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HUD 243.714F

HarvardCollege (1780- ). Class of 1843. Harvard College Class of 1843 class book: an inventory

Harvard University Archives


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUD 243.714F
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: HarvardCollege (1780- ). Class of 1843.
Title: Harvard College Class of 1843 class book, 1843-1910.
Date(s): 1843-1910.
Quantity: 0.3 cubic feet (1 volume ([8], 548 p. ; 40 cm.)
Abstract: The Class Book of 1843 contains biographical entries for nearly all members of the Class of 1843, many of them written by the students themselves. Broad portraits of undergraduate life are not found in these pages; they consist mainly of biographical facts and anecdotes. The Class Book also contains the Class Oration and Class Poem, as well as the minutes of Class Meetings and Suppers.

Acquisition Information:

Harvard University Library, August 1964. Purchased from gift of Homer Halvorson.

Custodial Information:

This volume was held by four successive class secretaries including Luther Parks (1843-1852), William A. Richardson (1852-1896), Thomas Hall (1896-1903), and Francis Williams (1903-1910).
The book has suffered from one of its custodians, but nevertheless survived longer than some in the class intended that it should. William Richardson wrote a note on the first unnumbered page "At the class meeting in 1863 it was unanimously voted to abandon this book, and to suppress it; first, because of its incompleteness as to the early lives of many of the class who had died or had not written their biographies, and secondly, because some who had written them were very much dissatisfied, in later years, with what they had written. I have kept it and have not yet destroyed it, because I wanted to turn to it occasionally as a matter of reference."
Several pages were torn out of the volume by Richardson. A note on page 74 reads "Two leaves written in full by O.B. Frothingham taken out, at his request, by WAR." The class members whose biographies are limited or eliminated by the removal of pages are O. B. Frothingham, Thomas Hill, and William A. Richardson. A few classmates expressed in letters their views on this mutilation, and a subsequent class secretary, Francis Williams, made great efforts to salvage and complete the book.

Processing Information:

Inventorycreated and encoded in May 2005 by S. Shoemaker, Intern.

Conditions onAccess:

Access is unrestricted; however, the volume is fragile andusers are required to use care in its handling.

Related Material

Evolution of the Harvard CollegeClass Books

The Harvard classes began compiling class books in about 1800. These documents were typically written or compiled by an elected class secretary and were often maintained for many years following commencement. Each class book is devoted to the members of a class graduating in a specific year and includes information about individual members of the class both pre- and post-commencement as well as documentation of class reunions, meetings, and significant events. Harvard classes discontinued the practice of compiling class books around 1900.
In the mid-nineteenth to early twenty-first century, class albums of photographs were created as a complementary series to the class books. Unlike class books, class albums were usually compiled by individual students rather than the class secretary , so many albums may exist for a single year. Class albums typically include photographs of students, faculty, staff, and the campus.

History of the Class of 1843

The Class of 1843 saw most of its graduates proceed into lives as businessmen, ministers, lawyers, and politicians. Josiah Quincy was president of Harvard during their days, and although he was an unpopular president (to such a degree that he was hanged in effigy in the Yard in 1834 or so), the members of the Class of 1843 seem to have found their time in Cambridge largely enjoyable, and one went on to become president himself (Thomas Hill, president from 1862-1868).
Clubs and traditions were prominent in the rituals of college life. Class Day was a celebration of extreme importance at that time, and subsequent meetings of the class, at which members came together for a dinner and meeting to discuss class business and enjoy each other's company, were often held on its anniversary. The Class of 1843 elected members into the Navy Club, a society reserved for those who for reason of their grades were not awarded roles in Class Day oratories; officers included Lord High Admiral, the "jolliest of all jolly blades in the class" according to Samuel Eliot Morison's Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936 ; Vice Admiral, the poorest classmate; Rear-Admiral, the laziest; Chaplain, the most profane; Boatswain, the most obscene; and so forth (pages 398-399 of the Class Book include the list). Traditions such as awarding a "class cradle" to the first member of the class to become a father were followed and celebrated (pages 398, 408, 415-416, 418-419); less happily, members of the class gathered to make resolutions on the early deaths of a few of their number, most notably John Abbot Emery , who died before commencement, much lamented by his classmates.
Several members of the Class of 1843 were commissioned officers in the Civil War after graduation, but the biographical notes in the Class Book regarding their roles are limited. Similarly, biographical notes indicate the membership of some alumni of 1843 in the Free Soil Party, but both this and the slavery issue in general receive scant mention in the pages of the Class Book.
Notable members of the class include Thomas Hill , president of Harvard University from 1862-1868 ; William A. Richardson , Secretary of the Treasury from 1873-1874 and Chief Justice of the U.S. Court of Claims from 1885-1896; and Octavius Brooks Frothingham , writer and clergyman. Unfortunately, the greater part of the entries in the Class Book involving these three men was removed by Richardson. Others of note include Arthur Buckminster Fuller , Unitarian Universalist minister; Horace Binney Sargent , Lieutenant Colonel of the First Mass. Cavalry, Fifth Army Corps; and Alexander Wheelock Thayer , music historian.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1965.


Volume has 8 unnumbered pages at its beginning.

Scope andContent

The Class Book of 1843 includes some of the type of information currently printed in the modern-day class yearbook; however, Class Books show a greater emphasis on biographical information. The book contains biographical entries for nearly all members of the Class of 1843, many of them written by the students themselves. These entries vary widely in length and depth; a few are lively autobiographical essays, with memories of both childhood and Harvard, while others are little more than a signature with a line or two of notes added in later years by the class secretary. Broad portraits of undergraduate life are not found in these pages; they consist mainly of biographical facts and anecdotes.
In a few cases the secretary transcribed autobiographical letters written in later years. Some of the secretaries' addenda are in the form of biographical timelines, with notes on the later significant doings of the class members, such as marriages, the births of children, professional accomplishments, appointments to office, and, in most cases, death dates.
In fact, much of what the Class Book contains was written as addenda by the secretaries of the Class of 1843. Notwithstanding several years of neglect and the near-destruction of the volume by class secretary William Richardson , the Class Book includes many pages of biographical notes and transcriptions by all of the secretaries of the class. An attempt was made to resurrect the book after its intended demise; the two secretaries following Richardson added what they could in an effort to keep the information current. In 1897, following his election as class secretary, Thomas Hall made an urgent plea to his classmates to fill the pages of the book; he sent a letter to all who could be found and to the relatives of those deceased, asking for biographical information for themselves and any deceased classmates, from any time period. He asked also for photographs, and notes that "a few of these have been sent to me by Judge Richardson's representative," but none appear in the Class Book. Francis Williams sent a similar letter upon his election as class secretary in 1903, and he notes that "the pages are slowly filling up."
Also found in the Class Book are a list of names of students who had at one time been members of the class; the Class Oration and Class Poem; records of many of the Class Meetings and Suppers from 1843-1896, particularly in the earlier years; and secretaries' notes. The minutes of Class Meetings and Suppers indicate that such occasions were often devoted more to hilarity than to business; however, it was also at these meetings that the class organized such offerings as the class cradle for the first father in the Class of 1843 and a monument at Mount Auburn Cemetery for a departed classmate. The minutes from Class Meetings and Suppers are extremely sparse after 1853.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 May 3.

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