College Records Reunited After 157 Year Separation Due To Carelessness of John Hancock's Carriage Driver in 1776

For the first time since the last of May, 1776, the ledger and journal of Edward Hutchinson, treasurer of Harvard College from 1721 to 1752, were placed together last Friday, on the shelves in the Archives Division of the College Library, after an interesting separation of 157 years.

The story of the separation of these two volumes forms a dramatic chapter in the history of Harvard during the Revolutionary War. For at Harvard, the general excitement caused by the outbreak of the war was heightened by the long absence of John Hancock, treasurer of the College from 1778 to 1777, who, though so immersed in public affairs that he was unable to pay or receive money on behalf of the College, refused to resign his job.

This meant that for several years the Faculty received no salaries, despite repeated attempts to regain from Hancock the stocks, bonds, and accounts which had been placed in his custody when he assumed office. Finally, in April, 1775, Hancock announced his intention of settling his accounts, and for months after that the books and papers remained in the Hancock mansion in Boston.

The hazards in 1775 were followed in 1776 by Hancock's determination to bring his books to Philadelphia in a "light wagon." The papers were so transported, and were received in Philadelphia in May, 1776, where they remained until the following February, when they were brought back to Boston. The stocks and bonds were received at Harvard but no record has ever been found of the account books given into Hancock's custody in 1773.

Among the missing books was Edward Hutchinson's journal. The companion volume, his ledger, was taken to Philadelphia, brought back, and then turned over to Ebenezeer Storer, the next treasurer.

In the meantime the journal had disappeared. Apparently the whole trouble was the result of the carelessness of Hancock's coachman, who was told to bring six books, and forgot exactly half of them. The missing ledger lay in the Hancock stable from 1776 until 1863, when the building was torn down. Mr. C. L. Hancock, of the class of 1829, found the book and turned it over to the College Library on April 21, 1863.