Hancock, John. Letter to Samuel Locke, circa 1773. Manuscript/ink on paper. UAI 50.27.73 (Box 1, Folder 29), Harvard University Archives.

Colorful personalities loom large in Harvard's early history. These people shaped College life and governance through their interest in the intellectual life of the colonies, their administrative service, and their financial support, both real and anticipated. Notable among these individuals are:

John Harvard
In 1638, John Harvard's bequest of 400 books and half of his estate prompted the Massachusetts General Court to name the nascent college in his honor.

Ann Radcliffe
In 1643, Ann Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson, after whom Radcliffe College is named, gave Harvard its first endowed scholarship fund.

John Hancock
Appointed Harvard's treasurer in 1773 with the hope that the title would encourage a future legacy, John Hancock left the College finances in severe disarray after he left Boston to join the effort for American independence and became president of the Continental Congress.

Thomas Hollis
In addition to giving money and supplies, Thomas Hollis, whose name now graces Harvard's online library catalog, took an active interest in buying books for the library, thereby shaping early intellectual pursuits at the College.


Funds and scholarships
Women philanthropists

Additional Descriptive Materials
Digital content is embedded where available.
John Hancock collection
John Harvard family collection
Lists of books donated by Thomas Hollis
Papers of Eliphalet Pearson
Records of gifts and donations
Wills naming Harvard as a beneficiary