“Ancient and Valuable Gifts”: Silver at Colonial Harvard

Janine E. Skerry

In 1991, a Harvard Magazine editorial entitled “A Sterling Occasion” commented on the inauguration of the university’s new president:

The installation of Neil L. Rudenstine as Harvard’s 26th president on October 18 was one of the four or five most considerable public occasions at Harvard so far this century. What could be more normal at such a time than to bring out one’s favorite silverware—not to be used, but to be regarded? Proof that one has been around for a while. Evidence of wealth beyond the temporal . . . “These treasured pieces of silver symbolize Harvard’s continuity with its past,” University marshal Richard M. Hunt told the Installation-Day audience. “They are brought out only on special occasions such as this, when institutional memory sets the stage for . . . the future.”1

Throughout America’s history, the ownership of large quantities of silver has been regarded as a sign of high social status, wealth, and heritage. Possession of silver usually denotes class and continuity with regard to individuals or families, but the association of these traits with institutions is also possible. Such is the case with Harvard College, which used an exhibition of antique plate at the installation of its president to reinforce its elite position as the nation’s oldest institution of higher learning. The display of Harvard’s colonial silver at ceremonial occasions tangibly demonstrates the College’s awareness of these artifacts as embodiments of its past. Although the symbolic nature of these vessels is widely and unquestioningly recognized by the College administration, little is known about their original context and function within the Harvard community.2

Much of the College’s antique silver has been published and exhibited throughout the twentieth century but the objects have been treated principally as relics or art works. For example, in the 1888 publication Old Plate, Ecclesiastical, Decorative, and Domestic: Its Makers and Marks, John H. Buck described Harvard’s Stoughton cup as a good example of early-eighteenth-century silver. He also noted that the cup bore the “the well-known London maker’s mark, IC”—a mark now recognized for more than ninety years as that of John Coney of Boston. Despite this early error of attribution, Buck deserves recognition as the first authority to acknowledge in print the importance of American silver; he included a chapter on the topic and rightly gave credit for Harvard’s Browne cup to the Boston silversmith John Burt. In the hundred years since this early book, pieces of Harvard-associated silver have been published innumerable times, but the rationale behind the use of silver within an American collegiate context has never been extensively explored. This essay will focus on the specific practices pertaining to the ownership of silver within Harvard during the colonial period. Observations have been gleaned from a close study of Harvard’s archives, published college laws and histories, diaries, and surviving objects. Brief but important work done on this topic by William C. Lane in 1921 and by Kathryn C. Buhler in 1955 has also been utilized.3

During the colonial period, the practice of presenting a piece of plate to Harvard or its faculty occurred within one of three categories. Corporate silver, given to the College proper, was usually donated or bequeathed by an alumnus or benefactor in appreciation and acknowledgment. Fellow commoner silver was also given directly to the College. This category of items fulfilled contractual obligations from students who had been granted specific perquisites in return for the payment of fees and tribute. Finally, students bestowed tutorial plate upon Harvard instructors as partial compensation when classes concluded their studies. Today, this latter category of silver survives in the greatest quantities, but the corporate gifts and fellow commoner silver play the most important symbolic role within Harvard.4

Of the three primary categories of colonial silver associated with Harvard, corporate gifts were among the most ephemeral in nature. The bestowal of a gift upon the College was entirely dependent upon the good will of an individual toward the institution. Records of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century donations indicate the College was indeed blessed with the generosity of numerous benefactors, but the majority of the gifts were in the form of books for the library, lands or commodities that could produce revenue, or sums of money in pounds sterling.5 Nevertheless, some of the donations to the College were considered singular enough even in the early nineteenth century to have merited note in Harvard’s first published history:

In looking over the list of early benefactions to the College, we are amused, when we read of a number of sheep bequeathed by one man, a quantity of cotton cloth worth nine shillings presented by another, a pewter flagon worth ten shillings by a third, a fruit dish, a sugar-spoon, a silver-tipt jug, one great salt, one small trencher-salt, by others; and of presents or legacies amounting severally to five shillings, nine shillings, one pound, two pounds, & c., all faithfully recorded with the names of their respective donors.6

From such references it appears gifts of silver tableware to the College corporation were not commonplace and may have been regarded by donor and recipient alike as having significant commemorative value. Three pieces of colonial corporate plate are still extant today. The earliest silver object that survives with Harvard associations is the “great salt” of circa 1629–38 made in London and given by Richard Harris (fig. 1). The precise circumstances of its presentation to Harvard are unknown, and it is uncertain whether the gift was made prior to Harris’s death in 1644 or as a subsequent bequest. Although the great salt has been identified on several occasions as a piece of fellow commoner silver, this does not appear to be the case. No evidence has yet been put forth that Richard Harris was a matriculating student at Harvard, nor is he described in any college records as a fellow commoner. Therefore, this object is most appropriately placed in the category of corporate plate. The great salt is revered today at Harvard primarily for two reasons: it is the oldest surviving silver artifact given to the College and it is associated, albeit indirectly, with Harvard’s first president, the Reverend Henry Dunster.7

Fig. 1. Unknown maker, The Great Salt, London, 1629–38. Gift to Harvard College from Richard Harris, 1644. Silver; h. 41316 in. Courtesy, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Loan from Harvard University (881.1927). © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard University.

Second in pride of place among silver donors to Harvard is the Honorable William Stoughton, lieutenant, governor and chief justice of Massachusetts. Stoughton was one of Harvard’s greatest early benefactors, having personally provided £1,000 sterling in 1699 to construct a brick building containing chambers for sixteen students. Although Stoughton Hall was torn down in 1780,8 the monumental piece of corporate silver donated by this alumnus still survives today as testimony of his generosity toward Harvard. The large two-handled cup with cover was made by John Coney about 1700/01 and is engraved with the arms of its donor (fig. 2). As with Harris’s gift of the great salt, records of the actual presentation of Stoughton’s cup do not survive among Harvard’s papers. Fortunately, however, the date and occasion of the presentation of Stoughton’s gift are preserved in the diary of Samuel Sewall:

Monday, June 30 [1701]. Lt Govr said would go to the [Harvard] Commencement once more in his life-time; so would adjourn the Court to Friday, and did so. But was very much pain’d going home. Mr. Nelson, Secretary, and I visit him on Tuesday to disswade him from going, lest some ill consequence should happen. He consented, and order’d us to present his Bowl. After Dinner and singing, I took it, had it fill’d up, and drunk to the president, saying that by reason of the absence of him who was the Firmament and Ornament of the Province, and that Society I presented that Grace-cup pro more Academiarum in Anglia.9

Fig. 2 a (front) and b (back). John Coney (1655/56–1722), The Stoughton Cup, Boston, Massachusetts, 1701. Gift to Harvard College from the Honorable William Stoughton, 1701. Silver; h. 10 in. Courtesy, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Loan from Harvard University (877.1927). © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard University.

