Timothy Fuller Visits Salem, Buys Wine for Graduation

Timothy Fuller in July 1801 was about to graduate from Harvard, an event, he wrote, that ‘ushers me with my classmates into the great world.’

Timothy Fuller

Timothy Fuller

Fuller would do well in the great world. He would prosper in his legal practice, win elected office and become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1809 he would marry Margaret Crane and together they would have children, including Margaret Fuller, who became a well-known Transcendentalist writer and feminist; Arthur Buckminster Fuller, who became a Unitarian minister. His descendants would include the inventor Buckminster Fuller and former U.S Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Born July 11, 1778, in Chilmark, Mass., he was the son of the first minister to Princeton, Mass., also named Timothy Fuller.

His diary offers a vivid picture of the life of a Harvard student at the turn of the 19th century. He describes his tutors, his coffee club, his fear of the yellow fever, his social visits and his views on politics. 

One of his classmates, Benjamin Peirce, graduated at the head of his class and later became the Harvard librarian. (Benjamin was a relative of Sarah Nichols Peirce.) Fuller visited Peirce in Salem, Mass., where they visited the museum of the India Marine Society, the forerunner of the Peabody-Essex Museum. On July 13, 1801, he wrote in his diary,

July 13. In Salem with Peirce.

Early this morning we went into the museum of the India marine society, which has been only two years collecting, but is extensive, considering the time. I breakfasted with Peirce at his father’s and then took affectionate leave of that very interesting family. Betsy Peirce gave me a beautiful nosegay, of which the chrysanthemum formed a part. She has promised to preserve its seed, and the seed of a very beautiful double pink, to give or send me next autumn. Arrived at Boston before twelve o’clock and purchased my wines for Commencement at Mr. Stackpole’s.

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