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COLLECTION Identifier: HUG 1399.18

Diary of Henry Flynt


This diary of Henry Flynt (1675-1760), a Tutor at Harvard College for fifty-five years, provides a detailed account of his life in pre-revolutionary New England. Daily entries provide information about the costs of goods and services, Flynt's consumption habits, his travel, what he ate and drank, what he read, and many other aspects of daily life. The diary also contains entries related to Flynt's land holdings and other investments, as well as copies of meeting minutes from several sessions of the Harvard Board of Overseers.


  • 1723-1747


Conditions on Use and Access

Permission of the Harvard University Archives is required for access to the original diary. Researchers are requested to consult the transcription (HUG 1399.18.2) before asking to see the original. Please see the reference staff for details.


.2 cubic foot (1 volume and 1 negative microfilm copy)
Henry Flynt's diary provides a detailed account of pre-revolutionary life in New England, and at Harvard in particular. In daily entries, written between 1723 and 1747, Flynt describes his dealings with family members, business associates, acquaintances, ministers, and political officials. In many entries, he describes his thoughts on books he has read in the fields of religion, politics, economics, history, health and the classics. These notes provide insight into Flynt's views regarding the controversial issues of his day. The diary also contains lists of the books and manuscripts that Flynt loaned from his own library, or from the College library, to presidents, faculty, students, ministers, relatives. These entries provide insight into the intellectual development of individuals and groups connected with eighteenth-century Harvard.

Flynt's diary contains extensive information about the administrative, constitutional and financial workings of Harvard College. He regularly copied documents and charters into his diary, including meeting minutes from the Harvard Board of Overseers, of which he was chair. Other entries describe the physical condition of Harvard buildings and comment on the college's finances. Flynt writes of his relationships with Harvard officials, tutors, and students; some entries describe policy clashes with Harvard presidents; monetary transactions with butlers, stewards, and students; disciplinary problems with unruly students; leaves of absences; Flynt's interaction with scholars; and Flynt's teaching activities.

This diary reveals much about the life, customs and material culture of Harvard in the eighteenth-century, including details about how tutors lived, what they wore, what sorts of household items they purchased, and the furniture that surrounded them. Flynt's entries detail the cost of food, drink and transportation; the cost and challenges of travel; his visits to colleagues, friends, and relatives; and his health concerns, particularly with his eyes. The diary also describes Flynt's involvement in a wide range of land investments and financial speculations.


Henry Flynt (1675-1760) was a Tutor at Harvard College and held many additional roles in over 60 years of close affiliation with Harvard throughout the first half of the eighteenth century.

Henry Flynt was born on May 5, 1675 to Josiah and Esther (Willet) Flynt. He attended grammar school in Dorchester, Massachusetts, receiving instruction in the humanities, including the classics. In August 1689, at the age of 14, Flynt entered Harvard College. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in July 1693 and his Master of Arts degree in 1696.

Not a popular preacher, Flynt was unsuccessful in obtaining a ministry. Hence, he accepted a position as a Tutor at Harvard College in August 1699. Flynt spent the next fifty-five years as a Harvard Tutor and sixty years as a Fellow of the Harvard Corporation.

Flynt's intellectual interests were chiefly theological, and he believed that he had a special calling to train his students in Christian principles. At Harvard he taught Greek, Latin, Hebrew, metaphysics, geography, physics, ethics, arithmetic, astronomy, philosophy, grammar, logic, and rhetoric. He loaned books from his extensive collection to faculty, students, neighbors, college presidents, and friends. Flynt was known as a kind, fair, open, and friendly teacher but not as a decisive intellectual influence upon his students. He was criticized for not keeping abreast of new learning and for the limits of his own studies. However, he interacted well with most of the Harvard community and became something of a father figure to whom scholars could turn for advice.

Fynt's longevity as a tutor set a record at Harvard. He resigned his position in September 1754. Because of his length of service, the College passed a law which limited the terms of appointment for future tutors to eight years and subjected additional appointments to election.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Flynt was Secretary of the Board of Overseers from 1712 to 1758. His duties included keeping the minutes of the Overseer's meetings, notifying board members of the times and places of meetings, keeping absent members informed of committee assignments, informing interested parties of board resolutions, and drafting letters in the name of the Overseers.

Flynt was constantly involved in money-making schemes. He inherited and rented farmland at the Indian village of Hassanamisco on the south shore of Lake Quinsigamond, renamed Grafton, in Worcester County, Massachusetts. In 1712 he purchased timberland on Dyer's Neck at the mouth of the Sheepscot River in Maine; again, renting out the property. He was involved in commercial trade with Holland and the island of Jamaica, made investments in bullion, jewelry, and silver plate, and became a small town banker, lending money to his neighbors, other scholars, family relations, and friends.

Known as "Father Flynt" to his students, Henry Flynt died on February 13, 1760, at the age of eighty-five.

References used for this biography are:
  1. Dunn, Edward T. A Person of Some Interest in the Province: The Life of Tutor Henry Flynt of Harvard College, 1675-1760. Buffalo, New York:by the author, 1978.
  2. Shipton, Clifford K. Class of 1693: Henry Flynt. In Sibley's Harvard Graduates: Biographical Sketches of Those Who Attended Harvard College In The Classes of 1690-1700. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1933.

Acquisition Information

  1. Gift of the children of "the late Jonathan[?] Jackson Esq.," 1813. The diary was in Houghton Library, Harvard University, before coming to the Harvard University Archives.

Online access

The diary has been digitized and is available online.

Related Material at Harvard University

  1. The Harvard University Archives holds a transcribed version of the diaries of Henry Flynt, covering both the volume held in the Harvard University Archives and the volume held at the Massachusetts Historical Society. This transcription is entitled: The Diary of Tutor Henry Flynt of Harvard College, 1675-1760 (HUG 1399.18.2).
  2. The Houghton Library holds many of Henry Flynt's writings. Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about Henry Flynt.
  3. The Harvard University Portrait Collection contains an oil painting of Henry Flynt. This image is available in the image cataloging system VIA.
Related Material at the Massachusetts Historical Society
  1. Another diary of Henry Flynt is at the Massachusetts Historical Society and is entitled: Henry Flynt commonplace-book, 1712-1724.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2019 February 19.

Processing Information

Preservation and description of the Diary of Henry Flynt was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
Link to catalog
Flynt, Henry, 1675-1760. Diary of Henry Flynt : 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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