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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.872

Papers of Samuel Locke


Samuel Locke was the twelfth president of Harvard College, serving from 1770 to 1773. This collection contains Locke’s commonplace book, 1755-[1778?], three documents removed from the commonplace book, and a letter written by Locke in 1760 to Edward Wigglesworth.


  • 1755-1790


Conditions on Use and Access

The Papers of Samuel Locke 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 (2 volumes, 1 folio box, 2 microfilm rolls)
This collection contains Locke’s commonplace book, 1775-[1778?], and a single letter addressed to Edward Wigglesworth, 1760.


Samuel Locke was the twelfth president of Harvard College, serving from 1770 to 1773.

Born in Woburn, Massachusetts, in 1731, Locke received an A.B. degree in 1755 from Harvard, where he held a Hollis scholarship. Locke continued his studies at Harvard with a Hopkins fellowship, receiving his A.M. in 1758. That same year, while still enrolled at Harvard, he began preaching part time at the First Church of Plymouth. He was ordained as a minister at Sherborn, Massachusetts, in 1759. In 1760, Locke married Mary Porter, with whom he had three children.

When appointed to the Harvard presidency in 1770, Locke was the youngest man to hold the office. During his administration, the College was preoccupied by the political turmoil and threat of war, and Locke had little influence on College life. He resigned in 1773, after it was discovered that he had fathered a child by one of his housemaids.

After leaving Harvard, Locke returned to Sherborn and opened a classical school for boys. During the American Revolution, he joined the patriot cause and became chairman of the Committee of Correspondence. Samuel Locke died in 1778.

Acquisition Information

The papers of Samuel Locke were acquired by the Harvard University Archives as follows:
  1. 1915 Charles Minot Fund purchase: Commonplace book

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):
Among the records of the Harvard Corporation, College Book No. 7, pages 199-200 contains an account of Locke’s inauguration. These pages have been digitized and are available online. For digital copies, click on the links below:
Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about Samuel Locke.

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

Inventory update

This document last updated 2019 March 27.

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 Samuel Locke's papers was made possible in part by generous support from the Sidney Verba Fund.
Link to catalog
Locke, Samuel, 1731-1777. Papers of Samuel Locke, 1755-1790: 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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