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COLLECTION Identifier: UAIII15.18.1

Diplomas

Overview

This collection contains 29 diplomas conferred by Harvard College from 1676 to 1799, acknowledging the successful completion of a course of study. Included among the diplomas in this collection are general diplomas; Bachelor of Arts diplomas; Master of Arts diplomas; and honorary degrees of Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Divinity, and Master of Arts.

Dates

  • 1676-1799

Creator

Researcher Access

Diplomas 1676-1799, are open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the Public Services staff for further details.

Copying Restriction

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Extent

1.12 cubic feet (5 flat boxes)
This collection contains 29 diplomas conferred by Harvard College from 1676 to 1799, acknowledging the successful completion of a course of study. Included among the diplomas in this collection are general diplomas; Bachelor of Arts diplomas; Master of Arts diplomas; and honorary degrees of Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Divinity, and Master of Arts. In addition to original diplomas, formats include photographic and photostat copies, typescript copies, a wax diploma seal, and an original envelope.

The records were assembled as an archival collection by the archivist at an unknown date from various sources without regard to original provenance in order to document seventeenth and eighteenth century Harvard University diplomas.

Historical Note

The awarding of diplomas for the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts at Harvard College was established in the 1640s. At Harvard, the Bachelor of Arts (AB, Artium Baccalaureus in Latin) was awarded on the completion of the undergraduate course of study. The Master of Arts (AM, Artium Magister in Latin) was awarded three years after the completion of a Bachelor of Arts. Until 1813, students were not given diplomas upon graduation. Instead, student names were recorded in the Harvard Triennial Catalogue, as the official record of their degrees. If a student wanted a diploma he had to request it from the College for a small fee. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, students purchased their own parchments in assorted sizes and paid a professional calligrapher to design and engross their diplomas. Written in Latin, many of the diplomas were adorned with blue ribbons and lead boxes that contained a wax imprint of the College seal. No two diplomas were the same; standardized and engraved diplomas were not introduced at Harvard until 1813. In 1752, the College issued the first general diploma to students after an outbreak of small pox prevented commencement exercises from taking place. Instead of issuing individual diplomas for every graduate, the College listed the name of every recipient of a degree for that year in a general diploma. General diplomas were issued during times of drought, economic depression, and war until the end of the eighteenth century.

In 1692, Harvard awarded its first honorary degrees for academic accomplishment to Increase Mather (Doctor of Divinity), John Leverett (Bachelor of Divinity), and William Brattle (Bachelor of Divinity). The first Master of Arts honorary degree was conferred on Thomas Wells in 1703. During the early eighteenth century Harvard awarded a number of courtesy honorary degrees to alumni of other universities. In 1732, John Winthrop, a scientist, was granted the first honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In 1753, Benjamin Franklin became the first to receive an honorary degree (Master of Arts) in recognition of significant accomplishments and a distinguished career, rather than for academic achievements. The first Doctor of Laws was conferred in 1732; the first Doctor of Divinity in 1692.

Superseded call numbers

The seventeenth and eighteenth century diplomas previously classified under call numbers UAIII 15.18 and UAIII 15.18PF are now classified under call number UAIII 15.18.1. To assist researchers in identifying materials noted in previous citations, the list below provides references from obsolete call numbers to new box and folder numbers. Please use the current call number, UAIII 15.18.1, with the appropriate box and folder number in place of the superseded call number when citing material from this collection.
<emph>UAIII 15.18 PF, Box 15, Diplomas: general diploma, 1752</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 1
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 2, Diplomas: general diploma, 1764</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 2
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 21, Diplomas: general diploma, 1775</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 3
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 17, Diplomas: general diploma, 1779</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 4
<emph>UAIII 15.18, Box 1, Diplomas, 1600s</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 5, Folder 5
<emph>UAIII 15.18, Box 2, Diplomas: Nathaniel Saltonstall, 1727</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 5, Folder 3
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 13, Diplomas: James Halsey, 1737</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 5, Folder 4
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 191, Diplomas: Thomas Allen, AB 1762</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 5, Folder 5
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 18, Diplomas: John Hill, AM 1776</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 3, Folder 1
<emph>UAIII 15.18, Box 3, Diplomas: Thomas Kast, 1769</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 1, Folder 1
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 19, Diplomas: James Bowdoin, AB 1771</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 1, Folder 2
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 24, Diplomas: Benjamin Wood, AB 1797</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 2, Folder 2
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 23, Diplomas: Thomas Oliver Selfridge, AM 1797</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 3, Folder 3
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 26, Diplomas: Henry Edes, 1799</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 5
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 25, Diplomas: Timothy Pickering, AB 1799</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 6
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 10, Diplomas: Samuel Wolcott, AB 1701</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 5, Folder 2
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 22, Diplomas: Thomas Bankcroft, AB 1791</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 7
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 13, Diplomas: Benjamin Franklin, unfinished AM diploma</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 8
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 11, Diplomas: Benjamin Franklin, honorary, AM 1753</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 2, Folder 1
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 12, Diplomas: Edward Walker, AM 1760</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 9
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 4, Diplomas: Jonathan Frye, AM 1765</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 5, Folder 6
UAIII 15.18PF, Box 3, Diplomas: John New, AM 1765
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 5, Folder 7
UAIII 15.18PF, Box 7, Diplomas: Peter Livius, honorary, AM 1767
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 10
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 16, Diplomas: James Mann (1776), AM 1779</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 3, Folder 2
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 14, Diplomas: Henry Adams (1776), AM 1778</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 11
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 32, Diplomas: William Croswell, AM 1787</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 12
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 6, Diplomas: Paul Rolfe, AM 1795</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 13
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 30, Diplomas: Lafayette, LLD 1784</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 4, Folder 14
<emph>UAIII 15.18PF, Box 20, Diplomas: Samuel Locke, STD 1773</emph>
  1. See UAIII 15.18.1 Box 2, Folder 3

Acquisition information

The materials in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business.

Individual donors, when available, are noted at the item level.

Online access

All of the records have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives:
  1. Diploma of Geroge Washington (LL.D. 1781): copy made in 1840 (UAIII 15.18 PF)
  2. Harvard College Master of Arts diploma of Samuel Mather, July 3, 1701 (HUM 44).
  3. Notebook of John Allen, 1772 (HUC 6757.116): contains a list of sixteen individuals for whom John Allen wrote diplomas.
  4. Seals, 1650-[1926]: contains eight metal dies engraved with the official College seals and used on Harvard diplomas (UAI 15.1310).
  5. Diplomas, ca. 1800-1963 (UAIII 15.xxx): contains nineteenth and twentieth century Harvard diplomas.
  6. Harvard Degrees and Diplomas, 1640-1908 (UAIII 15.21): contains the notes of Morris Hicky Morgan, Professor of Classical Philology, on the classification of Harvard degrees.
  7. Commencement Theses, Quaestiones, and Orders of Exercises, 1642-1818 (HUC 6642).
  8. Triennial Catalogues Collection, 1674-1794 (HU 20.35.1).

References

  • "Early Honorary Degrees from Harvard." Harvard Alumni Bulletin 33 (March 12, 1931) : 724-727.
  • Elkins, Kimball C. "Honorary Degrees at Harvard." Harvard Library Bulletin 12 (Autumn 1958) : 326-353.
  • Hammond, Mason. "Official Terms in Latin and English for Harvard College or University." Harvard Library Bulletin 35 (Summer 1987) : 294-310.
  • Lane, William Coolidge. "Early Harvard Broadsides." In Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, New Series, Volume 24, April 8, 1914-October 21, 1914. Worcester, Massachusetts: Published by the Society, 1914.
  • Morison, Samuel E. "Harvard "Firsts" and Honorary Degrees." Harvard Alumni Bulletin 36 (June 15, 1934) : 1011-1012.
  • Morison, Samuel E. "Harvard Degree Diplomas." Harvard Alumni Bulletin 35 (May 12, 1933) : 804-813.
  • Quincy, Josiah. The History of Harvard University. Vol. II. Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Owen, 1840.
  • "When Harvard Granted General Diplomas." Harvard Alumni Bulletin 32 (November 14, 1929) : 219-223.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2019 January 22.

Processing Information

Seventeenth and eighteenth century diplomas were previously classified under call numbers UAIII 15.18 and UAIII 15.18PF. All of the diplomas were re-processed in November 2011 and brought together as a single collection. Re-processing involved a collection survey, re-housing in appropriate archival folders, and the creation of this finding aid.

This finding aid was created by Dominic P. Grandinetti in November 2011.

Preservation and description of Diplomas, 1676-1799, was supported, in part, by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard University. Corporation. Diplomas, 1676-1799 : an inventory
EAD ID
hua58011

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
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461