Collection History

Cotton Mather, son of Increase Mather and Maria Cotton, was born February 12, 1663 in the city of Boston in Massachusetts Bay Colony. He attended Boston Latin School and Harvard, graduating in 1678. He was ordained May 13, 1684 at Second Church in Boston, also known as “Old North” Church or “the Church of the Mathers,” where he served with his father, Increase (1639 O.S. - 1723 O.S.).  Cotton married three times (first to Abigail Phillips of Charlestown, second to Elizabeth Hubbard, and third to Lydia George) and had 15 children six of whom lived to adulthood. Cotton was also a prolific author, publishing some 280 distinct items. He is perhaps best remembered today for his endorsement of inoculation as a means of fighting smallpox and for his role in the Salem witchcraft trials. Cotton Mather died February 23, 1728.

For more detail on this collection see the archival finding aid.

Digital Materials

"Directions for a SON going to the Colledge," circa 1718-1719

Mather's "Directions," most likely written after July 1718 but before his son Samuel (1706-1785) entered Harvard in 1719, contains 7 points of advice on how Samuel should conduct himself while at school.