The Steward is mentioned in the Laws of the College in 1783 and his duties are described in detail there. He was to cause the students’ rooms to be swept daily and the beds to be made, to furnish three good meals and to make out and collect the bills for room, board, fines, and damages. Also he was required to sit with the students at meals and “exercise the same authority as is customary or needful for the head of a family at his Table,” and “be exemplary in his moral Conduct, and not fail to give Information to the Authority of the College against any of the Students who shall transgress any of the College orders and regulations.” In return the steward was allowed the use of four rooms in the College edifice for his family (and could rent more if needed of rooms unoccupied by students). He also had the use of both cellar-kitchens, as well as a garden and stable.
While the laws gave the steward authority to oversee the behavior of the students, they also provided that the students, if not satisfied with the food, could mention this to the steward, and if still not satisfied, could appeal to the president. The college records show that students were not backward in exercising their rights, which may have some bearing on the fact that early stewards left their stewardship in about two years. An attempt to correct this situation was made in 1802 by the appointment of a committee “for digesting a new plan for the Stewards department.” The new plan, reported on October 13, 1802, provided that $400 a year be allowed to the steward, who would now in addition to furnishing commons, take entire charge of the college buildings and grounds.
The first steward, Josias Arnold (1770 to 1773), was followed by William Holroyd (1773 to 1782) and Peregrine Foster (1782 to 1784). In 1784-85 the position was occupied by a woman, Martha Eddy, widow of Richard Eddy, who served briefly in 1784. Jesse Bolles served from 1803 to 1812, and Joseph Cady from 1812 to 1826. In 1828 the office of register was created and Lemuel Elliott, who had begun his nearly forty years of service two years earlier, added the duties of that position to those of the steward. Elliott was affectionately known to the students as “Pluto” and caricatured holding aloft an enormous carving knife. The title of steward was dropped after Elliott’s retirement in 1864.
In 1884 a separate position of caretaker of buildings and grounds was created, to which Archibald G. Delaney was appointed, and the title of steward, though a misnomer for the new position, was revived. “Archie” was a popular figure with the students, although his duties continued to include keeping them from destruction of the university’s property, and he “by virtue of his office came into frequent collision with riotous and bonfire-building students. His tall form, rivaling in height that of President Robinson, was often to be seen by night on the campus when the breaking out of an ambitious blaze was signalled by a fanfare of tin horns in scores of dormitory windows. Outside the realm of his official responsibilities he was a kindly man, sympathetic with undergraduate needs and intensely loyal to Brown.” Delaney was the steward until 1904, after which the position passed to Edwin Aylsworth Burlingame with the title of Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds.