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HUG 1306.5

Croswell, William, 1760-1834. Papers of William Croswell, 1776-1834: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUG 1306.5
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Croswell, William, 1760-1834
Title: Papers of William Croswell, 1776-1834
Date(s): 1776-1834
Quantity: 1.50 cubic feet (3 legal-sized document boxes and 1 flat box)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: This collection contains the papers of William Croswell (1760-1834; Harvard AB 1780), a Boston cartographer, educator, and Harvard Library cataloger, dating from 1776 to 1834. A substantial portion of the collection chronicles Croswell's lifelong financial difficulties, psychological issues, and poor health, and from 1821 until shortly before his death in 1834, his repeated and unsuccessful attempts to receive financial compensation from the Harvard Corporation for his work on the University's library catalog. The collection also includes materials that touch upon Croswell's work as a school teacher in Massachusetts, New York, and England between 1780 and 1808; as a cartographer and scholar; and as an employee working on a catalog of the Harvard College Library from 1812 to 1821.

Acquisition information:

The Papers of William Croswell were received from the New England Historic and Genealogical Society in 1963.

Processing Information:

The material was first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The collection was re-processed in 2011. Re-processing involved a collection survey, re-housing in archival folders and boxes, and the creation of this finding aid.
This finding aid was created by Diann Benti in May 2011.
Preservation and description of the Papers of William Croswell was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

Researcher Access:

The Papers of William Croswell are open for research.

Copying Restriction:

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Online access:

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

Preferred Citation:

Croswell, William, 1760-1834. Papers of William Croswell, 1776-1834. HUG 1306.5, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives

Biographical Note

William Croswell (1760-1834; Harvard AB 1780, AM 1786) was a Boston cartographer, educator, and Harvard Library cataloger.
Croswell was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1760 as the youngest son of Rebecca Holmes and Andrew Croswell (1708/9-1785; Harvard AB 1728). Croswell received an AB from Harvard in 1780 and following his graduation, he worked as an assistant at the Boston Latin School until August 1782. In November 1782, Croswell commenced teaching mathematics and navigation privately in Boston, and traveled to New York between 1795 and 1797 to find work as a teacher.
While working as a teacher, Croswell also began circulating publication proposals for scientific works, and in 1791, he published Tables for Readily Computing the Longitude by the Lunar Observations. In December 1806, Croswell traveled to England where he attempted to garner support for the publication of a celestial map and also continued to work as a teacher. He returned to Boston in the fall of 1809, and his map, A Mercator Map of the Starry Heavens, Comprehending the Whole Equinoctial, and Terminated by the Polar Circles, was published in 1810.
In 1812, the Harvard Corporation employed Croswell to work on a catalog of the University's library holdings. Disabled by psychological issues and illness, Croswell's work on the Library Catalogue was slow and interrupted by absences. In March 1819, a Harvard Corporation committee recommended that funding of the cataloging project should be ended and Croswell's employment terminated in July 1819. Following the committee's report, Croswell began petitioning the Corporation for extensions, and continued in the position until March 1821, when the Corporation demanded he surrender his working documents on the catalogue.
Following Croswell's dismissal from Harvard, he returned to Boston and began a thirteen-year unsuccessful campaign to collect on unpaid wages he felt he was owed by Harvard for his library work. He continued his earlier efforts to publish his scientific work and tried fruitlessly to gain acknowledgment from the larger academic community. Throughout Croswell's life, he had suffered from sensitivity to noise, paranoia, and poor health, and his mental and physical infirmities were compounded by reclusiveness and continued poverty in his old age. Croswell died on July 7, 1834.

References

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in eleven series: Papers within each series are arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content

This collection contains the papers of William Croswell (1760-1834; Harvard AB 1780), a Boston cartographer, educator, and Harvard Library cataloger, dating from 1776 to 1834. A substantial portion of the collection chronicles Croswell's lifelong financial difficulties, psychological issues, and poor health, and from 1821 until shortly before his death in 1834, his repeated and unsuccessful attempts to receive financial compensation from the Harvard Corporation for his work on the University's library catalog. The collection also includes materials that touch upon Croswell's work as a school teacher in Massachusetts, New York, and England between 1780 and 1808; as a cartographer and scholar; and as an employee working on a catalog of the Harvard College Library from 1812 to 1821.
The papers are arranged in eleven series: documents related to teaching, family records primarily comprised of estate records, correspondence, petitions and memorials, financial records, publishing records, personal documents, records related to work on the Harvard Library Catalogue, diaries, research and writings files, and a catalogue of Harvard alumni. The two largest series, correspondence and petitions and memorials, primarily reflect Croswell's publishing efforts, complaints against the Harvard Corporation, and regular pleas for financial assistance made to Harvard administrators, governmental and charitable institutions, and wealthy Harvard alumni and prominent individuals. Petitions and memorials, as distinguished from correspondence, can be understood as formal requests or statements made by Croswell to authoritative bodies such as the Harvard Corporation or Massachusetts General Court.
Most of the collection is comprised of handwritten drafts and copies of documents made by Croswell and are of varying legibility. Many of the series overlap and for instance, letters about Croswell's efforts to publish a celestial map found in Series III: Correspondence relate closely to publication proposals found in Series VI: Publishing records.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 June 21.

Container List


hua03012