Harvard University

Important Early Harvard Related Letter

Important Early Harvard Related Letter


[HARVARD UNIVERSITY]. OLIVER STEARNS, Autograph Letter Signed, to Emory Washburn, May 6, 1872, Cambridge, Massachusetts. With EMORY WASHBURN, Autograph Letter Signed to William B. Washburn, May 6, 1872, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2 pp. total, 5" x 8"


Complete Transcript

                                                                        Cambridge May 6, 1872

Prof Emery Washburn LLD.

Dear Sir,

            The bearer, Samuel J. Barrows, is a member of the Divinity School, and a man of excellent capacity and character. He desires a note of introduction to Gov. Washburn whom I am not acquainted with, with reference to obtaining an appointment as Notary Public, for which office he regards himself as well qualified, which might give him some assistance while studying his profession. He has been in some of the public offices in Washington. He will be thankful for an introductory word, and is entirely worth of confidence.

                                                                        Truly yrs, Oliver Stearns



                                                                        Cambridge May 6.

His Excellency

Gov Washburn

Dear Sir

            I cheerfully comply with Dr. Stearns request contained in the accompanying note which explains itself, & ask permission to introduce Mr Barrows to your favorable notice, who will explain more freely his purposes & wishes.

                                                                        Very respectfully

                                                                        Your obt servt

                                                                        Emory Washburn


Historical Background

This pair of letters were written to aid divinity student Samuel J. Barrows in obtaining a license as a notary public to help support his theological education.  Professor Oliver Stearns of Harvard Divinity School writes to Professor Emory Washburn of Harvard Law School, who in turn writes to his distant cousin and successor as Massachusetts Governor William B. Washburn regarding the appointment.



Oliver Stearns (1807-1885) was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard with an A.B. in 1826 and an A.M. in 1829. He studied at the Harvard Divinity School and graduated in 1830. Ordained by the Second Congregational Church in Northampton in 1831, he served as pastor there until 1839 and at Third Church in Hingham from 1839 to 1856. He was president of the Meadville Theological School from 1856 to 1863, when he returned to Harvard Divinity School as professor. Stearns was the Parkman Professor of Theology from 1869 to 1878, and from 1870 also the Dean of the Divinity School. He retired in 1878 and died seven years later in Cambridge.


Emory Washburn (1800-1877) was born in Massachusetts and attended Dartmouth and Williams Colleges before studying law. After serving in the state legislature, he was elected governor in 1853 and served from January 1854 to January 1855. Later that year, he was offered a position as lecturer at Harvard Law School, which became a full professorship in 1856. He held that position until he resigned in 1876. He opened a private law practice in Cambridge, won election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and died in office in March 1877.


William B. Washburn (1820-1887) was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Yale College in 1844. He worked as a store clerk before establishing a chair factory, which made him wealthy. In 1849, he cofounded the Franklin County Trust Company and in 1857, moved to Greenfield, where he was elected president of the Greenfield Bank, a position he held for the rest of his life.  He served in the Massachusetts Senate in 1850 and in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1853- to 1855. He represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1863 to 1871 and in the U.S. Senate from 1874 to 1875.  From 1872 to 1874, he served as Governor of Massachusetts.  Harvard University conferred a law degree on Washburn in 1872.


Samuel J. Barrows (1845-1909) was born in New York City and after leaving school at an early age served as an apprentice in a printing shop. There he learned to be a messenger and telegrapher and also learned shorthand. He tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War but was rejected because of his poor health. He went to a hydropathic sanitarium for treatment and became the personal secretary of the presiding doctor. In 1871, he attended Harvard Divinity School, where he was the Boston correspondent of the New York Tribune. After graduating, he served for four years as minister of the First Parish in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He then edited the Unitarian newspaper, the Christian Register, for sixteen years.  Barrows was one of more than 350 civilians on the Yellowstone Expedition of 1873, under the command of Colonel David S. Stanley, to survey a route for the Northern Pacific Railroad.  Barrows was also a correspondent for the New York Tribune on the Black Hills Expedition of 1874, commanded by Lt. Colonel George A. Custer. He was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-fifth Congress (1897-1899), during which he opposed the Spanish-American War as a pacifist. He was an advocate for women’s suffrage, African American rights, assimilation of Native Americans, and prison reform. He also composed music and poetry, studied the Greeks, had an interest in metal crafting and camping, and studied foreign languages, of which he spoke three, read two, and was in the process of learning another when he died.


Condition: Very good. Letters are attached at top margin. Expected folds.



Item: 63874

Price: $500.00
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