Sept. 8, 1836 – Some 1,100 to 1,300 alumni flock to Harvard’s Bicentennial, at which a professional choir premieres “Fair Harvard.” The oldest living alumnus – 96-year-old Judge Paine Wingate, Class of 1759, of New Hampshire – cannot attend. The oldest marching alumnus is 86-year-old Samuel Emery, Class of 1774, of Philadelphia. Toward the end of a long day, guest speaker Josiah Quincy Jr., Class of 1821, makes a motion, unanimously adopted, “that this assembly of the Alumni be adjourned to meet at this place on the 8th of September, 1936.”
The celebration also brings word that President Josiah Quincy (J.Q.Jr.’s father) has recently found the first rough sketch of the College arms – a shield with the Latin motto “VERITAS ” (“Verity” or “Truth”) on three books – while researching his “History of Harvard University” in the College Archives. During the Bicentennial, a white banner atop a large tent in the Yard publicly displays this design for the first time: until Quincy’s discovery, the hand-drawn sketch (from records of an Overseers meeting on Jan. 6, 1644) had been filed away and forgotten. It becomes the basis of the seal officially adopted by the Harvard Corporation in 1843. Dropped in 1847 in favor of another seal, the “Quincy” seal was readopted in 1885, and still informs the version used today.
– From the Harvard Historical Calendar, a database compiled by Marvin Hightower