Featured Item: Student Rooms

Embroidered pillow, with Harvard student smoking a pipe, 1905 (HUB 3695.1)

Pillows, pipes and pianos

A decorative pillow, such as the one above featuring the likeness of a lounging Harvard student, was a common feature in student rooms at the turn of the 19th century. A unique collection of photographs taken by Julian Burroughs (AB 1901) preserved in the Harvard University Archives provides context for these and other objects that personalized each student’s “home away from home.”

The photograph below of a room in Westmorly Court, once part of Harvard’s “Gold Coast” of privately owned student housing, is a high-end example of college residential life in the 1890s, with lofty ceilings, a working fireplace, comfortable sitting areas, intricate woodwork and even a piano to entertain fellow students.  This room, like others portrayed in the Burroughs photographs, demonstrates a keen attention to detail and artistic adornment.  Note the Harvard Football pillow tucked into a nook behind the rocking chair, trophies and decorative fabric lining the mantel, and nearly two dozen framed pictures placed strategically around the room.


















As historian Sarah Anne Carter discusses in “Picturing Rooms: Interior Photography 1870-1900,” interior photographs “reflected popular notions from fiction and periodicals about the proper ways in which dormitories were supposed to look.” If the photographs in the Archives’ collection are any indication, Harvard “flair,” in the form of banners, pillows and ephemera, was a must-have.

More photographs of student rooms by Julian Burroughs can be seen in VIA or at the Harvard University Archives.



Carter, Sarah Anne. "Picturing Rooms: Interior Photography 1870-1900." History of Photography 34, no. 3 (August 2010): 251-267.

Embroidered pillow, with Harvard student smoking a pipe, 1905. Harvard University Archives, HUB 3695.1.

Burroughs, Julian. Student room in 22 Westmorly Court, photograph, ca. 1897. Harvard University Archives, HUPSF Student Rooms (87a).