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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.1404

Wills naming Harvard as a beneficiary

Overview

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Harvard College relied on government grants and tax allocations, town subscriptions, and private donations to fund the school. Donations were often made as bequests and recorded in a donor's will. This collection contains copies of wills that include bequests to Harvard, and related papers such as court records and certificates of death. Most of the documents are copies kept by the Harvard Corporation to manage bequests, or were created and donated to the College to serve as an historical record of the contribution. The records provide evidence of the income the College received from outside sources, and offer a resource for studying the perceptions donors had towards the College and higher education in New England in general.

Dates

  • 1660-1931

Creator

Researcher Access

The Wills naming Harvard as a beneficiary are open for research.

Copying Restriction

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Extent

1.57 cubic feet (1 legal document box, 1 flat box, 1 oversized volume, 6 volumes, and 2 folders)
The Wills naming Harvard as a beneficiary collection contains copies of wills that include bequests to Harvard, and related papers such as court records and certificates of death. Most of the documents are copies kept by the Harvard Corporation to manage bequests or were created and donated to the College to serve as an historical record of the contribution. The collection complements the wills held in the Records of Gifts and Donations collection, also in the Harvard University Archives.

The records provide evidence of income the College received from outside sources, and offer a resource for studying the perceptions donors had towards the College and higher education in New England in general.

Historical Note

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Harvard College relied on government grants and tax allocations, town subscriptions, and private donations to fund the school. Donations were often made as bequests and recorded in donors’ wills. Bequests often defined how contributions could be used, including funding for Indian education and missionary work, and for theological study. Contributions took the form of money, land, books, and supplies. Between 1636 and 1805, Harvard received $178,919 in donations from individuals; between 1806 and 1900 it received $13,776,111.

While the College did not receive the same level of private contributions in its first two centuries that it would in later years, there were some individuals who gave generously. Two of the College's earliest bequests came from Boston merchant Henry Webb, who donated land, and English merchant and landowner Sir Matthew Holworthy, who bequeathed £1000.

Arrangement

Items are arranged in chronological order.

Acquisition information

Most of the records were donated by private individuals and organizations; acquisition information is noted at the item level.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives
  1. Harvard University. Corporation. Records of gifts and donations, 1643-1955 (UAI 15.400): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua33010
  2. Harvard University. Corporation. Records of land and property owned by Harvard University, 1643-1835 (UAI 15.750): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua28010
  3. Harvard University. Treasurer. Records of the Treasurer of Harvard University (UAI 50.xx): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua05009

References

  • Harris, Seymour E. The Economics of Harvard. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.
  • Quincy, Josiah. The history of Harvard University. Cambridge: J. Owen, 1840

Inventory update

This document last updated 2018 December 20.

Processing Information

The material was first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The material was originally described as part of a larger Harvard Corporation finding aid. The material was re-processed in 2010. Re-processing involved a collection survey, re-housing in appropriate archival folders and boxes, and the creation of this finding aid. Post-1800 materials have been included in the finding aid, but are not fully processed.

This finding aid was created by Diann Benti in October 2010.

Preservation and description of the Wills naming Harvard as a beneficiary was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard University. Corporation. Wills naming Harvard as a beneficiary, 1660-1931: an inventory
EAD ID
hua37010

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