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COLLECTION Identifier: HUD 3226

Records of the Harvard Club, 1855-1858 and 1933


The short-lived Harvard Club (1855-1857), based in Boston, was the first of Harvard's alumni clubs. The Club records document the history, activities, and interests of the Club, and include general information, correspondence, meeting minutes, financial records, and committee records.


  • Creation: 1855-1858
  • Creation: 1933


Conditions on use and access:

The Records of the Harvard Club are open for research.


0.5 cubic feet (1 document box, 1 flat box)

The records thoroughly document the history, activities, and interests of the Harvard Club from its inception in 1855 to its demise in 1857, including leadership, membership, meetings, and finances. A newsclipping from 1933, regarding the founding of the Harvard Club of Boston in 1908, asserts that the Harvard Club of 1855 was the first true Harvard Club of Boston.

Documents include notices and circulars, correspondence, meeting minutes, financial information, and committee records.

History of the Harvard Club

The Harvard Club, based in Boston, was the first alumni club of Harvard University. Founded in 1855, the Club was initiated by two members of the Harvard College Class of 1853, Charles William Eliot, a tutor of mathematics at Harvard (and future president of Harvard), and Edward Holmes Ammidown. Their ambitious plan gained the support of such notable alumni as President James Walker, and in July 1855, a circular was sent to 1400 alumni. The proposed club met with wide ranging support, and the club was subsequently established at a meeting of the graduates of Harvard College on October 12, 1855. At first referred to as the Club of the Graduates of Harvard College, the organization was officially established as the Harvard Club in December 1855.

Membership in the club was open to any graduate of the University, including honorary degree recipients, and past and present faculty as well as members of the Board of Overseers and the Corporation. As they wrote in a circular distributed on February 16, 1857, the Committee of the Harvard Club believed the Club was "destined to supply a want that has been much felt, by the establishment of a club on higher principles than are usual in most American institutions of the kind, in which the bar-room and the billiard-table have usurped the place of literary and social intercourse; and composed as it must necessarily be of intelligent and educated men who are bound together by a common interest in Harvard College and in liberal studies, and who comprise many of the leading men to whom the republic of Massachusetts must look for its future progress in ethics and politics, in physical science, and in literature and art."

The Club established rooms at 49 Tremont Street. Intended to provide a convenient place for alumni to meet for social interaction in Boston, the rooms included a reading room featuring a large selection of periodicals and newspapers and offered members a space in which to hold meetings and to write and send letters. The Club experimented with fostering a congenial atmosphere: in November 1856, for example, the Club voted to begin holding monthly meetings for discussion and general conversation. In January 1857, it was voted to serve refreshments in the club-room whenever it was open; the Parker House hotel nearby agreed to provide meals, while the Club was responsible for providing beverages.

On its establishment, the Club had several committees, including the Committee on Rooms, the Committee on Members, the Committee on Assessments, the Financial Committee, the Committee of Conference, and the Restaurant Committee. The club received a large number of initial subscriptions, but the number of those willing to pay the first annual assessment of ten dollars gradually declined, as members found themselves unable to take advantage of the club’s offerings. The Club found it necessary to impose a second annual assessment of five dollars in June 1857, but even the added incentive of being able to name another member failed to attract the necessary revenue to offset the Club's expenses. With increasing financial strain and decreasing attendance at the Club, members voted to discontinue the Club in October 1857. The Club's property was sold the following month to pay off its debts.

In spit of these financial difficulties, the idea of such a club proved attractive to other Harvard alumni: the Harvard Club of Chicago was founded in 1857, and the Harvard Club of Cincinnati in 1869, both on a much smaller scale than that envisioned by Eliot and Ammidown. A Harvard Club of Boston was not attempted again until 1908.

Series and subseries in the collection

  1. General information
  2. ___History
  3. ___Notices and circulars
  4. ___Newsclippings
  5. Constitution and by-laws
  6. Minutes of Club meetings
  7. Correspondence
  8. Financial records
  9. Record of Directors' meetings
  10. Committee records
  11. ___General Committee records
  12. ___Committee on Assessments records
  13. ___Committee of Conference records
  14. ___Finance Comittee records
  15. ___Committee on Members records
  16. ___Restaurant Committee records

Acquisition Information

  1. Robert C. Winthrop; 1893 March 28
  2. Samuel S. Shaw; 1906 November 3

General note

This document last updated 2008 November 10.

Processing Information

The Records of the Harvard Club were first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. In August 2008, Juliana Kuipers re-processed the material. Re-processing included integrating and reorganizing the records, re-housing materials in appropriate containers, establishing a series and subseries hierarchy, and the creation of this inventory. All call numbers were simplified.

Harvard Club. Records of the Harvard Club : 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.

Pusey Library
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