Records of gifts and donations, 1643-1955: Donation books: Hopkins book: Fund cards: Donations to Harvard University: Gifts records of Harvard University

About this Collection

Harvard University , Corporation.
Family papers.Financial records.Wills.Legal instruments.
Collection Title
Records of gifts and donations, 1643-1955Donation booksHopkins bookFund cardsDonations to Harvard UniversityGifts records of Harvard University
8.25 cubic feet (23 volumes, 3 flat boxes, 4 legal half document boxes, 4 legal document boxes, 4 card boxes, and 12 folders)
Harvard University Archives

Content Notes

The records document contributions made to Harvard University by private citizens, companies, the Massachusetts colonial and state governments, and New England towns. They include correspondence, copies of wills and legal instruments, donation books, and record-keeping files used by the Harvard Corporation. The records provide insight into the income the College received from outside sources, as well as the challenges the College faced in fund-raising, managing donations, meeting gift conditions, and recovering lost money. The records also offer a resource for studying the perceptions donors held towards the College and higher education in New England in general. Some of the correspondence and bequests reveal information about donors' viewpoints on religion and sectarianism in higher education during the 17th and 18th centuries. The collection also includes records related to contributions for the support of Indian education and conversion missions, problems the College had recovering British donations during and after the Revolutionary War, and contributions from the Massachusetts General Court and New England towns.

Biographical Notes

In the 17th and 18th century, Harvard College relied on government grants and tax and rent allocations, town subscriptions, and private donations to fund the school. The history of gift giving at Harvard incorporates both the generosity of donors and the challenges of collecting funds in a colony lacking an established financial structure. Major 18th century benefactors included Governor of Connecticut Edward Hopkins (1600-1657), Boston merchant Thomas Hancock (1703-1764), his nephew John Hancock (1737-1793; Harvard AB 1754), and Massachusetts Chief Justice and acting Governor William Stoughton (1631-1701; Harvard AB 1650) who financed the first Stoughton Hall. Significant gifts were also made after a 1764 fire destroyed Harvard Hall containing the College library and John Harvard's original donation of books. But the most generous benefactor of the 1700s was London merchant, Thomas Hollis (1659-1731), who gave an estimated £6000 in money, books, and supplies to the College.