The Amherst College Early History Collection is an artificial collection, pulled together from a number of sources. The Early History Collection is vital to telling Amherst’s early story; it includes printed material, legal documents, financial records, correspondence, and other material documenting first few years of the College. The history of Amherst College is tied so closely to the history of Amherst Academy, which predated Amherst’s founding by just 6 years. Materials related to Amherst Academy were incorporated into this collection. Ledgers kept by the Board of Trustees show the community’s participation in the 1818-1819 Charity Fund which led to the establishment of the Amherst “collegiate institution” in 1821. The 1825 charter granted by the Massachusetts Legislature and early by-laws of Amherst Academy and Amherst College also bear witness to the College’s founding. The collection provides documentation of fundraising efforts in the 1830s and 1840s as the college grew, as well as local and regional newspaper reports from the early 1820s. Institutional catalogs of both Amherst Academy and Amherst College list names of students, the faculty, and describe the curriculum, giving a sense for the community that formed in the 1820s and 1830s. Early Board of Trustees correspondence is also included in the collection.

Charity Fund register listing donors who helped found Amherst College, c. 1821-1840
Charity Fund register listing donors who helped found Amherst College, c. 1821-1840

The Early History Collection was chosen for digitization because of its historical significance. This is the most complete record of the early days of Amherst College’s founding. It was decided that the collection would be digitized in its entirety. 

Researchers studying the history of Amherst Academy and Amherst College might find this collection useful. In addition to scholars looking at broader trends in early American secondary and post-secondary education, social historians of the Connecticut River Valley and beyond may also find value in the documentation of the community drive behind the Charity Fund.

This collection is scheduled for digitization in Year One (2018) of the Bicentennial project.

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