Harvard has long been a citadel of affluence and prestige, but its frontier beginnings should not go overlooked.
HARVARD UNIVERSITY, the oldest institution of learning in the United States, was founded in Cambridge, Mass., in 1636. At a meeting of the General Court of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, convened on 8 September, six years after its first settlement, it was voted to give £400 toward a “schoale or colledge,” for the purpose of educating the “English and Indian youth in knowledge and Godliness.” The ensuing year 12 of the eminent men of the colony, including John Winthrop and John Cotton, were authorized “to take order for a college at New Towne.” The name Cambridge was adopted soon afterward in recognition of the English university where many of the colonists had been educated. In 1638 John Harvard, a young Non-Conformist minister, died in Charlestown, leaving to the college £750 and his entire library of 300 volumes. The institution was opened soon after and was named Harvard in honor of its first benefactor.