Bum Wampum Teaches University To Look All Gift Horse in Mouths

Money is where you find it, the saying goes, and since 1640 Harvard has been looking in some mighty strange places.

According to the 151 to '52 Financial received $14,376, 403.36 from endowment and gifts, a Los Angles dentist and the income droppings.

Many donors state specifically that their gift must be used for certain programs of research projects. One of the stranger funds augmented in 1951 to '52 was the "Charitable Irish Society," which received $4,000 anonymously.

In 1940 an unnamed giver established the $278,000 gift "for teaching and research in Celtic languages and literatures..." He later amended the provisions and threw in the "teaching of Irish, literature, and culture..."



Another unusual gift came from the estate of Augustus P. Loring Jr., "to underwrite the publishing of a second edition of 'Decorated book papers' by my wife..." (The book described the process for producing colored book covers by hand.) Accordingly the University Press repeated its 1942 edition.

But most talked about of classic gifts is an endowment fund established to clean pigeon droppings off a statue. At their twentieth reunion, the class of 1883 presented the college with a bronze bust of James Russell Lowell, class of 1838, to be placed in a niche on Massachusetts Hall, with a stone seat in front.

Dust the Bust

Four years later some classmates returned to Cambridge and were horrified to see pigeons were making a mess of their gift. So in 1908 the class raised $250 to clean the bust and seat below: "The class desired that the College should not be out to any expense in future in keeping the bust, pedestal, and seat clean and in good order..."

This was done until 1932 when Lowell House acquired the bust and assumed the cleaning expenses. But it then took the Corporation 18 years to decide to divert the income from the fund to "maintenance of the Yard."

Traditionally, the University has had difficulties with many of its gifts and endowments; it's first was no exception.

On October 7, 1640 Harvard's investment history officially began with the State of massachusetts granting it the concession of the Boston Charlestown Ferry. The University, seemingly not even impressed by the fact the members of the corporation could travel free here, rented the ferry out, but soon found that that can be even worse. The rents were usually paid in wampum and much bad wampum ended up in the University's pockets.

"All the bad an unfinished wampum made by the Indians finds its way into the College treasury from ferry toll," President Dunster said in 1648.

The University continued to receive income from the Ferry until 1785, when the first toll bridge was built across the Charles and put the ferry out of the picture. However the income still rolled in--this time from the bridge companies. And in 1786 the capital funds were arranged (with one of her sons as guardian), and the other here.

Cotton Wage