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Brown University: 1764-1898

Materials to research the early years of Brown University.

Welcome to University Archives and Manuscripts

University Archives is the official home for the University's valuable historical documents, collections, photographs, and publications. The Archives also holds professional and personal papers of some faculty and alumni. The Archives supports the information needs of the entire University community and is open to the public, including scholarly researchers and genealogists.  If you want to research facts, people, or places connected to the University, the Archives is the place to start.

See the University Archives website for additional information.  Please contact for assistance.

President's Papers

Presidents and tenure:

James Manning papers, 1765–1791 (MS-1C-1) See finding aid for digital surrogates. 

Jonathan Maxcy, 1792–1802 (University Archives does not have his papers)


Asa Messer papers, 1802–1826 (MS-1C-3)

Frances Wayland papers, 1827–1855 (MS-1C-4)  


Barnas Sears papers, 1855–1867 (MS-1C-5)


Alexis Caswell papers, 1868–1872 (MS-1C-6)


Ezekiel Robinson papers, 1872–1889 (MS-1C-7)


Elisha Andrews papers, 1889–1898 (MS-1C-8)

Archival Records

University Records

  • Rhode Island College miscellaneous papers, 1763-1804 (MS-1E-1)  See finding aid for digital surrogates.  Consists of minutes, reports, correspondence, a charter, lists of subscribers, lists of members of the corporation, accounts, and library catalogs, dating from 1763 to 1804. The collection documents the grant from the General Assembly and the Governor of the Colony of R.I. for the establishment of a college, first located in Warren, R.I., in 1764, and then moved to Providence in 1770
  • Brown University Corporation Papers, 1763-1904 (MS-1B-1) (contact to view inventory): I. Minutes of the Corporation; II. Reports, etc. for Corporation Records; III. Corporation proceedings and reports; IV. Executive Board Minutes V. Advisory and Executive Committee Minutes; minutes; VI. Advisory and Executive Committee reports; VII. Correspondence (chronological).
  • Brown University Charter papers, 1763-1942 (MS-1A-1)  The "Act for the Establishment of College or University within this Colony," under which the University is governed, was passed by the House of Magistrates on March 2, 1764, and the Upper House concurred on March 3. An earlier Charter drafted by Ezra Stiles was presented at the August session of 1763, and the motion on its acceptance was postponed.  The papers include the original Charter on parchment and tin box in which it was kept.  The writing on the Charter was erased by salt water in the hurricane of September 21, 1938. 

Archival Collections of Faculty

Faculty Records


  • Reports of the Faculty,1829-1976 (MS-1L-1) (contact to view inventory)  I. Faculty records (minutes); II. Recommendations for degrees; III. Reports of the Faculty; IV. Reports of instruction by individual faculty members; V. Miscellaneous reports and correspondence of the Faculty.

  • Faculty Meeting Minutes (bound volumes), 1-L B81rec

Academic Publications

Catalog, 1-G

The Annual Catalogue of Brown University contained the academic calendar, lists of Corporation Trustees and Fellow, administrators, faculty, students, course of instruction by year and department, and information about campus facilities.

Between 1800 and 1820 the Catalog was published as broadsides.  1820-1824 the Catalog was published as broadsides and volumes.  Beyond 1824 the Catalog was published in volumes only.


Bulletin, 1-P B812

The academic University Bulletin is the official document of record concerning academic programs and regulations. Each calendar year has a unique bulletin listing the course offerings.  The first Bulletin was published in 1904 (volume 1).

Student Publications

The Brunonian, 1-P B829 (student publication) (contact to view printed index). See The Brunonian, Encyclopedia Brunoniana, for historical information.


Junior burials, Encyclopedia Brunoinana. To see examples of Junior burials broadsides (posters) contact


For a list of Junior and Senior Exhibitions see list of Broadsides (broadsides are posters that announce events).  See Junior and Senior Exhibitions, Encyclopedia Brunoniana, for historical information.


The "Andrews Controversy"

This is an early academic freedom case, brought about by an opinion voiced by President E. Benjamin Andrews in 1896 on free coinage of silver and his resignation from Brown, which gained national attention and support for Andrews.

Andrews, Elisha Benjamin (Encyclopedia Brunoniana)

Elisha Benjamin Andrews papers, 1844-1959,n.d. (bulk 1890-1914), MS-1C-8

Bronson, Walter C. The History of Brown University, 1764 - 1914 (1914)

Hansen, James E. Gallant, Stalwart Bennie : Elisha Benjamin Andrews (1844-1917), an Educator's Odyssey. 1969.  University of Denver dissertation.

Additional materials in University Archives:

Two contemporary scrapbooks of clippings on the subject.

Several articles on the case.


In 1776 the library books were moved while the College Edifice (University Hall) was used as barracks and hospital for the American and French troops.  The books were kept at the home of William Williams (Class of 1769) in Wrentham, Massachusetts.  The Library was returned to the College Edifice in 1782, at which time President James Manning  hand wrote a catalogue of 607 volumes.  The 1782 catalogue is located in the Rhode Island College miscellaneous papers:

The Williams Table Collection takes its name from the table William Williams used as a student and in which he later stored some of the college library books.  The Williams Table that housed the Library's earliest books Is located in the John Hay Library. 

The Library's first published catalogue listed 2,173 volumes:

The 1826 catalogue contained 5,818 volumes:

In 1841 Charles Coffin Jewett (Class of 1835) was appointed Librarian and charged with making a new catalogue of the library.  Then located in Manning Hall, the Library contained 10,235 volumes.

Reference Sources

Please see the Encyclopedia Brunoniana for the history, people, and places of Brown University.

Entries regarding Brown University's early history:


Bronson, Walter C. The History of Brown University, 1764 - 1914 (1914)

Brown, Robert Perkins, et al. Memories of Brown : Traditions and Recollections Gathered From Many Sources. Providence, R.I.: Brown Alumni Magazine (1909)

Guild, Reuben A. Early History of Brown University, Including the Life, Times, and Correspondence of President Manning (1897)

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