Latest in date among the extant colonial corporate silver is the two-handled covered cup made in the early 1730s as the result of the bequest of Colonel Samuel Browne (fig. 3). Like Stoughton, Browne was a generous benefactor to Harvard. His final gift, which also included two hundred acres of improved land, was entered into Harvard’s College Book IV on September 2, 1731:

An Extract taken from ye last Will & Testament of the Honble Samuel Brown Esqr, late of Salem in the County of Essex, deceased, viz.

Item, I give to Harvard College in Cambridge Sixty Pounds to be Improved for purchasing an hansom piece of Plate for the College, with my Coat of Arms upon it . . .10

Fig. 3 a (front) and b (back). John Burt (1692/93–1745/46), The Browne Cup (two-handled cup with cover), Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1731. Silver; 11½ in. Courtesy, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Loan from Harvard University (882.1927). © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard University.

It is dangerous to read too much into the symbolic function of just three pieces of silver, but it is worth noting that both forms represented in the corporate plate—the great salt and the two covered cups—are generally considered to have been symbols of status. A standing salt was the focal point of a dining or banqueting table from the medieval period until the decline of the form in the second half of the seventeenth century. Far more important than its function of holding salt for seasoning food, its location on the table identified to the assembled diners who was the master of the household and who were the most honored guests. Ownership of such an object represented both wealth and social station. Similarly, two-handled covered cups were also statements of power and prestige. The earliest rituals of courtly dining that evolved in Britain during the medieval period strictly dictated who had the prerogative of using covered dishes and cups. Long after such formulaic rituals had dissipated, covered cups continued to be regarded as symbols of honor and recognition suitable for presentation upon important occasions. The covered cup was both commemorative and communal, and in America, it is among the largest and most ostentatious of the silver forms that survive from the early colonial period.11

The second category of colonial silver at Harvard, that of the fellow commoners, provides insights into a socially elite category of students virtually unknown today. Patterning itself upon Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard admitted young men who were entitled to certain perquisites and absolved from certain chores. Although fellow commoners were linked in the first Harvard College laws of 1642–46 with those who were “a Knights Eldest Sonne or of Superior Nobility,” a chief concern for attaining this status seems to have been financial.12 The revised Harvard College Laws of 1734 describe the obligations and privileges of such students as follows:

None shall be admitted fellow commoner, unless he first pay one hundred pounds to the College Treasurer, for the time being; being for the use of the College; and every fellow commoner shall pay double tuition-money.

Fellow commoners shall have the privilege of dining and supping with the fellows [that is, the faculty] at their table in the hall, and shall be excused from going on errands, shall have the tide of Masters, and shall have the privilege of wearing their hats as masters do, but shall attend all dudes and exercises with the rest of the Class, and be alike subject to the Laws and Government of the College; and shall sit with their own Class, and in their place in the Class at the worship of God in the hall and meeting-house.13

Following traditions established at Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard made a further demand upon such students in its Laws of 1655, requiring that:

Every Fellow Comoner shall bring a peice of Silver plate to the Colledge to the value (at the least) of three poundes with his Name ingraven thereupon, which hee may have the use of whilest hee shall abide in the Colledge and shall leave it to the propriety of the Colledge when hee departs from it.14

Although dining with the faculty and being exempted from running errands for the upperclassmen may not seem like matters of consequence today, it meant fellow commoners probably ate better than most students (dining at the head table meant more food and hotter food) and that fellow commoners probably didn’t have to perform tasks such as delivering messages very often.

Estimates of the number of fellow commoners at Harvard during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries vary from nine to thirteen. Surviving documents and artifacts suggest that not all fellow commoners fulfilled the obligation of presenting a piece of silver to the College.15 Compliance seems to have been highest during the 1650s, when the practice of accepting such privileged students was most common. References to fellow commoners appear in the Harvard Laws as late as 1767 but the last student granted this status was George Ball of the class of 1734; there is no indication he ever presented a piece of plate to the College.16 Early fellow commoner silver mentioned in College inventories from 1654 onward includes such items as a “beer bowle,” a “fruite dish,” a “sugar spoon,” and a “stone pott tipt with silver,” the latter no doubt a piece of heavy German stoneware with silver mounts.17 Alas, we know the College’s stone pot must have been broken, or at least stripped of its mounts, by 1683. The inventory of that year includes “2 silver wine bowls” followed by the notation “1 Earthen jugge tipped with silver—of this ye 2 wine bowls abo[ve] mentioned were made.”18 These new wine bowls were probably the small, lightweight dram cups or wine tasters that were popular during the late seventeenth century.

Fig. 4. Edward Winslow (1669–1753), The Hedge Tankard, Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1689–1710. Silver; h. 51316 in. Courtesy of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Loan from Harvard University (879.1927). © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard University.

Only three pieces of Harvard fellow commoner silver still survive. The oldest piece has the most anonymous association with this exalted category of student; it is a tankard of circa 1690–1710, made by Edward Winslow of Boston and simply engraved “Harvard College” on its base (fig. 4). The early history of this object is unknown and its identification as fellow commoner silver rests upon indirect evidence. It is probably the “Lesser Tankard, not mark’d” which was recorded as weighing twenty-two and a half troy ounces in the 1736 inventory of Harvard’s plate.19 Although the Winslow tankard does not bear the name of its donor, a fellow commoner seems most likely. It does not correspond to any corporate gifts recorded in the Harvard Donation Books, nor does its inscription conform to the norms for tutorial silver.20 A letter written in 1828 by Professor Levi Hedge to the college treasurer regarding Harvard property helps to confirm its attribution, however. Hedge stated:

I have . . . in my possession a silver tankard, the history of which is the following. In the early times of the College, the sons of such gentlemen as claimed privileges of nobility, were distinguished from the other students by the privilege of dieting at the Tutor’s table in the Commons Hall. When these young gentlemen left the College, it was common for them to make some present to the gentlemen, as a body, in whose society they had been thus distinguished; and in this way several tankards and other articles of plate had been collected as ornaments for the Tutors’ table. On the discontinuance of this distinction, the articles collected were distributed among the officers, to be used as common property by them and their successors. When I was elected Tutor, in January 1795, I found the tankard . . . in the chamber of my predecessor. The tankard was damaged by long use—it was bruised in sundry places, and the lid was off. I have had it repaired by a silver smith, so that it is in a better state now than when it came into my hands. I have regarded . . . the tankard . . . as departmental property, to be transmitted to my successor in office.21

In contrast, the tankards given by the brothers John and William Vassall (class of 1732 and 1733 respectively) are very straightforward fellow commoner gifts (fig. 5). The tankards bear inscriptions on their bases which read “Donum Joannis Vaſsale Commensalis A: D: 1729” and “Donum Guilielmi Vaſsale Commensalis A: D: 1729.”22 “Commensalis” is the Latin term commonly used to designate a fellow commoner at both Cambridge and Oxford; the term was frequently used at colonial Harvard as well. The 1729 date in the inscription records the year in which the brothers were accorded the status of fellow commoners.23 In addition to the inscriptions, the canting (or punning) arms of the Vassall family are also engraved on both tankards.

