making short notes on the ringing of electric bells. Beginning on October 20, 1757 he wrote, "my electrc bells ring vigorusly in y afternoon." and continued to make sporadic notes of the ringing bells over the next few years. On September 29, 1762 he wrote to Benjamin Franklin of "an observation relating to electricity in the atmosphere, which seemed new to me, though perhaps it will not to you." In the letter, Winthrop explained that he had hung the bells around his house, "according to your method, to give notice of the passage of the electric fluid," and noticed certain patterns of ringing after snowstorms.


  • 1739-1779

Researcher Access

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


.3 cubic feet (30 volumes)

Former call number

Formerly classified as HUG 1879.205 Diaries and notes of John Winthrop, 1743-1779

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These almanacs came to the Archives from two sources. Some were bequeathed by "Miss Harris of Cambridge" and others were given by exchange from the Dartmouth College Library in 1950. The volumes from Dartmouth are thus marked.

Related Materials

John Winthrop's Annotated almanac for 1770, with multiple notes of scientific observations, is held in Subseries B because it contains an interleaved page with entries from 1771 in Hannah Winthrop's hand.

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.

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