Corporation papers, 1st series, supplements to the Harvard College Papers
This artificial collection is comprised of loose documents relating to the Harvard Corporation gathered by archivists during the winter of 1933 and arranged chronologically as part of a project to compile and arrange miscellaneous University records that was prompted by a Corporation vote in 1850. The collection chiefly consists of copies of Corporation votes and correspondence of University administrators, circa 1650-1828. The collection also includes financial documents, including receipts, invoices, and bills; legal documents; and memorials to the Massachusetts General Court.
- circa 1650-1828
- Harvard University. Corporation (Organization)
The Corporation papers, 1st series, supplements to the Harvard College Papers are open for research use.
Extent2.8 cubic feet (6 document boxes, 2 flat boxes)
This artificial collection is comprised of loose documents relating to the Harvard Corporation gathered by archivists during the winter of 1933 and arranged chronologically as part of a project to compile and arrange miscellaneous University records that was prompted by a Corporation vote in 1850.
The collection chiefly consists of copies of Corporation votes and correspondence of University administrators (including presidents Henry Dunster, Leonard Hoar, Urian Oakes, Increase Mather, John Leverett, Benjamin Wadsworth, Edward Holyoke, Samuel Locke, Samuel Langdon, Joseph Willard, and John Thornton Kirkland, as well as treasurers John White, Edward Hutchinson, Thomas Hubbard, Ebenezer Storer, and John Davis). The collection also includes financial documents, including receipts, invoices, and bills; legal documents; and memorials to the General Court.
Due to the artificial nature of the collection, a large number of topics are documented within it. Those relating specifically to Harvard include: finances and salaries, including the effect of inflation and changes in currency after the American Revolution on salaries; effects of the American Revolution on the College, including accounts of damages by troops housed in Harvard buildings, the College’s move to Concord during the war, and their receipt of books from sequestered Royalist libraries; professorships and curriculum, including instruction in Hebrew and French; the construction of buildings on campus, including Old Harvard Hall, Holworthy Hall, and University Hall, as well as the use of lotteries to finance construction; donations of books and scientific instruments, including efforts to rebuild the library and philosophical apparatus after the Harvard Hall fire in 1764; science, including scientific instruments and the philosophical apparatus, the Philosophy Chamber, the Chemical Laboratory, observation of the Transit of Venus in 1761 and the first solar eclipse expedition in North America, led by Samuel Williams, to view an eclipse at Penobscot Bay in 1780; the Fellowship Controversy of the 1720s; legacies and bequests, including the use of the Robert Boyle and Daniel Williams' legacies to support students preparing to preach to Native Americans; financial aid, scholarships, and exhibitions; Harvard's printing establishment; commencement and degrees; and student discipline, including efforts to ban students from attending the theater.
Evidence of Harvard’s local, national, and international relationships are also reflected in the collection, including the construction of the fourth meeting house of the First Parish of Cambridge in 1756; effects of the Cambridge & Concord Turnpike on Harvard property; a request of King William III for protection of boundaries after King William’s War; correspondence with United States presidents and politicians, including George Washington, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John Hancock, and Alexander Hamilton, as well as the bestowing of honorary degrees upon figures including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Chevalier de la Luzerne, and Horatio Gates; discussions of European politics and other topics in correspondence from Richard Price, John Coakley Lettsom, Rufus King, and Joseph Priestley; pre-Revolutionary War contact with England regarding the purchase and shipment of books, the shipment of scientific instruments, and the collection of funds for the College; and discussions with the Bishop of London regarding the efforts of Timothy Cutler, a minister of the Church of England, to join the Board of Overseers. The collection also includes correspondence from England, France, Germany, Canada, and India.
The miscellaneous and artificial nature of this collection has also resulted in the inclusion of single documents representing of a wide variety of topics, including smallpox; a dentist’s desire to obtain walrus teeth to make false human teeth; prostitutes in Charlestown; the proposed Queen’s College in Massachusetts’ Hampshire County; efforts to establish a public infirmary in Massachusetts for the poor; and the benefits of the construction of a Harvard College observatory to the United States Navy.