The final category of silver associated with Harvard during the colonial period was tutorial plate. Unlike corporate gifts and the tribute demanded from fellow commoners, tutorial silver was given by the students not to Harvard, but to their instructors or tutors. Tutorial silver would have been the category of plate that most involved the students at colonial Harvard, and it is the type of collegiate silver that survives in the greatest quantities. Yet ironically, it is the category least imbued with symbolic meaning at Harvard today. This lack of extraordinary associational value no doubt results from the fact that tutorial silver was never meant to be the property of Harvard per se, but only of its faculty.

As with fellow commoner silver, the practice of presenting tutorial plate originated at Oxford and Cambridge and was carried over to Harvard with one very important distinction. Tutorial silver at Oxford and Cambridge became the property of the colleges, not the tutors. Each class of students entering Harvard was assigned to the care of one tutor, who, barring occasional exceptions, instructed that class in its studies throughout its four undergraduate years. A tutor’s income consisted of a salary from the College and a fixed amount from each student determined on a uniform basis by the school. Gifts of silver, often of a significant value, further supplemented a tutor’s remuneration. Since tutors were responsible for important decisions such as the placing (or ranking) of students within their class and the advancement of individuals in their studies, the presentation of private gifts and tutorial plate no doubt included some self-serving aspects on the part of Harvard students and their families.

Fig. 5. Joseph Kneeland (1698/99–1740), The John Vassall Tankard, Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1729. Silver; h. 61316 in. Joseph Kneeland, The William Vassall Tankard, Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1729. Silver; h. 61316 in. Gifts to Harvard College from John Vassall (Class of 1732) and William Vassall (Class of 1733) in 1729. Courtesy, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Loans from Harvard University (873.1927, 874.1927). © President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard University.

Requirements for being appointed as a tutor included having at least a baccalaureate degree, an intention to take the pulpit (that is, to become a minister), and being unmarried. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, two to four tutors were in residence at Harvard at any one time, with the College president occasionally serving in such a capacity in addition to his administrative duties. Although qualifications for the post remained intact, the Harvard College Laws of 1767 reformed the tutorial system and required individuals to specialize in specific areas of instruction. At this point the practice of presenting “public gifts”—that is, tutorial silver—was also discarded, and the levying of “one shilling and nine pence lawful money quarterly, in addition to the tuition-money” from each scholar made up the loss of income to the tutors.24 Thus, it is clear that at least by 1767, Harvard College recognized that gifts of tutorial plate had been a very real and expected part of an instructor’s salary. Not surprisingly, given the reform of Harvard’s system of instruction, the practice of presenting tutorial silver seems to have died out in the early 1770s.

The earliest known piece of tutorial silver still extant is a basin made by Jeremiah Dummer and presented to William Brattle in 1695 (fig 6). In his will dated June 21, 1716, Brattle stipulated that “I bequeath and present to the Church of Christ in Cambridge for a baptismal basin, my great silver basin, an inscription upon which I leave to the prudence of the Revd President [of Harvard College, John Leverett] and the Rd Mr. Simon Bradstreet.” The basin is inscribed “Ex dono Pupillorum 1695 A Baptismall Bassin consecrated, bequeathd & presented to the Church of Christ in Cambridge, his Dearly beloved Flock, by the Revd. Mr Wm Brattle Past of the Sd Church: Who was translated from his Charge to his Crown, Febr 15:1716/17.”25 Despite its later use within the church, this basin was not initially meant to be an ecclesiastical object. As a piece of tutorial silver, it was intended for the personal, domestic use of the tutor.

Among the best-known pieces of tutorial silver are those given to Nicholas Sever. Many of Sever’s silver objects remained in the possession of his descendants into the twentieth century and were the subject of a brief monograph written by Richard Hale in 1931. Nicholas Sever’s tenure as a Harvard tutor extended from 1716 until 1728; over the course of those twelve years he amassed approximately thirty-five pieces of silver. For example, a pair of candlesticks (fig. 7), a pair of chafing dishes, and a small tazza were presented to Sever in 1724; they are all engraved with that date and “Donum Pupillorum.”26 This Latin phrase, or the variant “ex donum pupillorum,” is the most frequently found inscription on tutorial silver. It translates as “die gift of the students.” The majority of the pieces of Sever silver that survived into the twentieth century were the work of John Burt. Although this may be a coincidence, it seems more likely that Nicholas Sever had some influence on the choice of silversmith.

Harvard’s longest-standing tutor, Henry Flynt, held office for fifty-five years and his personal diaries offer valuable insight into the practices associated with tutorial silver. Each year, seniors apparently selected one of their number to collect money for the tutor’s gift. Although Harvard’s regulations of 1732 stated “that the summ given by each pupil may not Exceed 205 and that each pupil may be at his Liberty to give any thing or not, any custom not withstanding” entries in Flynt’s diaries suggest he often knew in advance of the actual presentation who had contributed to the gift (and how much), its total monetary value, and the form it was to take.27 This perhaps explains the apparent patronage of a small number of silversmiths by longtime tutors such as Sever and Flynt.28

Fig. 6. Jeremiah Dummer (1645–1718), basin, Boston, Massachusetts, 1695. Silver; diam. 14⅝ in. First Parish Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo, courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Given the largess bestowed upon Nicholas Sever during twelve years at Harvard, it is not surprising that Henry Flynt attained an even greater cupboard of plate during his extensive association with the college. In 1716 Tutor Flynt received a pair of candlesticks made by John Coney; they are now in the collection of Historic Deerfield (fig. 8). Two years later, the students presented Flynt with an impressive two-handled covered cup, also by John Coney and weighing in excess of thirty-seven troy ounces (fig. 9). Father Flynt, as he was called by his young charges, eventually also accumulated a tankard, porringer, teapot, and coffeepot, among other items. According to an 1851 publication by John Bartlett, Harvard students—perhaps in desperation—even presented Flynt with a silver chamber pot in a morocco leather case after parading it through the streets of Cambridge on commencement day. Sadly, despite the determined efforts of several scholars, the Flynt thunder mug has never been located.29

Fig. 7. John Burt (1692/93–1745/46), pair of candlesticks, Boston, Massachusetts, 1724. Silver; h. (each) 7316 in. Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, bequest of H. F. du Pont (1967.1443.1-.2).

