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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.888

Papers of James Walker


James Walker (1794-1874) was President of Harvard University from February 10, 1853 to January 26, 1860. Walker was also a Unitarian minister and religious philosopher.


  • 1826-1872.


Conditions on Use and Access

Permission of the University Archives is required for access to the Papers of James Walker. Researchers are advised to use published versions of these papers, both because of the fragility of the originals and their nineteenth-century orthography, which may make them difficult to read for those who are unaccustomed to it. Please consult the reference staff for further details. Additional restrictions may apply.


1.2 cubic feet (5 document boxes, 3 microfilm reels)

The Papers of James Walker touch upon his activities as a Unitarian minister and as President of Harvard University.

These papers include letters, sermons, lecture materials, catalogues, and a poem.

Biographical / Historical

James Walker (1794-1874) was President of Harvard University from February 10, 1853 to January 26, 1860. Walker was also a Unitarian minister and religious philosopher.

Early Years

James Walker was born to John Walker and Lucy (Johnson) Walker on August 16, 1794 in what was then Woburn,Massachusetts (later to become a part of Burlington). Walker attended the Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts (1807-1810) and graduated from Harvard University in 1814. After graduation, Walker taught for one year at the Phillips Exeter Academy and then returned to Harvard University to study at the Divinity School (A.M. 1817).

Walker spent the next twenty years as a Unitarian minister for the Harvard Church in Charlestown,Massachusetts. A well respected preacher, Walker became a leader in the Unitarian movement. He helped organize the American Unitarian Association (1825), contributed to American Unitarian Tracts, and edited the Unitarian movement's journal, the Christian Examiner, from 1831 to 1839. In his writings, Walker discussed various philosophical questions involving ethical theory, natural religion, and phrenology. His most important work was The Philosophy of Man's Spiritual Nature in Regard to the Foundation of Faith (1834), a combination of several philosophical arguments supporting the existence of God.

Walker married in 1829 to Catherine Bartlett (1798-1868). They had no children.

Series and subseries in the Collection

  1. Correspondence
  2. ___College Letters
  3. ___Loose Harvard Correspondence
  4. ___Personal Correspondence
  1. Sermons
  2. Library Catalogues
  3. Lectures on the New Testament
  4. Battle of Lexington

Acquisition Information

The Papers of James Walker were acquired by the Harvard University Archives through donation and purchase. Whenever possible the archivist noted the terms of acquisition in the folder list below. The acquisitions are as follows:

  1. 1875 James Walker
  2. 1919 Henry Wilder Foote II
  3. 1930 Harold P. Johnson
  4. 1935 Friends of the Library
  5. 1936 Philip Spaulding
  6. 1946 Emily Hallowell
  7. 1952 Edward J. Berrays
  8. 1961 Mrs. Henry J. Wheelwright
  9. Accession number: 11345; 1988 March 4
  10. Accession number: 12010; 1990 July 20
  11. Accession number: 13251; 1995 December 11
  12. Accession number: 13352; 1996 June 26
  13. Accession number: 13745; 1998 April 21

Related Material

  1. Records of the Harvard Corporation.

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

Additional Harvard collections and publications relating to James Walker can be discoverd through searching HOLLIS, the Harvard University Online LIbrary Information System.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 November 2.

Processing Information

Most of this material was first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. In June 1999, Barbara Meloni processed accession number 13352 and created an online finding aid. In 2005, Dominic P. Grandinetti re-processed the entire collection. Re-processing included the integration of unprocessed accessions, the rearrangement and rehousing of the material in appropriate containers, the establishment of a folder list, and the modification of the 1999 finding aid.

Published versions of the documents in this collection are noted in the folder lists.

Walker, James, 1794-1874.  Papers of James Walker : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
Language of description

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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