Records of the Butler, 1722-1799

About this Collection

Harvard University , Butler.
Promissory notes.Receipts.Account books.Bills (financial).
Collection Title
Records of the Butler, 1722-1799
.28 cubic feet (4 volumes and one document box)
Harvard University Archives

Content Notes

The records of the Harvard Butler document the activities of the Butler including managing Buttery accounts and purchasing supplies for the College. The collection is comprised of financial records from 1722-1795 including account books, receipts, correspondence, bills, statements, and scrap paper used to calculate sums.|The Butler materials provide a record of Harvard students and their residential life. The Butler's purchases not only reveal the supplies needed to support the student body, but they also document the cost and availability of items in 18th century Massachusetts. The records reveal the Butler's interactions with members of the community and his role in Cambridge's commercial activity: he conducted business with local merchants and borrowed money from individuals outside of Harvard.|The collection includes account books compiled by Butlers Thomas Adams (Harvard AB 1788) and Samuel Shapleigh (Harvard AB 1788), and quarterly account bills signed by Butlers William Harris (Harvard AB 1786) and John Pipon (Harvard AB 1792). There do not appear to be any Butlers specified by name in the Quarterly account book for 1722 through 1751.|One of the account volumes also includes a personal accounting of expenses from February 1797 through January 1799 kept by Samuel Shapleigh during the time he was Harvard's Librarian.

Biographical Notes

The College Butler, often an undergraduate, was appointed as an officer of the College to manage the Buttery and to maintain designated common rooms. Students selected as Butlers entered into a central role in college life. With the Corporation's authorization, the Butler operated the Buttery, akin to a student store, selling items including "Wines & other Liquors, Tea, Coffee, Chocolate, Sugar, Bisket, Pens, Ink & Paper, & other suitable articles for scholars." He was also permitted to sell the "Butler's cyder." Individuals did not pay for buttery items at the time of purchase, but instead kept personal accounts with the Butler. The Butler was responsible for providing students with weekly accounts of their sizing (food or drink ordered from the Buttery) bills, and to collect on their buttery debts. He provided quarterly reports to the Steward, and paid the money he collected to the Treasurer each year.|Outside of the Buttery, the Butler's duties included managing the College's candle supplies, directing fires to be made, ringing the morning and evening bells, and helping to ensure utensils were not stolen. Along with noting Buttery purchases, the Butler also tallied student absences, fines, and punishments. Occasionally, the Butler also served as the College's librarian. In return he received a salary, a specified dormitory space, and in later years up to a twenty percent profit from Buttery sales.