By the 1760s, gifts of tutorial silver became more standardized and the presentation of a tankard and a pair of canns became the norm. Stephen Scales received a tankard, now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from his students in 1768 (fig. 10). It is in extraordinary condition, with placement lines for the engraving still visible on the front of the body. The R. W. Norton Art Gallery in Shreveport, Louisiana, owns the matching pair of canns (fig. 11). As noted before, the Latin inscriptions that recorded its presentation distinguish tutorial silver. Gifts from early in the colonial period tended to be engraved simply with “ex dono pupillorum,” a date, and perhaps the tutor’s arms if space permitted. Pieces from the 1760s and 1770s, however, show a marked tendency toward lengthier and more florid inscriptions. The tankard and pair of canns made by Samuel Minott for presentation to Joseph Willard in 1770 are among the latest pieces of tutorial silver known to have survived. The tankard and one cann are now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Yale University Art Gallery owns the second cann. The Latin inscription on the tankard’s body opposite the handle is five lines long and more engraving covers the tankard’s base (fig. 12).

Fig. 8. John Coney (1655/56–1722), pair of candlesticks, Boston, Massachusetts, 1716. Silver; h. (each) 7 in. On permanent loan to Historic Deerfield, Inc., from Henry N. Flynt, Jr. (62.43a,b)

Fig. 9. John Coney (1655/56–1722), two-handled covered cup, Boston, Massachusetts, 1718. Silver; h. 10 in. Courtesy of the R. W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, Louisiana (F1104).

Fig. 10a. Paul Revere (1734–1818), tankard, Boston, Massachusetts, 1768. Silver; h. 9⅛ in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Edward N. Lamson, Barbara T. Lamson, Edward F. Lamson, Howard J. Lamson and Susan L. Strickler (1986.678).

Fig. 10b. Detail of engraving on Revere tankard illustrated in fig. 10a.

Fig. 11. Paul Revere (1734–1818), pair of canns, Boston, Massachusetts, 1768. Silver; h. (each) 5 in. Courtesy of the R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, Louisiana (F1210–11).

Fig. 12. Samuel Minott (1732–1803), tankard, Boston, Massachusetts, 1770. Silver; h. 8⅞ in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Philip Leffingwell Spalding Collection. Given in his memory by Katharine Ames Spalding and Philip Spalding, Oakes Ames Spalding, Hobart Ames Spalding (1942.246).

A wealth of documentation for Harvard’s colonial silver abounds in the College’s official records, in diaries, and in letters. A privately owned artifact is considered to have an exceptionally detailed provenance if its descent from one individual to another can be traced, but the more specific facts of how that teapot or tankard was used, where it was stored, and whether it was valued are almost never discernible. Yet it is precisely such information that can be teased from the written records of Harvard’s silver.

Six inventories of Harvard’s plate survive from the colonial period; four were compiled in the seventeenth century (1654, 1656, 1674, and 1683) and two in the eighteenth century (1736 and 1781). While the content and format of each inventory varies, collectively they contain descriptions of each object, names or initials of donors, values, weights, and physical locations. Although it is not known precisely why these lists were drawn up, it seems noteworthy that, with the exception of the 1656 account, each inventory was conducted within one year of a transition in Harvard’s presidency. This suggests that the president was invested with the fiduciary responsibility for the school’s tangible assets, including its silver. However, such a supposition raises questions about the absence of inventories for the other years in which administrative transitions occurred. Disregarding the motivations behind the creation of these inventories, the richness and variety of their details offers insights into the use and function of silver at Harvard College and raises questions as well. The terminology employed by the various inventory-takers suggests that certain forms had, at least initially, specific uses. For example, the “beer bowle” cited in 1654 retained this identity (with spelling variations) until 1683, when it became simply a “bowle.” Fifty-three years later in the next accounting it had disappeared without a trace.

The inventories also indicate the plate at Harvard was usually kept in the College Buttery during the seventeenth century.30 This conformed with “Certain Orders by the Schollars & officers of the Colledge to bee observed. written 28 March 1650,” which stipulated the butler and cook were to deliver a written inventory of all “vessels & utensils great & smal” to the president every quarter, and that scholars would be fined for taking vessels without the butler’s permission. If a student did not return an item in time for the next meal, he would be charged for its full cost; if a piece was damaged or lost, double its value would be levied. Should a vessel in the care of the butler be stolen, the guilty student would be penalized for four times the object’s value.31

Although only two inventories of Harvard’s silver survive from the eighteenth century, much information concerning the functional role of the College plate can be gleaned from these documents. Together with references from other records such as the College Books and personal diaries, a portrait of change from the usage of the previous century emerges. President Benjamin Wadsworth, who was in office from 1725 to 1737, compiled an index to College Book II which included the entry “College Plate . . . to be lodg’d wth ye President,” indicating perhaps that the butler was no longer responsible for the direct oversight of the silver.32 This notation also suggests that by Wadsworth’s time the College plate was not being used regularly at the head table in Commons, as had been the case during the earlier period.

Tutor Henry Flynt’s diary offers clues to the dispensatory power which the College’s president wielded by the eighteenth century. On June 25, 1729, Flynt recorded that “President [Benjamin Wadsworth] of his own Motion Sent mee by a Freshman Browns beaker.”33 The beaker in question was undoubtedly the piece of fellow commoner silver noted two years earlier in Wadsworth’s diary:

Sr Brown Senr, July 5. 1727 Having taken his Degree ye preceeding week, and now going to abide at home, brought a Silver Cup or long Beaker, as a gift of his Father’s ye Honble Coll. Samuel Brown to ye College, in consideration yt ye said Sr Brown in his first year at College, was excus’d from serving as Freshmen usually do.34

Although Flynt’s diary entry does not stipulate if Wadsworth gave him the beaker outright or simply consigned it to his use temporarily, the beaker is not listed among the College plate in the 1736 inventor, nor does it appear in subsequent compilations. The disappearance of this object from Harvard records, which postdate Flynt’s diary notation, suggests that the transaction was considered permanent.

