Harris Family Papers 1711-1909

Administrative Information

Biographical Sketch


Scope and Content Note

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Container List

3 files boxes Processor: Brian A. Sullivan
1.5 linear ft. Date: Fall, 1999
Updated October, 2009
Noah Sheola

Acquisition: The Harris Family Papers were donated by Catherine Harris (1844-1939), of 8 Holyoke Place, Cambridge, in 1929. There is evidence of a subsequent donation of materials in 1939. Although some of the correspondence relates to Thaddeus William Harris’s activities as librarian at Harvard College, these letters were likely found with his personal papers and not removed from the college library. Thaddeus William Harris’s papers at Harvard College were gathered by his successor, John Langdon Sibley (1804-1885), around 1856. These records (UAIII 50.8) include Thaddeus William Harris’ correspondence and belong to the Harvard University Archives collections.

Access: Access to folder #3.9 containing William Thaddeus Harris’s autograph collection is restricted. There are no other restrictions on items in this collection.

Permission to Publish: Requests for permission to publish from this collection should be made to the Executive Director.

Copyright: The Cambridge Historical Society does not hold copyright on the materials in this collection.

Biographical Sketch:

Thaddeus Mason Harris (Rev.) was born July 7, 1768 at Malden, Massachusetts to William and Rebekah Harris. Rebekah was the daughter of Thaddeus Mason of Charlestown, later, Cambridge. Thaddeus Mason was Middlesex Clerk of Courts for many years. William Harris ran a public writing school in Charlestown until the Revolution, and then moved to Lancaster. He died in 1778, having lost everything when the British burned Charlestown. Thaddeus Mason Harris lived with Ebenezer Morse of Chockset (part of Lancaster, now Sterling), who prepared him for Harvard. A hand injury put an end to a brief apprenticeship as a saddle-maker. He graduated from Harvard College in 1787 and taught school in Worcester.

In 1789 he returned to Cambridge to take the A.M. degree in theology and became the librarian of the Harvard College Library from 1791 until 1793. He was ordained as minister of First Parish Church in Dorchester on October 23, 1793 and was elected member of the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1792. In 1795 he married Mary Dix of Worcester, who would bear nine children. Thaddeus Mason Harris contracted yellow fever during an 1802 epidemic and later traveled to Ohio for four months to regain his health, publishing an account of the journey upon his return. He received a Doctorate of Theological Studies from Harvard in 1813. He resigned as minister from the First Parish Church in 1836 and died April 3, 1842 at Dorchester. He is buried in the Old North Burying Place in Uphams Corner, Dorchester.

Thaddeus William Harris was born November 12, 1795 at Dorchester, the eldest child of Thaddeus Mason and Mary Harris. Thaddeus William fitted for college at Dedham and Bridgewater, and received his A.B. degree from Harvard in 1815. He went on to attend Harvard Medical School, receiving his M.D. in 1820 and later practicing medicine with Dr. Amos Holbrook of Milton, Massachusetts. In 1824 he married Dr. Holbrook’s daughter Catherine. From 1826 to 1849 they had twelve children, one dying in infancy:

William Thaddeus (1826-1854)
Sarah Catherine (1827-1828)
Harriet Gardner (1829-1858)
Emma Forbes (1830-?)
Catherine (1832-?)
Charles (1832-?)
Amos Holbrook (1834?)
Clarendon (1836-?)
Edward Doubleday (1839-1919)
Thomas Robinson (1842-?)
Elizabeth (1844-1939)
Sarah Harriet (? -1849)

By 1819 Dr. Harris had developed a professional interest in botany and entomology, corresponding often with colleagues. In 1831 he became Librarian of Harvard College, holding that position until his death. The Harris family resided at Dunster Street in Cambridge until 1839 when they moved to Linden Street. They lived there until November 1843, moving once more to Holyoke Place. Dr. Harris was member of the Massachusetts Medical Society from 1823, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences from 1824, and member of the Massachusetts Historical Society from 1848. He authored dozens of articles on botany and entomology and died in Cambridge on January 16, 1856. He is buried in the Old Burying Ground, Cambridge.

William Thaddeus Harris was born January 25/26, 1826, at Milton, Massachusetts to Thaddeus William and Catherine Harris. He attended Hopkins Classical School, under John B. Henck, and later under Edmund B. Whitman. William suffered from a congenital weakness of the spine, resulting in its permanent curvature and a weakening his lower limbs. He entered Harvard College in 1842, excelling in Latin and philosophy, and received his A.B. in 1846. In 1845 he published Epitaphs from the Old Cambridge Burying Ground. In 1846 the Massachusetts Historical Society engaged him to revise the manuscript of Hubbard’s History of New England, reprinted in 1848 under his supervision. He transcribed the epitaphs of the old burying ground in Watertown, later published by his brother Edward in 1869 as Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Watertown.

