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UAI 15.997

Harvard University. Board of Visitors of the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History. Subscription records for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1802-1813 : an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: UAI 15.997
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Harvard University
Title: Subscription records for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1802-1813
Date(s): 1802-1813
Quantity: .14 cubic feet (1 flat box)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: The Subscription records for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History contain subscription papers and lists, receipts, and letters documenting the fund raising efforts of the founders of the Professorship and Botanic Garden at Harvard University from 1802 to 1813. The records contain the names of donors and their individual contributions.

Acquisition information:

The materials in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business.
  • 1914 December 5, Letter to subscribers and subscription paper for a course of botanical lectures for the encouragement and support of the Botanical Garden and the Professorship of Natural History at Cambridge, gift of Ezra H. Baker.
  • 1935 June 13, Receipt of a subscription to the fund for the establishment of a Professorship of Natural History, John Amory, gift of A. Lawrence Lowell.
  • 1940 December 2, Letter and subscription list sent by Francis C. Lowell, Secretary of the Board of Visitors, to President John T. Kirkland, to President John T. Kirkland, gift of Thomas Barbour.
  • 1941 February 12, Receipt of a subscription to the fund for the establishment of a Professorship of Natural History, Simon Elliott, gift of Bella C. Landauer.
  • Processing Information:

    This material was first classified and described in a Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The material was re-processed in 2011. Re-processing involved a collection survey, enhanced description of items from the nineteenth century, and the creation of this finding aid.
    This finding aid was created by Dominic P. Grandinetti in October 2011.

    Researcher Access:

    Subscription records for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, are open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the Public Services staff for further details.

    Copying Restriction:

    Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

    Preferred Citation:

    Harvard University. Corporation. Subscription records for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, 1802-1813. UAI 15.997, Harvard University Archives.

    Related Materials

    In the Harvard University Archives

    Historical Note

    In 1801 the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture donated $500 for the establishment of a Professorship of Natural History and for the support of a Botanic Garden at Harvard University to promote commerce, agriculture, medicine, and the arts through the study of zoology, botany, and mineralogy. A committee of Society members was appointed to circulate subscription papers and obtain funds to support the Professorship. Fund raising was essentially complete by 1804, and in March 1805 William Dandridge Peck (1763-1822) was appointed the first (and only) Massachusetts Professor of Natural History. A Board of Visitors was organized in April 1805 to supervise Peck's activities and the Botanic Garden. The Board consisted of the twelve trustees of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, the President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the President of Harvard College, and the President of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
    After Peck's death in October 1822, the Board found it difficult to financially support both the Professorship and the Botanic Garden. Consequently, the Board decided to limit its support to the Botanic Garden and appointed Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859) as its curator. From 1834 to 1842, instruction in Natural History was given by the College Librarian Thaddeus W. Harris (1795-1856) and Augustus Addison Gould (1805-1866), the invertebrate zoologist. In May 1831, diminished funds forced the Board of Visitors to relinquish its control of the Botanic Garden to the Harvard Corporation. Efforts to secure funding for the Natural History professorship were unsuccessful and the chair was left vacant. In 1862, the Corporation united the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History and the Fisher Professorship of Natural History (established in 1834) since both professorships served similar purposes. The Botanic Garden, which had languished over the years as an instructional laboratory, was finally abandoned in 1948 when the Botanic Garden Apartments were erected on the grounds.

    References

    Arrangement

    The records are arranged chronologically by date.

    Scope and Content

    The Subscription records for the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History contain subscription papers and lists, receipts, and letters documenting the fund raising efforts of the founders of the Professorship and Botanic Garden at Harvard University from 1802 to 1813. The records contain the names of donors and their individual contributions. The March 25, 1802 subscription paper contains the names of the initial subscribers to the Massachusetts Professorship of Natural History, acquired from 1801 to 1804. Each subscription paper is numbered (number six is missing from the records) and includes a preamble expressing the purposes behind the establishment of the Professorship. Additional records include receipts acknowledging $100 donations to the subscription fund from John Amory and Simon Elliott, signed by Josiah Quincy (1772-1864), treasurer of the Subscribers committee; a letter to President John T. Kirkland (1770-1840), from Francis C. Lowell (1775-1817), secretary of the Board of Visitors, explaining that the list of subscribers he has included with the letter is ready to be engraved on parchment; and a letter to potential donors from the Board of Visitors appealing for donations to fund a course of lectures on botany. The letter includes a subscription paper listing the names of donors and their contributions.
    The records were assembled as an archival collection by the archivist at an unknown date from various sources without regard to original provenance in order to document University professorships.

    General

    This document last updated 2013 November 8.

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