Harvard Librarian Andrew Eliot in “An Account of Grants, Donations, and Bequests to Harvard College” drew up an eighteenth-century compilation of earlier inventories, with dates for the acquisition and/or first record of each object. Midway through the summary compilation of Harvard’s silver, this source contains the marginal notation “Several of these pieces of Plate are not now to be found.” Check marks next to entries in the list conform, with one exception, to objects that are still extant today.35 If indeed President Wadsworth’s presentation of Brown[e]’s beaker to Tutor Flynt was indicative of an acceptable disposition of the College’s plate, the practice may account for the missing objects.

Extensive supporting materials for the 1781 inventory provide insights into the dispersal of Harvard’s silver during the late eighteenth century. On April 4, 1780, the Harvard Corporation empowered a committee to receive from the executrix of the late Professor Winthrop “any Mathematical Instruments, Books, Plate, or any other articles in her possession belonging to the College.” One week later the Corporation met again and, after hearing the committee’s report,

Voted. That the Tankard received by them remain with the President till farther orders; & that the same Comtee. be continued & desir’d to receive any articles that may yet remain in the hands of the Executrix. & to make enquiry respecting the Plate belonging to the College, for what uses, & by whom it was given, & in whose hands it is now deposited, & make Report at the next Meeting in order that a fair acco. of the whole may be recorded in the Corporation books.36

Apparently the committee was not able to accomplish their mission by the next meeting of the Corporation for no report was entered on their behalf. This may have been due to the resignation of President Samuel Langdon, for on September 15, 1780, the Corporation voted “That the late President Langdon be desired to deliver to Mr. Professor Wigglesworth the Cabinet, with all the books & papers belonging to the College, the Plate in his possession to remain till further order.”37 On July 4, 1781, a charge was given once again “That Mr. Wigglesworth & Mr. Williams be a Committee to take an inventory of the College plate to be recorded in the College books, and to take receipts of each of the Governors of the College, for any part they may have in their hands.” At the same meeting, it was also agreed “That Mr. Professor Williams have the use of a small silver tankard, which was formerly in the possession of the Honble. Dr. Winthrop (deceased), he giving a receipt in the College books.”38

Finally, on August 28, 1781, the Corporation accepted the report inventorying the plate, more than sixteen months after the initial charge had been issued.39 During the interim a new College President had been appointed, and one piece of silver (the tankard inscribed “Harvard College”) had been retrieved from the estate of one faculty member and had been signed out to the use of another. The five individuals who were recorded as in possession of the College silver were all members of the Corporation. By 1781 when the inventory was completed, Edward Wigglesworth was both acting president of Harvard and the Hollis Professor of Divinity. Not surprisingly, most of the plate was in Wigglesworth’s care, including the out-of-fashion great salt and the two covered cups given by Governor Stoughton and Colonel Browne. More functional forms for personal use were assigned to the other Corporation members. Samuel Williams, Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural History from 1780 to 1788, was in possession of the tankard marked “Harvard College” on its base. Each of the three tutors was also given the use of a drinking vessel. John Mellen and William Bentley, who both served as tutors from 1780 to 1783, had the Vassall tankards. Charles Steams, whose tutorial tenure at Harvard was limited to 1780–81, held “A large Tankard with a variety of Arms.”40

Although no formal inventories are extant from the nineteenth century, a variety of records suggest a continuation of the pattern of settling Harvard’s accounts during the transition to a new presidential administration. Within these documents are details that reveal how the College plate was being used and who had custodial responsibility for it. A volume of original letters to Corporation officers from a transition year is entitled “College Property within the Walls—1828.” In response to the request for personal accounts of all Harvard possessions scattered between the faculty and officers of the school, it is filled with lists of books, furniture, scientific apparatus, and even skeletal specimens!

Four entries contain information relevant to Harvard’s silver. The first pertinent missive is an inventory dated 1828 and signed by the outgoing president, John Thornton Kirkland. In a postscript to the list, Kirkland added “Two silver Tankards, and one silver salt-cellar.”41 The postscript addendum of the three pieces of College plate suggests they may have been forgotten items amidst the jumble of furnishings. A later and more expanded list of College possessions compiled by President Kirkland on April 15, 1828, offers a similar sense of oversight. It commences with the salutation “To the Committee of the Corporation of Harvard College, appointed to receive the Papers, Books, & other articles of College Property, in the hands of the President,” and contains an extensive, detailed, room-by-room list of furnishings. The west parlor, east parlor, east back room, lower front entry, front chamber west end, dressing room of the east front chamber, and back study are all duly inventoried. Once again, at the end of the list, a final notation is added: “The Communion service, a Christening Bowl & two Urns used at Commencement, in the closet of [the] back chamber, East end.”42 These entries reveal that Harvard’s president had personal custody of some of the school’s silver, including the great salt, two tankards (probably those given by the Vassalls), and the two covered cups given by Stoughton and Browne. The latter, now called “urns,” were apparently ceremonially used or displayed at Commencement by 1828. By that point Harvard had also established a College chapel, and the silver for that office was also stored in the president’s custody.

But what of the remainder of Harvard’s plate? Henry Ware, Hollis Professor of Divinity, served as acting President during the transition year of 1828–29. It appears that he assumed custody of all of Harvard’s plate during that period, for one last entry in the receipts of 1828 links him with the College’s silver. It lists seven pieces of “Plate belonging to the Chapel” and six pieces of “Old Plate belonging to the College.” The latter list specified two urns with covers, three tankards with covers, and one salt; all of these items were “Delivered to the Rev. Dr. Ware April 15.1828. by the Committee of the Corporation.”43 One year later the silver was recalled and delivered to the new president.44

The 1830s and 1840s were a time of introspection for Harvard College. In 1833 the first history of the school was posthumously published; the work of Harvard Librarian Benjamin Peirce, it was entitled A History of Harvard University from Its Foundation, in the Tear 1636, to the Period of the American Revolution. In recognition of the two hundredth anniversary of the College, in 1836 the Corporation requested President Josiah Quincy to write an official history. His two-volume History of Harvard University appeared in 1840. The self-reflection generated by these works may have been responsible, at least in part, for the earnest interest in Harvard’s colonial plate that is evident in the archival records pertaining to 1847. Additional factors also engendered an awareness of symbolic links with Harvard’s past. The year of 1845–46 had been a period of presidential transition once again, and the installation of Edward Everett as the new president was accompanied by much public fanfare.45 Everett’s inauguration ceremony was patterned after the earliest known description of such an occasion at Harvard. When John Leverett was installed as the school’s president in 1708, the College record books, charter, seal, and keys were prominently featured as symbols of office.46 The latter items were undoubtedly the keys to the College butter where the silver was then stored; long since lost, the originals were replaced at Everett’s installation with a set of oversize silver keys, inscribed in Latin, which were commissioned from Obadiah Rich (working ca. 1830–50) of Boston by Harvard’s Steward, William Gordon Steams, in 1846.

