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UAI 15.18.1

Harvard University. Corporation. Diplomas, 1676-1799 : an inventory

Harvard University Archives


Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: UAI 15.18.1
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Harvard University. Corporation
Title: Diplomas, 1676-1799
Date(s): 1676-1799
Quantity: 1.12 cubic feet (5 flat boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: This collection contains 29 diplomas conferred by Harvard College from 1676 to 1799, acknowledging the successful completion of a course of study. Included among the diplomas in this collection are general diplomas; Bachelor of Arts diplomas; Master of Arts diplomas; and honorary degrees of Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Divinity, and Master of Arts.

Acquisition information:

The materials in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business.
Individual donors, when available, are noted at the item level.

Processing Information:

Seventeenth and eighteenth century diplomas were previously classified under call numbers UAIII 15.18 and UAIII 15.18PF. All of the diplomas were re-processed in November 2011 and brought together as a single collection. Re-processing involved a collection survey, re-housing in appropriate archival folders, and the creation of this finding aid.
This finding aid was created by Dominic P. Grandinetti in November 2011.
Preservation and description of Diplomas, 1676-1799, was supported, in part, by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

Researcher Access:

Diplomas 1676-1799, 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.

Online access:

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

Preferred Citation:

Harvard University. Corporation. Diplomas, 1676-1799. UAIII 15.18.1, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives:

Historical Note

The awarding of diplomas for the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts at Harvard College was established in the 1640s. At Harvard, the Bachelor of Arts (AB, Artium Baccalaureus in Latin) was awarded on the completion of the undergraduate course of study. The Master of Arts (AM, Magister Artium in Latin) was awarded three years after the completion of a Bachelor of Arts. Until 1813, students were not given diplomas upon graduation. Instead, student names were recorded in the Harvard Triennial Catalogue, as the official record of their degrees. If a student wanted a diploma he had to request it from the College for a small fee. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, students purchased their own parchments in assorted sizes and paid a professional calligrapher to design and engross their diplomas. Written in Latin, many of the diplomas were adorned with blue ribbons and lead boxes that contained a wax imprint of the College seal. No two diplomas were the same; standardized and engraved diplomas were not introduced at Harvard until 1813. In 1752, the College issued the first general diploma to students after an outbreak of small pox prevented commencement exercises from taking place. Instead of issuing individual diplomas for every graduate, the College listed the name of every recipient of a degree for that year in a general diploma. General diplomas were issued during times of drought, economic depression, and war until the end of the eighteenth century.
In 1692, Harvard awarded its first honorary degrees for academic accomplishment to Increase Mather (Doctor of Divinity), John Leverett (Bachelor of Divinity), and William Brattle (Bachelor of Divinity). The first Master of Arts honorary degree was conferred on Thomas Wells in 1703. During the early eighteenth century Harvard awarded a number of courtesy honorary degrees to alumni of other universities. In 1732, John Winthrop, a scientist, was granted the first honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In 1753, Benjamin Franklin became the first to receive an honorary degree (Master of Arts) in recognition of significant accomplishments and a distinguished career, rather than for academic achievements. The first Doctor of Laws was conferred in 1732; the first Doctor of Divinity in 1692.



The records are arranged in four series:

Scope and Content

This collection contains 29 diplomas conferred by Harvard College from 1676 to 1799, acknowledging the successful completion of a course of study. Included among the diplomas in this collection are general diplomas; Bachelor of Arts diplomas; Master of Arts diplomas; and honorary degrees of Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Divinity, and Master of Arts. In addition to original diplomas, formats include photographic and photostat copies, typescript copies, a wax diploma seal, and an original envelope.
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 seventeenth and eighteenth century Harvard University diplomas.


This document last updated 2014 April 11.

Superseded call numbers

The seventeenth and eighteenth century diplomas previously classified under call numbers UAIII 15.18 and UAIII 15.18PF are now classified under call number UAIII 15.18.1. To assist researchers in identifying materials noted in previous citations, the list below provides references from obsolete call numbers to new box and folder numbers. Please use the current call number, UAIII 15.18.1, with the appropriate box and folder number in place of the superseded call number when citing material from this collection.

UAIII 15.18 PF, Box 15, Diplomas: general diploma, 1752

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 2, Diplomas: general diploma, 1764

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 21, Diplomas: general diploma, 1775

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 17, Diplomas: general diploma, 1779

UAIII 15.18, Box 1, Diplomas, 1600s

UAIII 15.18, Box 2, Diplomas: Nathaniel Saltonstall, 1727

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 13, Diplomas: James Halsey, 1737

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 191, Diplomas: Thomas Allen, AB 1762

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 18, Diplomas: John Hill, AM 1776

UAIII 15.18, Box 3, Diplomas: Thomas Kast, 1769

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 19, Diplomas: James Bowdoin, AB 1771

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 24, Diplomas: Benjamin Wood, AB 1797

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 23, Diplomas: Thomas Oliver Selfridge, AM 1797

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 26, Diplomas: Henry Edes, 1799

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 25, Diplomas: Timothy Pickering, AB 1799

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 10, Diplomas: Samuel Wolcott, AB 1701

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 22, Diplomas: Thomas Bankcroft, AB 1791

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 13, Diplomas: Benjamin Franklin, unfinished AM diploma

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 11, Diplomas: Benjamin Franklin, honorary, AM 1753

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 12, Diplomas: Edward Walker, AM 1760

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 4, Diplomas: Jonathan Frye, AM 1765

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 3, Diplomas: John New, AM 1765

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 7, Diplomas: Peter Livius, honorary, AM 1767

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 16, Diplomas: James Mann (1776), AM 1779

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 14, Diplomas: Henry Adams (1776), AM 1778

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 32, Diplomas: William Croswell, AM 1787

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 6, Diplomas: Paul Rolfe, AM 1795

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 30, Diplomas: Lafayette, LLD 1784

UAIII 15.18PF, Box 20, Diplomas: Samuel Locke, STD 1773

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