Campus & Community

Harvard History

2 min read
  • January 1659 – President Charles Chauncy describes a recent “great disorder at Cambridge” involving nighttime fighting “betweene the schollars and some of the toune.” Cambridge and Harvard thus chalk up their first recorded town/gown riot.
  • Jan. 24, 1764 – Amid the heavy wind and snow of a nor’easter, a fire left burning overnight ignites the first Harvard Hall (1677), destroying the building and nearly all of the College Library’s 5,000 books. Only 404 volumes (many of them out and overdue) are spared, including a single book from John Harvard’s original bequest of some 400 volumes (ca. 329 titles): “The Christian Warfare Against the Deuill World and Flesh” (1633-34) by John Downame. (In 1942, Downame’s book leaves Widener Library to become the first volume placed in the newly completed Houghton Library.) Also lost are scientific equipment and stuffed animals, portraits of presidents and benefactors, and a “Repositerry [sic] of Curiosities.” The disaster occurs during the College’s winter vacation, when the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony has been meeting in Old Harvard to avoid a smallpox epidemic in Boston.
  • Jan. 29, 1829 – Josiah Quincy, Class of 1790, becomes Harvard’s 15th President.
  • January 1872 – The Governing Boards establish the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (first known as the “Graduate Department”). From the start, the College and the Graduate School overlap, with teaching provided by the same instructors and undergraduates permitted to take even the most advanced courses with the instructor’s consent.- From the Harvard Historical Calendar, a database compiled by Marvin Hightower