A letter of March 5, 1847, from Steams to President Everett suggests that the records of the College silver were in disarray, and that efforts were being made to correct the situation:

Mr. Whitney informs me that he gave to Mr. Francis, former Treasurer of the College, in or about the year 1830, a receipt for the plate used in the Commons viz. the spoons; but that he has never given any receipt for any other articles of plate. If this receipt so given to Mr. Francis cannot be found, Mr. Whitney is willing to give a new one.

The nine large spoons marked “H.C.” are used only at Commencement dinners, and may, if you desire it, be placed with the other articles not used in the halls.

As there is no room in the Bank vault for the plate chest, I would respectfully suggest that an order be penned “that the plate be kept in Gore Hall.”

I send herewith a Copy of the schedule made by Dr. Harris.47

Harvard Librarian Thaddeus William Harris drew up the attached compilation; it includes a mixture of chapel silver, colonial plate, and newer items (such as the spoons) that were in current use in the dining hall. Harris’s list is noteworthy for being the first to include silversmiths’ marks as identifying features. His choice of terminology (e.g., goblet for tankard) is both curious and confusing:

  • 2 Bread Plates
  • 1 Large Urn, marked, on the bottom, “John Burt.”
  • 1 do. " on the side I.C. [these initials are enclosed in an oval]
  • 1 Goblet, marked on the bottom “Donum Gululmi Vassall, Commensalis, 1729.”
  • 1 do. marked the same, except “Johannis” for “Gululmi.”
  • 1 old Goblet, on the bottom “Harvard College.” (Repaired)
  • 1 Salt, marked IGE [these initials are enclosed in a square]
  • 4 Drinking vessels, for Communion.
  • 12 [this appears to be a total of the number of items listed above]
  • 72 large silver spoons, College Arms.
  • 9 " " " “H.C”
  • 189 (originally 192) silver tea spoons, College Stamp.48

Harris’s personal interest in Harvard’s plate is reflected in a letter that he wrote to President Everett on March 5, 1847, the same date as Stearns’s epistle:

The College plate, which has been in the hands of a silver-smith, was brought to the Library this morning, and was unpacked in my presence, & compared with the list, & found to correspond with it. . . .

I venture to suggest . . . that the Donor’s names should be graven on all the articles, which are not so marked already. The donor of the large covered bowl or vase, I determined immediately on examination, to have been Govr. Stoughton. Probably the Corporation books, and the coats of arms & cyphers on the plate, will enable you to ascertain the names of other donors.49

Harris’s letter provides the source for the decision to embellish Harvard’s colonial plate with mid-nineteenth-century inscriptions recording donors’ names. The resulting upside-down legend engraved on the great salt is indicative of the form’s unfamiliarity by 1847 (fig. 13). Although Harris correctly identified it in his listing of plate, the great salt was old-fashioned enough to cause confusion about its orientation. However, the letter’s initial reference to the plate being with a silversmith is unclear. Was it stored there? Or had it been sent to a craftsman for repair and cleaning?

Surely the latter was the case later in the year, when Harris’s suggestion was acted upon. In a letter of August 27, 1847, to President Everett, Harris describes the inscriptions which were added to the great salt and to the gifts of Stoughton and Browne; he identifies the cups as “the two large vessels of silver, set upon your table in the College Hall, on Commencement day, [that] may be called vases.” The missive continues:

The inscriptions are beautifully engraved, and the glass dish, made to fit the “old salt,” is very neat and appropriate. These three vessels, with the two tankards, given by the Vassals, and another tankard, of very ancient pattern, the gift of an unknown donor, were much admired yesterday (Thursday), when they were displayed for examination on a table in the Library. I am sorry that the College Keys [given in 1846 by Steams] were not at hand to be shown at the same time. . . .

It was my intention to have sent my history of the salt seller, with some account of the vases to the Cambridge Chronicle; and I am glad that you propose to include the former, entire, in your report of the remarks made at the dinner.

Until last winter, when these ancient & valuable gifts were brought from their hiding-places, there were not two persons belonging to College who knew anything about them, and their history was entirely forgotten.50

Fig. 13. The Great Salt (see fig. 1) as engraved and photographed upside down.

Harris’s need to identify the correct name for the vessels displayed at the President’s table on Commencement day and his remarks associating the new silver keys with the older objects indicates the transformed function of the colonial plate as signifiers of history and status. It mattered little if the original use of the great salt was misunderstood; its role as a symbol of continuity with the past was sufficient. Certainly this was its effect on the noted chronicler of Harvard graduates, John Langdon Sibley. He recorded in his diary:

August 26 [1847] Thursday . . . Yesterday several pieces of plate belonging to the College, having just been marked & polished were exhibited at dinner; one of which, was given by Harris, brother of the wife of President Punster was given in 1644.51

Thaddeus William Harris’s interest in Harvard’s colonial silver continued throughout the remainder of 1847, culminating in a rather rambling letter written in December of that year to the Honorable Samuel A. Eliot. Although his notes and correspondence indicate he hoped to publish an essay on the topic, no such writings have been located.52

From 1847 onward the role played by Harvard’s colonial plate changed considerably. During the seventeenth century silver was demanded of fellow commoners and was used in an almost medieval manner at a head table emphasizing the hierarchical class structure which existed among the president and officers of the Corporation, tutors, fellow commoners, senior and junior sophisters, sophomores, and freshmen. Silver was held in regard during this period because it had monetary value, functional usefulness, and class significance. Throughout the eighteenth century the role of silver at Harvard College gradually diminished. Changes in dining styles rendered certain forms, like the great salt, obsolete. The large two-handled covered cups given by Stoughton and Browne were primarily ceremonial in nature and their use appears to have been limited to public occasions such as commencement dinners. Although silver continued to have monetary worth, its function within Harvard was largely commemorative as both corporate and tutorial gifts. Vestiges of the class associations formerly ascribed to the plate can be found in the practice of granting personal use of College silver to officers such as the president, professors, and tutors.

