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UAI 15.874

Langdon, Samuel, 1723-1797. Papers of Samuel Langdon: an inventory

Harvard University Archives


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: UAI 15.874
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Langdon, Samuel, 1723-1797.
Title: Papers of Samuel Langdon, 1745-1790, 1896.
Date(s): 1745-1790, 1896.
Quantity: 0.2 cubic feet (1 boxes)
Abstract: Samuel Langdon (1723-1797) was a schoolmaster, army chaplain, pastor of the First Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from 1747 to 1774, and thirteenth president of Harvard College, serving from 1774 to 1780. This collection contains a small number of letters written by Langdon, a few of Langdon's sermons, and a few documents pertaining to other aspects of Langdon's life.

Acquisition Information:

The Papers of Samuel Langdon were acquired by the Harvard University Archives through donation and purchase. Whenever possible the archivist noted the terms of acquisition in the folder list below. The acquisitions are as follows:
  • No date, Massachusetts Historical Society
  • 1902 Mrs. M.L. Harrison
  • 1902 Edith S. Brown
  • 1914 Mary S.D. Ferris
  • 1917 Bright Fund
  • 1923 Lawrence W. Jenkins
  • 1926 Mrs. O.W. Charles
  • 1927 Paul Sachs
  • 1931 Charles P. Everett
  • 1936 Philip Spaulding
  • 1948 Mrs. Mary Barrows
  • Processing Note:

    This material was first classified and described by the Harvard University Archives prior to 1980. The collection was reprocessed in 2005, with subsequent preparation for digitization in 2009. Reprocessing involved a collection survey, rehousing in size- and format-appropriate archival folders and boxes, and the creation of this finding aid. Preparation for digitization involved minor adjustments to the physical arrangement of the collection, with corresponding updates to the finding aid and the addition of links to the digital copies.
    The digitization of Samuel Langdon's papers was made possible in part by generous support from the Sidney Verba Fund.

    Conditions on Use and Access:

    The Papers of Samuel Langdon are open for research use. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the reference staff for further details.

    Preferred Citation:

    Langdon, Samuel, 1723-1797. Papers of Samuel Langdon, 1745-1790, 1896. UAI 15.874, Harvard University Archives.

    Related Material

    Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about Samuel Langdon.
    Citations to published versions of the documents in this collection are noted in the folder list.


    Samuel Langdon (1723-1797) was the thirteenth president of Harvard College, serving from 1774 to 1780 and presiding over the College during the American Revolution.
    Langdon was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1723. The youngest of six children and of limited financial means, he worked his way through Harvard College as a waiter and as the recipient of several scholarships. He received his A.B. degree in 1740 and his A.M. degree in 1743.
    Langdon began his career as a schoolmaster in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1741, accepting a teaching position in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, three years later. In 1745, he was named Chaplain of a New Hampshire regiment sent to Cape Breton Island to lay siege to the fortress of Louisbourg. Following his military service, Langdon married Elizabeth Whipple Brown in 1746 and was appointed Pastor of the First Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1747.
    For the next twenty five years, Langdon established his reputation as a man of learning and piety, promoting religious tolerance and education. As the colonies' dispute with England grew, Langdon worried that the Crown would establish Anglican control over the colonies, and he placed his support with the colonists.
    Chosen primarily for his political sympathies, Langdon was installed as President of Harvard College in 1774. The unfortunate combination of a smallpox epidemic in Cambridge, economic inflation, a decline in revenues, and the distractions of impending war left the College in a state of disarray and undercut Langdon's ability to effectively manage College affairs. Temporary evacuation of the College from 1775 to 1776 further hampered Langdon's administration. Ultimately, it was Langdon's attempts to impose a more religious character on College life that infuriated students and led to Langdon's resignation in 1780.
    Langdon returned to New Hampshire, where he served as pastor in Hampton Falls until his death in 1797.

    Series in the Collection

    Scope of the Papers of Samuel Langdon

    This collection consists of five letters written by Langdon, seven of Langdon's sermons, including a sermon delivered by Langdon as chaplain to the Continental Army in Cambridge on May 21, 1775, and a small series of documents pertaining to other aspects of Langdon's life, including a summary of Langdon's activities as army chaplain during the Revolutionary War.

    Inventory update

    This document last updated 2016 November 3.

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