Ward Nicholas Boylston

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Ward Nicholas Boylston portrait by Gilbert Stuart (c. 1825)

Ward Nicholas Boylston (1747-1828;[1] born Ward Hallowell), a descendent of the physician Zabdiel Boylston,[2] was a merchant, a philanthropist, and benefactor of Harvard University. He was a brother of Admiral Sir Benjamin Hallowell Carew, one of Nelson's Band of Brothers, and a nephew of Governor Moses Gill.

He was born in Boston and spent much of his life there. His father, Benjamin Hallowell, Esq., was the Commissioner of Customs, and the family lived in the Jamaica Plain end of what was then the town of Roxbury, just south of Boston. His mother, Mrs. Mary (Boylston) Hallowell, was the daughter of Thomas Boylston, and a first cousin of Susanna Boylston, the mother of the 2nd President of the United States, John Adams, and grandmother of the 6th President, John Quincy Adams.

Ward received his early education in the free public schools of Boston. In 1770 at the request of his uncle Nicholas Boylston, he dropped his surname of Hallowell and changed it to his uncle's name, Boylston, who promised to leave him certain large estates in his will.

In 1773, Boylston left Boston for an extended journey through Europe and Asia. In 1775 he arrived in London, living there for twenty-five years and in various aspects of trade.

In 1800 he returned to Boston.

From September, 1804 until his death in 1828, he lived mostly in Princeton, Massachusetts but spent winters at his residence in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

Soon after he had returned to Boston, Boylston bequeathed to Harvard University on behalf of his uncle, Nicholas Boylston, an amount of $23,200 as a foundation of a professorship in Rhetoric and Oratory, specifying that John Quincy Adams should be appointed professor. He continued to donate large sums of money to Harvard and in 1810 gave them a valuable collection of medical and anatomical works and engravings. He donated funds for Harvard's Boylston Medical Library and the Boylston Anatomical Museum, for various prizes for medical dissertations, and for the Boylston Medical Society.[3]

He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1819.[4]

The Boylston Street in Boston and the one in Jamaica Plain are named after him,[5] as is the town of Boylston, Massachusetts,[6][7][8] Boylston Hall at Harvard University,[9][10] and the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard in honor of his uncle, Nicholas Boylston.[7]

Boylston Hall, Harvard University


  1. ^ Some sources give 1749 as his birth year, such as the Massachusetts Historical Society in their collection of Boylston family papers.
  2. ^ "Ward Nicholas Boylston", Princeton (Massachusetts) Historical Society
  3. ^ Medical communications, Volume 4, Massachusetts Medical Society, 1829, pp.176-177.
  4. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  5. ^ [https://books.google.com/books?authuser=1&id=MOpIAAAAMAAJ&q=boylston#v=onepage&q&f=false, A Record of the Streets, Alleys, Places Etc in the City of Boston, 1910.
  6. ^ "Boylston Family Papers: 1688-1979", Massachusetts Historical Society.
  7. ^ a b Bentinck-Smith, William, "Nicholas Boylston and His Harvard Chair", Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 93, (1981), pp. 17-39
  8. ^ "A Letter from Nicholas Boylston (1771?-1839)", Bulletin of the Public library of the city of Boston, The Trustees, 1921. Cf.pp.307-309.
  9. ^ "Harvard University Buildings: Chronology of Harvard Buildings, 1850-1920", American Memory, Library of Congress.
  10. ^ The Harvard University Catalogue 1905-1906, Cf. p.695, The Chemical Laboratory.