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COLLECTION Identifier: HUG 1677

Papers of William Dandridge Peck

Overview

William Dandridge Peck (1763-1822) was the first Massachusetts Professor of Natural History at Harvard. The Papers of William Dandridge Peck contain his personal and professional correspondence, travel journals, lectures, writings, and botanical and zoological drawings, dated 1775-1822. The collection also includes an obituary notice and auction catalogue of Peck’s library and research notes and transcripts of letters and journals of Peck by biographer Thomas Barbour, created circa 1934-1937.

Dates

  • 1775-1937

Creator

Researcher Access

Open for research.

Extent

2.85 cubic feet (5 document boxes, 4 flat boxes, 3 oversize folders, 2 pamphlet binders)

William Dandridge Peck (1763-1822) was the first Massachusetts Professor of Natural History at Harvard. The Papers of William Dandridge Peck contain his personal and professional correspondence, travel journals, lectures, writings, and botanical and zoological drawings, dated 1775-1822. The collection also includes an obituary notice and auction catalogue of Peck’s library and research notes and transcripts of letters and journals of Peck by biographer Thomas Barbour, created circa 1934-1937.

Peck’s papers relating to the Massachusetts Professor of Natural History contain correspondence with colleagues and other academics about identification of fish and insects, as well as his zoological and botanical drawings, and impressions of leaves and plants, and dried plant specimens. There are also journals kept by Peck on his travels to Scandinavia, England, and Europe in 1805-1807; Harvard sent him abroad to study natural history and prepare for the professorship. Also included are financial records of the Harvard Department of Natural History, such as receipts for Peck’s salary and accounts related to the maintenance of the Harvard Botanic Garden.

Thomas Barbour’s papers dated from 1928 to 1937, and include some letters about Peck sent to Barbour in his capacity as the Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology; correspondence and research notes related to Barbour’s Peck biography; and typescripts of letters and journals in Peck’s papers.

Additionally, the collection contains Peck’s lectures, delivered from 1805 to 1822, on Botany, Ichthyology, Amphibia, Ornithology, Entomology, Worms, and Mammalia.

Biographical Note

William Dandridge Peck (1763-1822), the first Massachusetts Professor of Natural History at Harvard, was born in Boston on May 8, 1763, to naval architect John Peck and Hannah Jackson. Peck was raised by his father in Boston, Braintree, and Lancaster, Massachusetts. He graduated Harvard College in 1782 and initially worked in a Boston counting house. He then moved with his father to a farm in Kittery, Maine, where for approximately twenty years, Peck studied natural history and built a collection of plant, bird, fish, and insect specimens.

In 1805, Peck was appointed Massachusetts Professor of Natural History at Harvard. In preparation for his new position, Harvard sent him on a three-year tour of Scandinavia, Europe, and Great Britain, where he met other naturalists and studied native botany, zoology, and entomology. Peck was also tasked with designing and curating a botanic garden at Harvard.

Peck’s scholarly works included “A Description of Four Remarkable Fishes, taken near the Piscataqua, in New Hampshire,” published in the Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1794. He also wrote papers on canker worms and slug worms. In 1812, he helped found the American Antiquarian Society, and later served as the Society’s vice president. Peck was also a member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and the American Philosophical Society.

In 1810 he married Harriet Hilliard, and they had one child, William Dandridge Peck, Jr. (1812-1876; Harvard AB 1833), a physician and Massachusetts legislator. Peck died in Cambridge on October 3, 1822.

Arrangement

Series in the collection:
  1. Correspondence and papers relating to the Massachusetts Professor of Natural History
  2. Thomas Barbour’s typescripts of correspondence and papers relating to the Massachusetts Professor of Natural History and notes regarding Peck
  3. Obituary notice
  4. Catalogue of the Library of W. D. Peck
  5. Lectures

Acquisition information

Thomas Barbour material received November 1971 from the Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Details of transfer of other material to the Harvard University Archives is unknown.

Related Materials

Harvard University Archives
  1. Bentley, William, 1759-1819. Papers of William Bentley, 1783-1815. (HUG 1203.5) http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua21011
  2. Harvard University. Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History. Financial records of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History (UAI 15.1003) http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua53011
  3. Harvard University. Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History. Records relating to the philosophical apparatus of the Hollis Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and the Records of the Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1765-1835 and undated. (UAI 15.960) http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua54011
Museum Comparative Zoology
  1. Peck, William Dandridge, 1763-1822. Botanical drawings and leaf rubbings. MCZ 601
  2. Portrait of William Dandridge Peck
  3. Specimens collected by William Dandridge Peck

Inventory update

This document last updated 2019 January 11.

Processing Information

Preliminary finding aid encoded in April 2016 with information from a variety of sources. Only those portions of the collection that are being made available online were examined.

Further description was added by Brooke McManus in March 2018.

Preservation and description of the Papers of William Dandridge Peck were supported in part by the Colonial North America at Harvard Library Project.

Title
Peck, William Dandridge, 1763-1822. Papers of William Dandridge Peck, 1775-1937: an inventory
Language of description
und
EAD ID
hua23016

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.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Harvard Yard
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461