He attended Harvard Law School, receiving his LL.B. and A.M. degrees in 1848, and worked at the law office of William S. Bowditch in Boston from 1847 until 1848. He was editor of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register in 1849 and Assistant Librarian at Harvard College and the Boston Athenaeum from 1850 until 1851. In 1853 William Thaddeus Harris was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. He proposed, but never completed, an updated revision of Prince’s Chronology of New England. Owing to his lifelong frail constitution, William Thaddeus Harris died on October 19, 1854.


Frothingham, Nathaniel L. Memoir of Rev. Thaddeus Mason Harris, D.D.. Cambridge: Metcalf and Company. 1855.

Gilman, Arthur, ed. The Cambridge of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-Six. Cambridge: Riverside Press. 1896.

Harris, Edward Doubleday. William Thaddeus Harris, A.M., LL.B. in Memorial Biographies of the New England Historic Genealogical Society: 1853-1855, Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society. 1881.

—. Memoir of Thaddeus William Harris, M. D. Cambridge: J. Wilson and Son. University Press. 1882.

Harvard College Class of 1846. Class Book. HUD 246.714f. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Harvard University Archives. Biographical Folders. Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts.

Scope and Content Note

The Harris Family Papers were arranged and organized upon its 1929 acquisition, but not processed until 1999. The arrangement of the collection and its finding aid were updated in 2009 in order to conform to the preferred format and practices of the Cambridge Historical Society. The earlier 1999 finding aid included an exhaustive inventory of the letters and autographs, which the researcher may find useful. However, the box and folder numbers specified in the earlier finding aid are no longer applicable.

The Harris Family Papers are arranged in four series.

Series I. Papers of Thaddeus Mason Harris, 1721-1841
Subseries A. Manuscripts and Letters 1805-1841
Subseries B. Publications 1721-1825

Series II. Papers of Thaddeus William Harris 1829-1857
Subseries A. Correspondence, 1829-1857, n.d
Subseries B. Notes and Research Materials, 1841-1852

Series III. Papers of William Thaddeus Harris 1711-1869
Subseries A. Letters, 1843-1853
Subseries B. Publications and Collected Historical Papers, 1711-1869

Series IV. Collected Papers of Elizabeth Harris, 1721-1909
Subseries A. Letters and Monographs, 1899-1902
Subseries B. Collected Papers and Publications, 1721-1909

Series I, PAPERS OF THADDEUS MASON HARRIS, 1721-1836, consist of the letters, sermons, and pamphlets of Thaddeus Mason Harris. Subseries A, Manuscripts and Letters, 1805-1841, contains his letters, including two from Abiel Holmes and one from Lucius Page (Box 1 Folder 1), manuscripts, including the records of the Juvenile Academy in Dorchester, of which he was a proprietor, from 1805-1815 (Box 1 Folder 2), and several other legal documents and notes. Most correspondence either regards his work as minister or are responses to inquiries made for the large number of sermons and pamphlets that he published. Subseries B. Publications, 1721-1825 contains sermons and pamphlets written or owned by Harris.

Series II, PAPERS OF THADDEUS WILLIAM HARRIS, 1829-1857, consist of the research materials and correspondence of Thaddeus William Harris. Subseries A, Correspondence, 1829-1857, consists of his correspondence, almost entirely incoming, including several letters from Edward Everett (Box 2, Folders 5 and 9), a brief note from Henry David Thoreau (Box 2, Folder 9), and one letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson (Box 2, Folder 8). Much of his correspondence regards his work as Harvard College librarian, but a number of letters also document his interest and research in the fields of botany and entomology. Subseries B, Notes and Research Materials, 1841-1852, contains notes on the history of Harvard College and the genealogy of the Appleton, Mason, and Dunster families.

Series III, PAPERS OF WILLIAM THADDEUS HARRIS, 1711-1869, consist of letters, published research, and collected historical documents. Subseries A, Letters, 1843-1853, consists of letters received by William Thaddeus Harris, much of which regards his pursuit of autographs of various prominent people. Subseries B, Publications and Collected Historical Papers, 1711-1869, consists of his autograph collection (Box 3, Folder 9) and collected historical documents, including a list of Cambridge grammar school masters from 1723-1809 with salaries, manuscript copies of Massachusetts General Court documents related to bridge maintenance funds for the city of Cambridge, and a 1711 deed transferring ownership of the First Church of Cambridge from Andrew Belcher to William Brattle, clerk (Box 3. Folder 7).

