Encyclopedia Brunoniana

President’s chair

The President’s chair in which the president sits on formal occasions such as Commencement, was once the property of Stephen Hopkins, the first chancellor of the College. Through the years misconceptions about the history of the chair have arisen, including a popular story that it was President Manning’s chair, given to him by Hopkins, and left to the College by Manning in 1791. The facts concerning the chair are contained in a letter from Stephen Hopkins Smith to President Francis Wayland, written on September 10, 1848, when he presented the chair to the University, “In the contest between Hopkins and Ward for the Chief Magistracy of R.I., with various success to each party, for a number of years, a friend of Gov. Hopkins, Benjamin Wickham, had an interest in a prize vessel which was brought into Newport, on board of which was this Spanish Chair, designed as a present to the Gov. of one of the W. I. islands. Mr. Wickham presented it to Gov. Hopkins as ‘a Governor’s Chair,’ with the remark that ‘he could occupy it without fear of being turned out by Ward.’ It was his favorite seat to the end of his life.” This last sentence would suggest that he did not give the chair to Manning.