Ceremonial Keys, 1846


First used during the installation of President Edward Everett in 1846 and made expressly for that occasion, these ornate ceremonial keys were given to Harvard by William Gordon Stearns, AB 1824, AM and LLB 1827, who served as steward of the University from 1844 to 1870.

The larger of the two silver keys measures 9 inches, while the smaller is 6 ¾ inches. Both are attached to a large circular key ring, and are purely ceremonial: they fit no locks and open no doors.

Nineteenth-century corporation records designate the keys “for use on public occasions,” although, by tradition, they are used solely for presidential installations.

HOLLIS Library Catalog Record Keys to the University used at the inauguration of the President of Harvard College since 1846, UAI 15.710, Harvard University Archives