Series IV, COLLECTED PAPERS OF ELIZABETH HARRIS, 1721-1909, consists of letters and family papers maintained by Elizabeth Harris. When it has not been possible to determine which member of the Harris family maintained or authored items, they have been included here, as Elizabeth Harris was the last family member to own them. Subseries A, Letters and Monographs, 1899-1902, contains two letters Elizabeth Harris received from John Bartlett and Charles W. Eliot (Box 3 Folder 11), and her published monograph, A Family Story (Box 3 Folder 12). Subseries B, Collected Papers and Publications, 1721-1909, consists of letters and documents collected by the Harris family, including a letter from John Winslow to Thaddeus Mason, a copy of a 1639 court order on the petition of the inhabitants of Sudbury regarding ?, a copy of a 1743 court order ruling against Richard King (Box 3 Folder 13), two letters to Mercy Warren from Hannah Winthrop, ca. 1776, (Box 3 Folder 16), a letter from Noah Webster to Charles Dawes, a letter from Jonathan Belcher to James Winthrop, and a note from Charles Sumner to one Mr. Treadwell (Box 3 Folder 17). This subseries also contains two letters (1868) from Chinese diplomat C.M. Teh to Marshall T. Bigelow, in which Mr. Teh enclosed photographs of himself and his colleagues, and a death notice for Professor M. Yarnell of the U.S. Navy written by Rear Admiral John Rodgers in 1879 (Box 3 Folder 17).

Library of Congress Subject Headings

  • Cambridge (Mass.) – Citizens
  • Cambridge (Mass.) – Social life and customs
  • Harris, Thaddeus Mason, 1768-1842
  • Harris, Thaddeus William, 1795-1856
  • Harris, William Thaddeus, 1826-1854
  • Harvard University – History

The Harris Family Papers, 1711-1909 (inclusive), 1792-1853 (bulk)
[table colwidth=”5%|5%|90%”]

||Series I. Papers of Thaddeus Mason Harris, 1721-1841

||Subseries A. Manuscripts and Letters 1805-1841

1|1|Letters, 1807-1841, n.d.

1|2|Manuscripts, 1801-1836; includes Records of the Juvenile Academy in Dorchester, 1805-1810

||Subseries B. Publications, 1721-1825

1|3|Sermons by Thaddeus Mason Harris, 1796-1799

1|4|Sermons by Thaddeus Mason Harris, 1801-1807

1|5|History of Dorchester by Thaddeus Mason Harris, ca.1804

1|6|Sermons, 1811-1820

1|7|Sermons and Pamphlet, 1821-1836

2|1|Sermons and Pamphlets, 1721-1806

2|2|Sermons and Pamphlets, 1808-1825

||Series II. Papers of Thaddeus William Harris, 1829-1857

||Subseries A. Correspondence, 1829-1857, n.d.

2|3|Correspondence 1829-1843

2|4|Correspondence 1844-1845

2|5|Correspondence 1846-1847

2|6|Correspondence 1849

2|7|Correspondence 1849|

2|8|Correspondence 1850-1851

2|9|Correspondence 1852 – April 1855

2|10|Correspondence May 1855-1857

2|11|Harvard College tuition bills for William Thaddeus Harris 1843-1848

2|12|Correspondence, n.d.

||Subseries B. Notes and Research Materials, 1841-1852

2|13|Newspaper clippings, 1841, 1849

2|14|Notes on the history of Harvard College, n.d.

2|15|Copy of records of the Mass. General Court regarding Harvard College 1650-1712, n.d.

2|16|“A Record of the Descendants of Capt. Hugh Mason,” 1844

2|17|Notes and research materials on the Harvard College classes of 1787, 1803, 1814, and 1846, n.d.

2|18|Notes and research on Harvard College silver, 1847; includes correspondence.
||2.01 HFP – Plate I, Harvard silver
||2.02 HFP – Plate II, Harvard silver

2|19|Notes, plans, drawings and research materials on Harvard College buildings and land; includes correspondence, 1847.

3|1|Genealogical notes and research materials on the Dunster and Appleton families; includes correspondence, 1846.
||Notes, manuscript, and published article on Rev. “Jos.” Glover, 1847.
||Notes for James Savage’s Genealogical Dictionary, n.d.

3|2|List of the Harvard College Board of Overseers, 1852.

||Series III. Papers of William Thaddeus Harris, 1711-1869

||Subseries A. Letters, 1843-1853

3|3|Letters 1843-1846

3|4|Letters 1847

3|5|Letters 1848-1853

||Subseries B. Publications and Collected Historical Papers, 1711-1869

3|6|Financial Accounts of William Barton, 1771-1794

3|7|Historical documents, 1711-1845 (scattered)

3|8|“Tally List of Votes for Directory Library of Philadelphia” by Benjamin Franklin, n.d.
||Letter from Noah Webster to Thomas Dawes, 1809.

