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UAV 326

Harvard Dining Association. Records of the Harvard Dining Association : an inventory

Harvard University Archives


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: UAV 326
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Harvard Dining Association
Title: Records of the Harvard Dining Association, 1874-1925 and 1961-1962
Date(s): 1874-1925
Quantity: 1 collection (16.3 cubic feet (20 volumes, 3 document boxes, 1 half document box, 1 flat box, 1 portfolio folder)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: The Records of the Harvard Dining Association document the first student-run cooperative dining association at Harvard University, founded in 1874, and provide a record for 50 years of food and dining at Harvard. The records include the Association's forms and notices, constitution, menus, minutes, financial records, and invoices.

Processing Information:

Items in this collection were previously cataloged separately, as individual items or in small collections. The material was re-processed in 2010, combining all of the Harvard University Archives' holdings of Harvard Dining Association records to create one collection. Re-processing involved a collection survey, re-housing in appropriate archival folders and boxes, and the creation of this finding aid.
This finding aid was created by Juliana Kuipers in September 2010.

Conditions on Use and Access:

The Records of the Dining Association are open for research. Permission of the University Archives is required for publishing.

Preferred Citation:

Harvard Dining Association. Records of the Harvard Dining Association, 1874-1925 and 1961-1962. UAV 326, Harvard University Archives.

Related material

Early Records of the Steward, 1649-1812 provide documentation of the early years of dining in commons.
Records of the President of Harvard University, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, 1909-1933, contain additional documentation of the Harvard Dining Association, in particular its reorganization in 1909 and demise in 1925.
Records of the President of Harvard University, Charles W. Eliot, 1869-1930, contain additional documentation of the 1909 reorganization of the Association.
The Chest of 1900 contains reports by both the Association's auditor and its steward, as well as dinner menus for March 1900.
Records of the Thayer Club, ca. 1865-1866 (Harvard University Archives call number HUD 3830)
Records of the Foxcroft Club, 1889-1899 (Harvard University Archives call number HUD 3404)
Records of the Randall Hall Association, 1898-1909 (Harvard University Archives call number HUD 3730)

Administrative History

Following the English tradition, 17th century students at Harvard College ate at least one meal together in a dining hall (also known as "dining in commons.") The original College Hall, as well as both of the Harvard Halls that replaced it (constructed in 1679 and 1766 respectively), contained a dining hall. In 1816, the dining hall was moved to the new University Hall. Due perhaps to the less than satisfactory nature of the food served, students increasingly preferred to board elsewhere, despite College laws forbidding them from doing so. In 1825, pressure on the College administration to allow students to dine outside the college had grown so strong the laws were finally changed. As a result, by 1849 very few students were dining in commons, and the practice was abandoned.
The lack of economical dining options proved a hardship for poorer students. In 1865, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals Andrew Preston Peabody and benefactor Nathaniel Thayer (hon. A.B. 1866) rented the former terminal station of the Harvard Railroad Branch to establish the Thayer Commons, housing the Thayer Club. This independent and voluntary dining association provided board at cost to about 150 undergraduates. The popularity of this venture inspired the University to revive the tradition of dining in commons. In 1874 the Corporation established the Harvard Dining Association in the newly constructed Memorial Hall, built as a memorial to Harvard graduates who fought for the Union cause during the Civil War.
The Harvard Dining Association consisted of the students (later changed to anyone connected with the University) boarding at Memorial Hall, and was governed by a president, vice-president, and two directors representing each school and College class. According to the original plans for the Association, the officers were to "regulate the diet in the Hall, preserve order, and exercise a general control over the expenditures of the Association," and to "receive and consider all complaints about the food and service." The Association also selected an auditor from among the members, whose job was to make written orders for all purchases, to approve all bills, to keep lists of boarding members, and "in general to supervise purchases and expenditures." After 1878, the auditor was appointed by the Corporation.
The Corporation initially advanced the money to furnish the dining hall and the kitchen, and as necessary, advanced the money needed to pay the Association's bills, collecting interest as the money was repaid. The Corporation maintained some control over the Association by appointing a steward, responsible for making all purchases for the Association upon the written orders of the auditor and for hiring and supervising the employees.
The Association provided enrolled diners with the choice of two plans: the American plan, which included breakfast, à la carte lunch and dinner within the weekly rate for board, or the European plan with only à la carte meals.
Students who could not obtain seats in Memorial Hall or who could not afford the cost of the plan could become members of the Foxcroft Club, another cooperative dining association organized in 1889. The Foxcroft Club, which became the Randall Hall Association in 1899 when it moved to the new Randall Hall, had a $3 annual membership fee and offered students the option to pay per meal and order à la carte.
Both the Harvard Dining Association and the Randall Hall Association were temporarily overseen by a Managing Committee in 1909. The Committee was composed of three members: Jerome Davis Greene, Secretary to the Corporation; Walter Safford Burke, Inspector of Grounds and Buildings; and Edward Huidekoper Wells (AB 1897), Curator of Modern English Literature and Secretary for Appointments. At the Committee's recommendation, the University Dining Council was created to oversee both dining associations. The Council consisted of nine members: three were appointed by the Corporation, three were elected by the members of the Harvard Dining Association, and three were elected by the members of the Randall Hall Association.
Despite efforts to keep costs low and attract more members, attendance in the Memorial Hall dining room began to wane in 1910. In a last attempt to retain Memorial Hall as a viable dining option, in September 1924 the membership fee was abolished and the Hall was opened to all students. These changes did not solve the problem of low membership, and the University was forced to close Memorial Hall in 1925; the last meal was served on January 10. Until dining halls were opened in the new student houses, built in the 1930s, the only campus dining option for upper class students was the Harvard Union. Regular student dining did not resume in Memorial Hall until 1994, when, after extensive renovations, the dining hall, renamed Annenberg Hall, was opened as the freshman dining hall.


Series in the Collection

Scope of the Records of the Harvard Dining Association

The Records of the Harvard Dining Association document the first student-run cooperative dining association at Harvard University and provide a record of 50 years of food and dining at Harvard. The records include the Association's forms and notices, constitution, menus, minutes, financial records, and invoices. The bulk of the records consist of twenty volumes of invoices, which provide extensive documentation of the items purchased by the Association during the first 25 years of its existence. Although the other series are less comprehensive, the collection traces the Association's beginnings as a successfully student-run cooperative through its gradual decline in popularity and increased supervision by the Corporation. Documents record changes in administration, food served, food servers, and students' dining habits, and serve as a resource for investigating local foodways in the late nineteenth century.


This document last updated 2010 September 27.

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