The collection also contains a small amount of personal and family papers of Joseph Willard. Documents include personal and family correspondence, including letters from Willard to his wife; professional correspondence unrelated to Willard’s tenure as president of Harvard; and documents relating to Willard’s death in 1804.
At a special meeting of the Harvard Corporation on February 6, 1850, the President and Fellows voted that "the President cause to be examined and arranged all the manuscript papers relating to the College, whether records, letters, or other papers now in Gore Hall or other buildings of the University, and procure such as are worthy of preservation to be substantially bound." James W. Harris, an assistant in the Library who also served as an assistant to President Jared Sparks, was assigned the task of arranging and indexing the papers. Historical and administrative records dating back as early as the mid 1600s were gathered together and arranged in chronological order in bound volumes which were then placed in the Library. This collection is known as Harvard University. Corporation. Harvard College Papers, 1st series, 1636-1825, 1831. A second series of Harvard College Papers covers the years 1826 to 1863.
After 1850, historical records continued to be collected and arranged on an intermittent basis. Papers that were accidentally overlooked, or newly discovered or received, were added later as supplements. Two supplementary volumes were prepared by Harvard librarian William Garrott Brown in the late 1890s, while he was creating a calendar for the Harvard College Papers; these volumes cover the years 1636 through 1785. Harvard librarian William Coolidge Lane later created two additional supplementary volumes, which cover the years 1785 through 1815.
All remaining loose papers in the Harvard University Archives seemingly connected with the Corporation were collected during the winter of 1933 and arranged chronologically to form this supplementary series, which is known as the Corporation Papers. The Corporation Papers also includes a second series, which covers the years 1826 to 1870, and supplements the second series of the Harvard College Papers.
After 1869, these series were continued by the records of the presidents, beginning with the Records of the President of Harvard University, Charles W. Eliot, 1869-1930.
Note regarding date conventions
Some documents dated between January 1 and March 25 before 1752 have been cited with the double date convention, e.g., March 13, 1638/9. This convention was used in England and the North American colonies between 1582 and 1752. The first date refers to the year according to the Julian calendar, which began on March 25, while the second refers to the year according to the Gregorian calendar, which began on January 1.
The collection is arranged in two series:
- Corporation papers, chronological file, circa 1650-1828
- Personal and family papers connected with Joseph Willard, 1790-1805
The majority of documents in this collection are University records and were created and acquired in the course of University business; others were donated and acquisition information is noted at the item level.
Many of the documents relating to Harvard president Joseph Willard were sold at an auction of his papers in the spring of 1910; they were donated to the Harvard University Archives by Grenville Howland Norcross and Suzanna and Theodora Willard.
Additional documents were originally held in the Harvard University. Corporation. Harvard College Papers, 1st series, 1636-1825, 1831 and are included in that collection's indices. The documents were removed from the College Papers at various dates for exhibits, including an exhibit for the Tercentenary celebration in 1936, and were reclassified in the Corporation Papers, 1st series, supplements to the Harvard College Papers.
Some documents were originally part of the Pearson, Eliphalet, 1752-1826. Papers of Eliphalet Pearson, 1768-1819. These items were removed from the collection in the 20th century and moved to University records collections, including the Corporation Papers; they are marked with a handwritten note "From the Pearson Papers. "
This document last updated 2021 July 26.
Processing Archivist Juliana Kuipers surveyed and described this collection between May and July 2012.
The title of the collection was maintained for historical purposes.
Titles were assigned by the cataloger, unless noted. Whenever possible, full names were used within titles to enable keyword searching.
Acquisition correspondence was moved to the control file for the collection; individual items of correspondence are noted at the item-level below.
Preservation and description of the Corporation papers, 1st series, supplements to the Harvard College Papers, was supported, in part, by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
- Harvard University. Corporation. Corporation papers, 1st series, supplements to the Harvard College Papers, circa 1650-1828: an inventory
- Language of description
- EAD ID
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.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA