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COLLECTION Identifier: HUD 200.505

Letters to Lemuel Shaw

Overview

This collection contains letters to Lemuel Shaw, dated 1798-1857, from five other members of the Harvard College class of 1800: Timothy Boutelle, Timothy Flint, Abiel Holbrook, William Sawyer, and Daniel Kimball. A folder enclosed with the correspondence indicates Shaw was on a committee to collect biographical information on the class of 1800, and these letters, which date from their college days until late adulthood, may have been used to compile a class book.

Dates

  • 1798-1857

Creator

Conditions Governing Use

Open for research.

Extent

.25 cubic feet ( (1 document box))
This collection contains letters to Lemuel Shaw, dated 1798-1857, from five other members of the Harvard College class of 1800: Timothy Boutelle, Timothy Flint, Abiel Holbrook, William Sawyer, and Daniel Kimball. A folder enclosed with the correspondence indicates Shaw was on a committee to collect biographical information on the class of 1800, and these letters, which date from their college days until late adulthood, may have been used to compile a class book.

Harvard classes began compiling class books in about 1800. 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 experience, starting from freshman year to senior year, and often even documenting class reunions, significant events in each alumni's life, and finally obituary notices. Harvard discontinued the practice around 1900.

Topics of the letters to Shaw from his classmates include their educational experience at Harvard, commencement and activities of Phi Beta Kappa, their respective career paths, day to day life, politics, and travel, as well as frequent mention of gaps in correspondence, which were often misattributed to Shaw’s indifference at continuing the communication; the usual reason was postal service delays. The bulk of the correspondence is from Boutelle, who was a teacher in Leicester, Massachusetts, after graduation, and later a lawyer, regarding his students at Leicester Academy, his decision not to study law in Boston, books and legal treatises, and other personal and professional matters. Holbrook’s letters begin after he moved from Boston to Haywood, Virginia, and comment on the politics and culture of the south, plantations and slavery, his romantic pursuits, and the presidential election of 1800. Letters from Flint relate to immediate post-college life, and later correspondence from Sawyer and Kimball, dated 1844-1857, regard fellow alumni and updates on their own lives.

Historical note on the Class of 1800

Members of the Class of 1800 include Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, civil engineer Loammi Baldwin, Jr. (1780-1838), painter Washington Allston (1779-1843), Unitarian minister Joseph Stevens Buckminster (1784-1812), John Henry Tudor (1782-1802), banker Benjamin Welles (1781-1860), attorney Timothy Boutelle (1777-1855), educator Abiel Holbrook (1775-1838), missionary Timothy Flint (1780-1840), attorney William Sawyer (1774-1860), minister and Needham Lyceum president Daniel Kimball (1778-1862), merchant Leonard Jarvis (1781-1854), and physician Samuel Weed (1774-1857).
Biographical note on Lemuel Shaw Lemuel Shaw, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, was born in West Barnstable, Massachusetts on January 9, 1781, to Oakes and Susanna Shaw. After receiving his Harvard AB in 1800 and AM in 1803, he began studying law under David Everett in Boston. Shaw was admitted to the bar in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts in 1804. He was first elected a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1811, serving intermittently until 1829; he also served as a Massachusetts State Senator from 1821 to 1822. Shaw additionally was a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1820 and drafted the first charter of the city of Boston in 1822. Governor Levi Lincoln appointed Shaw as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1830, and he served for 30 years until his resignation in 1860. During his tenure on the bench, Shaw heard cases impacting emerging industry, such as water power and railroads, labor relations, and slavery and segregation. Shaw also presided over the 1850 trial and execution of Harvard Medical School professor John White Webster (1793-1850; Harvard AB 1811, MD 1815) for the murder of Boston physician George Parkman (1790-1849; Harvard AB 1809). Shaw served as a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers from 1831 to 1853 and a Fellow from 1834 until his death. He was awarded an honorary Harvard LLD in 1831.

Shaw married Elizabeth Knapp in 1818; she died in 1822. They had two children, John Oakes Shaw and Elizabeth Shaw, who later married Herman Melville. He remarried in 1827 to Hope Savage, and they had two sons, Lemuel Shaw, Jr., and Samuel Savage Shaw. Shaw died on March 30, 1861.

Processing Information

This finding aid was created by Brooke McManus in March 2018.

Titles were assigned by the archivist.

Preservation and description of the Letters to Lemuel Shaw were supported by the Colonial North America at Harvard Library Project.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard College (1780- ). Class of 1800. Letters to Lemuel Shaw, 1798-1857: an inventory
Author
Brooke McManus
Date
2018-03-09
Description rules
dacs
EAD ID
hua12018

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