Harvard College Class of 1822 Class Book, 1822-1852.
This volume was maintained by Class Secretary Nathaniel I. Bowditch. The volume is a highly selective scrapbook containing biographical information on class members and minutes of class meetings.
- Harvard College (1780- ). Class of 1822. (Organization)
Open for research.
Extent0.1 cubic feet
1 Volumes ; 8.5 x 13 in.
The 1822 Class Book is in some ways a nineteenth-century counterpart to the twentieth-century class yearbook, and in other ways it presents a unique perspective from nineteenth-century Harvard students in that it records a great deal more biographical information, especially on their lives and class activities after college. It contains class minutes, a listing of all of the class members of 1822, and handwritten biographies.
The 1822 Class Book features minutes from the class meetings throughout the years of 1822-1829, and 1852. The minutes, or 'Class Records,' as Class Secretary Nathaniel I. Bowditch refers to them, reflect the annual commencement dinners the class members attempted to organize over the years. The first entry from April 1822 and highlights a discussion about having a class dinner for graduation and possibly hiring a poet and orator. But when an appointed group of classmates presented the idea to the President of Harvard, he denied them permission. The first entry also includes the general duties of the 'Secretary for Life.'
In the next few entries, the class members decided to proceed with a dinner despite the President's resistance, and they voted on a standing committee who would prepare annual dinners for the class with their own supplies and funds. The next eight entries, from June 1822 to August 1829, are about their annual commencement dinners and describe where they met and how many class members were in attendance. There are no entries during the years 1830 to 1851. The last entry in the minutes was written twenty-three years later.
The Festival of 1852 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the class and is lavishly described. Twenty members of the Class of 1822 met at the Revere House in Boston. Eleven class members did not respond to the invitations, and it is interesting to note that class member Theodore Clay was not contacted, since he remained at an insane asylum at that time. It was noted in the minutes that twenty-four classmates had died since their last meeting in 1829. Each of the classmates gave a short talk at this dinner, reminiscing about his life since graduation. The accounts are included at the end of the minutes.
In addition to the brief biographies found in the minutes of the Festival of 1852, there is also a listing of all of the class members of 1822 organized into columns that contain each man's name, residences, year entered at Harvard, year he 'left college,' birth date, and death date. Many of them are edited in pencil, presumably by Bowditch, the Class Secretary.
Finally, the 1822 Class Book contains handwritten biographies on the majority of the class members, mainly written by Bowditch, in a standard format. Each biographical essay includes references to the student's family background, early childhood and education, and his life beyond Harvard: marriage, career, and circumstances of his death. Some entries include obituaries from the local newspapers. While providing a high degree of detail on many members of the class, the Class Book of 1822 does not have complete biographical entries for all members. Both the autobiographical and biographical entries are all handwritten in the third-person and candidly convey what life was like for the Class of 1822, both during and after Harvard.
Some extraordinary events are recorded in this volume. In one account, Nathaniel Bowditch writes in scribbled pencil that class member Theodore Clay left in the middle of the term in 1818 and was admitted to an insane asylum for many years. Nothing else was included on Clay beyond that, even though Bowditch had begun his biographical entry in the same way as the others: "Theodore W. Clay, son of the Hon. Henry Clay, was born." Unfortunately, his childhood and early education are not described. Although one entry of the College Papers, vol. X, reveals that there was mention in a letter to President Kirkland that Clay was considered 'doubtful' by the faculty. In addition, Jephthah A.J. Bynam's biographical entry reads that he was dismissed from college during his senior year for stabbing his classmate Othniel Dinsmore. The volume has no biographical entry for Dinsmore, so it remains silent about his fate. However, the Faculty Records IX, disclose more details, indicating that he assaulted Dinsmore with a small knife and a heavy cane and that Dinsmore was not permitted to return to college after being disrespectful to college authority. Finally, Class Secretary Bowditch was also mentioned in the Faculty Records IX for wreaking havoc on campus. According to the report, he set fire to an outhouse and was publicly admonished and sent home to his father, a noted mathematician, for a period of time.
History of the Class of 1822
The early 19th century was a time of student unrest at Harvard. Perhaps in reaction to the disturbances and protest of previous classes, Faculty Records vol. IX tell that President Kirkland announced early on in the Class of 1822's college years that no students were to have any meeting for the purpose of eating or drinking in college. Although the Class of 1822 is a serene one as compared with its generation, many of the students of the Class of 1822 received public admonishments as a result of participating in the Porcellian Club. The Porcellian Club members assembled to play or listen to music, dine, drink, and socialize. Although discipline for socializing is not mentioned in the Class Book of 1822, the faculty records contain numerous mentions of students being admonished for participating in the club.
Evolution of the Harvard College Class Books
The Harvard classes began compiling class books in about 1800. These documents capture what college life was like from freshman to senior year. They were typically written by an elected class secretary and were often maintained for many years following commencement.
Each class book is titled according to a specific class's graduating year, but it really includes information about the entire college and post-college group experience, from freshman to senior year, often documenting class reunions, significant events in each alumnus's life, and finally including obituary notices. Harvard classes discontinued the practice of compiling class books around 1900.
Class books for the earliest years pre-date photography. They therefore do not contain photographs, unless the class members took the trouble to include alumni photographs. The class books are complemented in the later years of the nineteenth century by another series, the class albums. Unlike class books, class albums were usually compiled by individual students, not the class secretary. Therefore, many class albums may exist for only a single class year. Class albums typically include a student's selection of photographs of students, faculty, staff, the campus, and buildings. Class albums exist for classes of the mid-20th to early 21st-century.
- Minutes of Class meetings, 1822-1829, 1852, pp. 1-11
- Listing of the Class members of 1822, pp. 43-52
- Biographical entries, news clippings, obituaries, pp. 54-213
Acquisition Information and Provenance
Received from W.C. Endicott, 26 January 1910.
This document last updated 2016 April 13.
Title stamped on binding
Letters: Class Records of 1822.
Inventory created and encoded in October 2003 by Erin L. Dini, Intern.
- Harvard College (1780- ). Class of 1822. Class Book, 1822-1852 : an inventory
- Language of description
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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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