If the records of 1828 and 1847 are to be believed, by the nineteenth century Harvard’s silver was largely neglected and forgotten. While the president still retained possession of some of the plate, other objects had been lost or damaged. The reclamation of Harvard’s colonial silver in 1847 as potent symbols of the past seems to have been the direct result of the larger historical concerns of an institution celebrating its bicentennial. Although the original function of the great salt was lost, the object was imbued with new status as the oldest relic of the college. Later in the nineteenth century Harvard’s silver assumed yet another dimension. In the first book to evaluate the production of American colonial silversmiths, John H. Buck gave Harvard’s plate equal footing with the work of craftsmen from England and Europe. His 1888 publication may illustrate the great salt upside-down and suggest that the Stoughton cup was the product of a London silversmith, but his imprimatur upon these objects as works of art is nonetheless significant.53 Harvard’s colonial plate has played a role in almost every major art museum exhibition of American silver from the seminal first presentation in 1906 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, onward. By 1959 the College felt it was necessary to ask the assistance of the leading expert on American colonial silver in discouraging loan requests for the Harvard “State Plate.”54

Today, key pieces of Harvard’s silver are publicly displayed at the University’s Fogg Art Museum. At “considerable public occasions,” like a fete for Prince Charles in honor of Harvard’s 350th anniversary or the installation of a new president, the six surviving colonial vessels are brought out “to be regarded.” Although the functional nature of Harvard’s silver has changed dramatically over the centuries, its symbolic role as a signifier of status and continuity endures.


1 “A Sterling Occasion,” editorial, Harvard Magazine 94, no. 3 (January/February 1992).

2 This essay is drawn from Janine E. Skerry, “Silver at Harvard College” (Ph.D. diss., Boston University, forthcoming). The author would like to thank Harvard University for permission to cite from its archives and museum files.

3 William C. Lane, “Early Silver Belonging to Harvard College,” Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts (hereafter cited as CSM) 24 (1923): 165–76; Mrs. Yves Henry (Kathryn C.) Buhler, “Harvard College Plate,” Connoisseur Tear Book (1955): 49–57.

4 Each of these three categories of collegiate silver has some precedent in the practices established earlier at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England. Tutorial silver at those institutions, however, was given directly to the colleges rather than to the instructors. Harvard seems to have been unique among the early colonial American colleges in its extensive use of silver based on English collegiate precedents. Three pieces of American colonial silver associated with Yale College are known today: a teapot dated 1745 made by Jacob Hurd (1702/03–58) of Boston for the Rev. Thomas Clapp, who became rector of Yale College in 1740; a bowl dated 1745 made by Cornelius Kierstede (1657–1757) of New York and New Haven, Connecticut, for Thomas Darling, who served as a tutor at Yale College from 1743–1745; and a tankard dated 1750 made by Samuel Casey (ca. 1724–ca. 1780) of Rhode Island for Ezra Stiles, tutor at Yale from 1749–55. Although each object is engraved with a presentation inscription, there is little evidence to suggest the systematic use of tutorial silver at Yale. See Patricia E. Kane, ed., Colonial Massachusetts Silversmiths and Jewelers: A Biographical Dictionary (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1998), 611, and Kathryn C. Buhler and Graham Hood, American Silver: Garvan and Other Collections in the Tale University Art Gallery, 2 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press for the Yale Art Gallery, 1970), 1:231, 289–91.

5 An Account of Grants, Donations, and Bequests to Harvard College: 1636–1776 and 1784–1839, compiled by Andrew Eliot, MS, 2 vols., Harvard University Archives, UAI.15.420. Additionally, six inventories specifically detailing Harvard’s silver survive from the colonial period. Taken in 1654, 1656, 1674, 1683, 1736, and 1781, they record from four to fifteen silver or silver-mounted objects with the peak number of items listed in the 1683 accounting.

6 Benjamin Peirce, A History of Harvard University, from Its Foundation, in the Tear 1636, to the Period of the American Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Brown, Shattuck, and Company, 1833), 17.

7 The great salt was previously owned by Harris’s sister, Elizabeth, and her first husband, the Rev. Jose Glover; after Glover’s death Elizabeth wed Dunster in 1641. With antecedents in the so-called standing salts of the medieval period, a great salt was an extremely fashionable, rare, and elitist table ornament in the American colonies during the 1640s. It would have remained on the table throughout the meal, functioning as much as a symbol of rank as a condiment container. A small circular depression between the three scrolls or knops was the receptacle for the salt; after the main courses the knops on top of great salt would be used to support a dish for fruit.

8 Peirce, History of Harvard University, 64–65, 70–71.

9 Samuel Sewall, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, ed. M. Halsey Thomas (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973), 1:449–50.

10 CSM, 16:846.

11 Philippa Glanville, Silver in England (London: Unwin Hyman, Ltd., 1987), 327–28.

12 Samuel Eliot Morison, The Pounding of Harvard College (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), 336.

13 Peirce, History of Harvard University, appendix XX, 125–26. The sum of money required prior to the acceptance of an individual as a fellow commoner seems to have varied over time. In this same volume Peirce quotes a letter of 1831 from Paine Wingate, class of 1759, who cites the amount as “thirteen pounds six and eight pence” (313).

14 Excerpted from “The Lawes of the Colledge published publiquely before the Students of Harvard Colledge, May 4. 1655,” as reprinted in CSM, 31: 331. Dating from the seventeenth century, fellow commoners at Cambridge were required to present either a piece of plate or the funds to purchase of such an item; the custom of fellow commoner silver survived at Cambridge until the end of the nineteenth century. See R. A. Crighton, Cambridge Plate (Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum, 1975), 7–8.

15 See CSM, 15:cxxxix–cxl. The addition of George Ball, class of 1734, as a fellow commoner was not noted in this source; he would raise the number such students to thirteen.

16 CSM, 31:348, 380. On August 18, 1730, the President and Fellows of Harvard voted to admit George Ball as a fellow commoner. Faculty Records I, 1725–1752, 30, MS Harvard University Archives, UA III 5 5.2.

17 These items are among those noted in the Harvard College silver inventories taken in 1654 and 1656. See College Book III, 40–42, as published in CSM, 15:207–9.

18 See College Book I, 85, as published in CSM, 15:73.

19 See College Book IV, 192, as published in CSM, 16:651.

20 Kathryn C. Buhler has noted that the inscription “Harvard College” is rather exceptional on the school’s colonial plate. See Buhler, “Harvard College Plate,” 55. Although this is correct with regard to English language designations for the College, variations of its name in Latin are frequently found on tutorial plate of the 1760s and 1770s. See, for example, Buhler, “Harvard College Plate,” illus. x and xi; also see Janine E. Skerry, “The Revolutionary Revere: A Critical Assessment of the Silver of Paul Revere,” in Paul Revere—Artisan, Businessman, and Patriot (Boston: Paul Revere Memorial Association, 1988), 49–50, 164.