3|9|Autograph collection, n.d. RESTRICTED.

3|10|Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Watertown

||Series IV. Collected Papers of Elizabeth Harris, 1721-1909

||Subseries A. Letters and Monograph, 1899-1902

3|11|Letters from John Bartlett and Charles W. Eliot, 1899, 1902

3|12|A Family Story, n.d.

||Subseries B. Collected Papers and Publications, 1721-1909

3|13|Commonplace Book of William Harris.
||Papers of Thaddeus Mason 1743, 1762, n.d.

3|14|Notebooks, likely by Thaddeus William Harris.

3|15|Laws of Harvard College, by John Leverett, 1721.
||Abstract of the Nitmug [Nipmuc] Lands 1681-1684, n.d.
||Obituary of Rev. Hitchcock by Dr. Barnes, 1803.
||“Right Hand of Fellowship.” Given to Rev. E. Everett, 1814.

3|16|Biographical sketch of James Winthrop, likely by Thaddeus William Harris, ca.1822.
||Letters from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Warren, ca. 1776; includes transcript.

3|17|Clippings, n.d.
||Collected letters, 1765-1879.
||4.01. HFP — Dr. Sun, member of Chinese delegation.
||4.02. HFP — Dr. Sun.
||4.03. HFP — Unidentified Chinese man, possibly C.M. Teh.

3|18|Note by Eph. Mower concerning Betsy Thayer, 1805
||Notes on the arrival of ships, ca. 1850
||Notes on Caroline Onion, Martin Smith, and William Vaughan, ca. 1850.
||List of Selectmen, Towns Clerks, and Treasurers 1645-1702, n.d.
||Newspaper clipping, January 1854.
||List of books with prices, likely by Thaddeus William Harris, 1852.

3|19|4.04 HFP — Inauguration of Harvard President Lowell, 1909.

3|20|Meditations and Spiritual Experiences.
||The History of Cambridge.
||A Discourse on the Cambridge Church-Gathering in 1636; Delivered in the First Church, on Sunday, February 22, 1846

OS1||4.05 HFP — Portrait of Abiel Holmes. Lithograph from a painting.
||4.06 HFP — Portrait of Thaddeus Mason Harris. Lithograph from a painting (original belongs to the Boston Athenaeum).

Materials removed from the collection


A Sermon preached at Plymouth, (New England), A.D. 1621, by one of the Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Twenty. . . Boston: T.G. Bangs, 1815.

Belknap, Jeremy.A Discourse intended to Commemorate the Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.Boston: Belknap and Hall, 1792.

Butler, M.W. Caleb.Grand Lodge of The Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Mason of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in Union with the Most Ancient and Hon. G. Lodges in Europe and American According to the Old Constitutions.Boston: Press of the Bunker Hill Aurora and Boston Mirror, 1842.

Constitutions and By-Laws of the Association for Religious Improvement as Amended and Adopted May 24, 1827.Boston: Isaac R. Butts and Co., 1827.

Danforth, Thomas.An Oration pronounced July 4, 1804, at the request of the Selectman of the Town of Boston, in Commemoration of the Anniversary of the American Independence.Boston: Russell and Cutler, 1804.

Holmes, Abiel.The History of Cambridge.Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society for the Year 1800.Front wrapper signed by W.T. Harris.

Kendal, Samuel.  A Sermon delivered at Weston, January 12, 1813, on the Termination of a Century since the incorporation of the Town.Cambridge: Hilliard and Metcalf, 1813.

Letters on Practical Subjects from a Clergyman of New England, to His Daughter. Hartford: Huntington & Hopkins, 1822.Inscribed by Thaddeus Mason Harris, presented to his daughter-in-law, Catharine Holbrook Harris.

Lowell, James Russell. The Biglow Papers.Cambridge: George Nichols, 1848.

McKean, Joseph.A Sermon preached at Dorchester, June 25, 1817. . .on the Installation of the Rev. Edward Richmond, D.D. as its Pastor.Dedham: Abel D. Alleyne, 1817.

Thornton, J. Wingate. A Genealogical Memoir of the Gilbert Family, in both Old and New England.Boston: Printed for the author, 1850.

Whittier, John G.Leaves from Margaret Smith’s Journal in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, 1678-9.Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1849.


The Mercy Scollay Letters, 1775-1824, were removed and processed as a separate collection.