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John Harvard Memorial
Town, State
Cambridge, MA
ID #
Compilation Date (Initial)
June 20, 2011
Compilation Date (Latest)
June 20, 2011
Site Worked Last
June 27, 2011
Noted historian Samuel Eliot Morison writes in his book “The Oxford History of the American People” that “Some 130 alumni of …Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin [universities] emigrated to New England before 1646.” This memorial remembers one of those alumni, a Puritan minister named John Harvard. Born 1607 in Southwark, Harvard was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, from 1627 to 1635. His having been capable of sitting successfully for both bachelor’s and master’s -- in the days of London’s 1625 plague -- may provide a reasonable measure of his family’s practical capabilities and middleclass artisan successes. Harvard married Anne Sadler in 1636; by 1637, his siblings and both parents had passed. In the summer of 1637, man and wife left London, and once in New England they settled in Charlestown. He was admitted as an inhabitant and became a freeman; they joined and he helped lead the community’s Puritan church. In under a year’s time following admission to the church, however, John Harvard died -- September 14, 1638 at the age of 30 – likely of tuberculosis, a consumptive, wasting condition. Harvard donated half of his not inconsiderable estate along with his entire library of some 400 volumes to support a recent creation of colony government: “the colledge at Newtowne.” Harvard’s contributions to the school were made in a nuncupative will. Harvard’s monetary and other gifts to the school were at that time apparently superior to all others it received, and thus in recognition colony government named the new school in the new town after him – Harvard College. Despite its being the first institution of higher learning in America, and now its oldest, Harvard College seems to have done all right. • The John Harvard statue – in bronze with a seated subject on a base of (what was described in the dedication program as) fine-hammered granite -- is an early work by an artist who would rise to the pinnacle of American sculpture, Daniel Chester French (1850-1931). This work was well-received. It pictures a young man, in Wayne Craven’s words, “holding a great Bible in his lap and deeply absorbed in the Puritan world of philosophy and image of the spirit as well as of the flesh. The sculptor concentrated on the quiet, profound, contemplative power of the subject….” Then as now, there are no known likenesses of the Puritan minister. French surmounted this barrier by using a stand-in as a model, a recent Harvard graduate, Sherman Hoar (class of 1882 and son of Concord’s Judge Hoar, who had pledged cannon for melting in order to use their bronze for French’s Minute Man). The inscription program on the granite base is balanced: on the left and right sides, facing the statue, are plaques of coats of arms, in relief, of Harvard and of Emmanuel College, respectively; and on the front and back of the base are inscriptions that identify the work’s sponsor and its subject. Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company, New York, performed the foundry work. The statue sits atop a base likely to have been created – only not yet by this writer confirmed – by Charles Howard Walker (1857-1936; a.k.a. C. Howard Walker). Boston-based and multifaceted intellectually, architect Walker taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 47 years. • When unveiled, the memorial was situated on the Harvard campus in the delta area, at the west end of Memorial Hall. It was later moved – one source, 25 years later; another, some 35 years later – to its current position in front of University Hall, in the Harvard Yard. • The work was presented to the College by General Samuel James Bridge, the sixth generation of Bridges in this new world. The Harvard Crimson at the time styled him “an adopted alumnus.” With the sculpture’s artist in attendance, the Harvard was unveiled October 15, 1884.
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Outstanding/notable citizen/person
Not Applicable
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Statue(s) w/wo pedestal
Stone/rock and metal
Average (life-size)
Designer 1
Artist/Artistic Group: French, Daniel Chester
Designer 2
Artist/Artistic Group: Walker , Charles Howard
Fabricator/Builder 1
Henry-Bonnard Bronze Co 
Fabricator City
New York 
Fabricator State
Fabricator Country
United States 
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Plaza arrangement
Not available in ABBREVIATED view
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Harvard Square
First Americans/Colonists 1492-1775
Comments and Notes
SITE: Plaza arrangement -- The statue is positioned at the core and in the spiritual center of the school's campus, Harvard Yard, in front of University Hall (designed by architect Charles Bulfinch, class of 1781, and itself designated a National Historic Landmark).
TITLE (Alternative): “The Puritan Scholar,” provided in McSpadden, p. 126.
DESIGN: Sculptor -- Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, part of a lengthy line of prominent New Englanders, including his father, a distinguished lawyer, judge and, later, federal official. By age 17 French was settled with his family in Concord, Massachusetts, via Cambridge, living comfortably among residents such as Emerson, Thoreau and the Alcotts. As McSpadden notes about French, “Fortune is not always hard-hearted, and genius not always under a cloud.” French’s initial instruction, in clay, was at the hands of Abigail May Alcott, a Concord neighbor who was teaching drawing at the time, in Boston. His first work of public note -- indeed, fame -- was the bronze Minute Man statue at Old North Bridge. He was in his early 20s.
SITE DEVELOPMENT: Start – Taken to be June 27, 1883, when at a dinner of the Alumni of Harvard University a letter was read by Mr. Joseph H. Choate, presiding, from Mr. Samuel J. Bridge, who would offer the school, if it were interested, a bronze statue of John Harvard by the sculptor Daniel Chester French. The school was interested and Bridge’s offer, accepted.
SOURCES [1]: Marty Carlock, A Guide to Public Art in Greater Boston, p. 144; Wayne Craven, Sculpture in America, pp. 392-395; J. Walker McSpadden, Famous Sculptors of America, p. 116; Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, pp. 111-115; Mark A. Peterson: “Harvard, John” at American National Biography Online, February, 2000 Access Date: June 19, 2011; SIRIS, IAS control number 77000368. Lorado Taft, “The History of American Sculpture,” pp. 310-318; Douglas Yeo, “The John Harvard Monument,” at
SOURCE [2]: “Memorial of John Harvard. The Gift to Harvard University of Samuel James Bridge. Ceremonies at the Unveiling of the Statue, October 15, 1884, with an address by George Edward Ellis, Cambridge: John Wilson and Son, University Press, 1884.”
SOURCES [3]: “Harvard Crimson,” published November 5, 1883; The New York Times, “The John Harvard Statue,” October 18, 1884; ibid, “Three American Statues,” October 12, 1884;
SITE MAINTENANCE: Community Group/Not For Profit -- Harvard University
COMMENT [1]: Inscription, back of base reads: “Given by / Samuel James Bridge / June 17, 1884”
COMMENT [2]: Timeline –
November, 1620:
Pilgrims settle Plymouth Colony.
October 28, 1636:
In Massachusetts Bay Colony, General Court founds a “colledge” at "Newtowne."
Spring/summer 1638:
Colledge likely took first students.
May, 1638;
Newtowne becomes Cambridge, named after the university in England.
September 14, 1638:
John Harvard dies; in oral will, colledge receives library and one-half of estate.
March 13, 1639:
General Court bestows on the colledge a new name: Harvard College.

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