21 College Property within the Walls—1828, 53, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI 20.828. Due to Professor Hedge’s letter, this object has been dubbed the Hedge tankard within some of Harvard’s records.

22 The arms, consisting of a cup or vase and the sun or sol, are a rebus for the name Vassall. The armorial crest also conforms, being a ship or vessel. For more on this, see F. B. R[obinson], “The Vassal Tankards,” Harvard Alumni Bulletin 38, no. 3 (October 11, 1935): 82–84; and Harold T. Bowditch, “The Vassal Tankards—To the Editor of the Bulletin,” Harvard Alumni Bulletin 38, no. 5 (October 25, 1935): 154–55.

23 The Faculty Records for October 18, 1729, indicate that “Agre’d yt Vassal Sophimore & Vassal Freshman be admitted Fellow-Commoners.” See Lane, “Early Silver,” 172.

24 See CSM, 31:351, 377; and Peirce, History of Harvard, 246–47.

25 As quoted in E. Alfred Jones, The Old Silver of American Churches (Letchworth, Eng.: Arden Press for the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, 1913), 109. Jones states that Brattle was a tutor and fellow at Harvard from 1707 to 1717. This does not appear to be correct.

26 See Richard Walden Hale, Catalogue of Silver Owned by Nicholas Sever, A.B. 1701, in 1728 (Boston: privately printed, 1931).

27 Edward Thomas Dunn, Tutor Henry Flynt of Harvard College, 1675–1760 (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, 1968), 380–81.

28 Among the several silversmiths patronized by Henry Flynt, John Coney and Jacob Hurd seem to have been especially favored with Harvard tutorial commissions.

29 Walter M. Whitehill, “Tutor Flynt’s Silver Chamber-pot,” in CSM, 38:360–63.

30 Located conveniently near the Commons Hall, Harvard’s Buttery functioned much like a combination storehouse, student commissary, and recording office during the early years of the college. Dining utensils were stored there, and sundry foods, beverages, and supplies were available for sale to the students. In addition to maintaining accounts of student purchases, records of attendance were also kept by the Butler, who was in charge of the Buttery. See A Collection of College Words and Customs (Cambridge, Mass.: John Bartlett, 1851), 35–38.

31 College Book I, 49–50, as published in CSM, 15:32–34.

32 College Book II, Index by Benjamin Wadsworth, as published in CSM, 15:xix, xxii.

33 Diary of Henry Flynt, II, June 25, 1729, as cited in Dunn, Tutor Henry Flynt, 308–9.

34 Benjamin Wadsworth’s Book Relating to College Affairs, 47, as published in CSM, 31:467. The presentation of this beaker to President Wadsworth fulfilled Brown[e]’s obligations as a fellow commoner, for on September 2, 1723, he was admitted to that status by a vote of the Corporation. See College Book IV, 92–93, as published in CSM, 16:500–501.

35 An Account of Grants, Donations, and Bequests . . . , vol. 1, 1636–1776, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI.15.420. Harvard Librarian William C. Lane dated this summary to 1773 for reasons which are unclear to this author. See William C. Lane, “Early Silver Belonging to Harvard College,” CSM, 24:169.

36 Corporation Records III, 1778–1795, 74–75, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI 5 30.2.

37 Corporation Records III, 1778–1795, 94–96, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI 5 30.2.

38 Corporation Records III, 1778–1795, 124, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI 5 30.2.

39 Corporation Records III, 1778–1795, 128, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI 5 30.2.

40 Stearns’s undated receipt to the Committee for the tankard blazoned its arms in detail and indicated that a portion of the ornament had broken from its cover. When he resigned his appointment as tutor on November 8, 1781, Stearns’s letter to Professor Wigglesworth indicated that he would deliver the tankard along with a receipt for books and student records in his possession. No further mention of the tankard has been found beyond this date. See Undated Receipt from Mr. Stearns to Revd. Professor Wigglesworth, Committee Report on College Silver 1781, College Silver, Letters and Manuscripts, MS, Harvard University Archives, HUB 3790.2; and Charles Steams to [The Revd. Professor Wigglesworth and] the Corporation, November 8, 1781, College Silver, Letters and Manuscripts, MS, Harvard University Archives, HUB 3790.2. Information on officers of the College, their status, and tenure has been obtained from Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Harvard University, 1636–1905 (Cambridge, Mass.: privately printed, 1905).

41 College Property within the Walls—1828, 43, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI 20.828.

42 College Property within the Walls—1828, 68, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI 20.828.

43 Harvard constructed a University chapel in the early nineteenth century and began to acquire gifts of ecclesiastical silver for it shortly thereafter. College Property within the Walls—1828, 67, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI 20.828.

44 College Book XI, June 18, 1829. See College Silver, Letters and Manuscripts, MS, Harvard University Archives, HUB 3790.2.

45 John Rosario-Perez, “A Ceremonious Tradition,” Harvard University Gazette, October 18, 1991, 14–15, 17.

46 Sewall, Diary, 1:585.

47 G. W. Steams to President Everett, March 5, 1847, Harvard College Papers, 2nd series, 1846–47, 14: 271, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI.5.125.

48 Harvard College Papers, 2nd series, 1846–47, 14, 272, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI.5.125.

49 T. W. Harris to President Everett, March 5, 1847, Harvard College Papers, 2nd series, 1846–47, 14: 270, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI.5.125.

50 T. W. Harris to President Everett, August 27, 1847, Harvard College Papers, 2nd series, 1847–48, 15:110–111, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI.5.125.

51 Private Journal of John Langdon Sibley of Harvard, 1846–1865, 1:132, MS, Harvard University Archives, HUG 1791 72.10.

52 See transcribed notes of Thaddeus W. Harris, 1847, in College Silver, Letters and Manuscripts, MS, Harvard University Archives, HUB 3790. Also, T. W. Harris to Hon. Samuel A. Eliot, December 19, 1847, Harvard College Papers, 2nd series, 1847–48, 15:249–50, MS, Harvard University Archives, UAI.5.125.

53 J. H. Buck, Old Plate, Ecclesiastical, Decorative, and Domestic: Its Makers and Marks (New York: Gorham Manufacturing Company, 1888), 97, 108–9.

54 Agnes Mongan, Fogg Museum, to Mrs. Yves Henry Buhler, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, November 19, 1959, MS, Inventories and Notes on Silver, Registrar’s Files, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.