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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.868

Papers of Benjamin Wadsworth


Benjamin Wadsworth (1670-1737) was pastor of the First Church of Boston from 1693 to 1725 and the eighth president of Harvard College, serving from 1725 to 1737. This collection documents Wadsworth’s activities and interests as a pastor and as president of Harvard. It contains his diary, 1725-1736, sermons, 1696-1734, a medical account book listing medical remedies collected by Wadsworth, and a receipt from Wadsworth to Thomas Emory, 1725.


  • 1696-1736.


Conditions on Use and Access

The Papers of Benjamin Wadsworth are open for research use. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the reference staff for further details.


0.35 cubic feet (4 volumes, 1 half document box, 1 negative microfilm roll)
This collection contains Wadsworth’s diary, 1725-1736, 43 manuscript sermons by Wadsworth, 1696-1734, a medical account book kept by Wadsworth,1702-1733, and a receipt from Wadsworth for board fees paid by Thomas Emory,1725.

These materials document Wadsworth’s activities as president of Harvard and as pastor of the First Church of Boston. More detailed descriptions of the content of these materials appear in the item list below.


Benjamin Wadsworth was the eighth president of Harvard College, serving from 1725 to 1737.

Born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1670, Wadsworth attended Harvard, receiving an A.B. degree in 1690 and an A.M. degree in 1693. Soon thereafter he was appointed pastor of the First Church of Boston, considered at the time to be one of the most important pulpits in New England. A religious moderate, Wadsworth was popular with the congregation and held the post for more than thirty years. In 1696, Wadsworth married Ruth Boardman (d. 1745). Although the Wadsworths had no children of their own, they boarded and taught boys and girls at their home throughout Wadsworth’s years as pastor.

Wadsworth served as a Fellow of Harvard College from 1697 to 1707 and from 1712 to 1725, when he was appointed president. As president, Wadsworth balanced the various religious and political factions in the College’s two governing boards and the colonial administration. During his administration, he established a new code of College laws, improved the curriculum, and appointed the first Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. Wadsworth devoted considerable attention to record-keeping, establishing a separate set of faculty records and formal lists of admitted students and graduates. He was also able to recoup College property that had been lost through the negligence of earlier College administrators or to squatters.

Acquisition Information

The papers of Benjamin Wadsworth were acquired by the Harvard University Archives as follows:
  1. 1797 Andrew Bordman: Diary, 1725-1736
  2. 1875 Mary W. Hackett: Sermon on 2 Samuel X:12, 1734
  3. 1888 John Ruggles: Volume of 23 sermons, 1711-1712
  4. 1903 D.P. Wright : Volume of 19 sermons, 1696-1704
  5. 1936 George Richardson Harlow: Medical account book, 1702-1733
  6. Date and donor unknown: Receipt to Thomas Emory

Related Material

  1. Harvard University. Corporation. Harvard College Papers, 1st series, 1636-1825, 1831 (UAI 5.100):
  2. Harvard University. Corporation. Corporation papers, 1st series, supplements to the Harvard College Papers, circa 1650-1828 (UAI 5.120):
Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about Benjamin Wadsworth.

Citations to published versions of the documents in this collection are noted in the folder list.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2019 April 11.

Processing Information

Processing Note This material was first classified and described by the Harvard University Archives prior to 1980. The collection was reprocessed in 2005, with subsequent preparation for digitization in 2009. Reprocessing involved a collection survey, rehousing in size- and format-appropriate archival folders and boxes, and the creation of this finding aid. Preparation for digitization involved updates to the finding aid and the addition of links to the digital copies.

The digitization of Benjamin Wadsworth's papers was made possible in part by generous support from the Sidney Verba Fund.
Link to catalog
Wadsworth, Benjamin, 1670-1737. Papers of Benjamin Wadsworth : an inventory

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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