Jill Lepore

David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History, Harvard College Professor

Jared Sparks
Notes and memoranda on Benjamin Franklin, 1836-40

In the 1830s, Jared Sparks, the first professor of American history at Harvard, went to see a widow living in Boston, a woman named Jane Mecom Kinsman. She was the granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin’s sister, Jane Mecom. Sparks was preparing an edition of Franklin’s papers, and wanted to know if Kinsman had any. She didn’t. I came across Sparks’s diary, recounting this meeting, when I was writing a biography of Jane Mecom. I wanted to know if Kinsman had any of her papers. But Sparks, who considered biographies of women like Jane Mecom to be worthless—“biographies of nobodies”—didn’t bother to ask.

10.5 L x 8.5 W x 1.25 Th (in)
MS Sparks 18, Bequest of Jared Sparks, 1866.