Fender’s Other Ivy League Amp: The Fender Harvard

Whether vintage or reissue, the Fender Princeton amplifier is among the more famous entries in Fender’s extensive catalogue of loud makers. Compact, streamlined, and versatile, this amp debuted in 1947 and had a consistent production run until 1979 before entering its multi-staged reissue afterlife. Yet lurking in the shadows of Princeton fame was another Fender classic that never quite had the same acclaim: the Fender Harvard.

The Fender Harvard came along at a point in Fender history where the brand had solidified their place with some smaller box amplifiers. The Harvard met the world in 1955 and was discontinued by 1961. To give this short shelf-life some context, the Harvard was released on the heels of the Champ (released 1948) and Princeton (released 1947), both of which did exceptionally well in appealing to the emerging market of student oriented gear. As far as tweed era amps go, however, the Harvard did bring something unique to the lineup in terms of design and specs.

The basics of the amp build included ten watts of power driven through a 10” Jenson P10R speaker, though some models seem to have sported 8” speakers. In this respect, the Harvard was intended as something of a middleman between the Princeton (in the lightweight category with but five watts) and Deluxe (in the heavyweight category of fifteen watts). These components were driven by a pair of 6V6 output tubes in a single channel with minimalistic controls for tone and volume. Getting into the nitty gritty of the biasing of the amp, it seems that Fender was experimenting with tech for squeezing a few more watts out of small-medium amps. The Harvard has AB-fixed biasing, which may have contributed to giving the amp slightly more headroom despite its otherwise modest footprint.

Despite its efforts to contend with the lower and higher wattage offerings Fender had at the time, the middle child that is the Harvard was quickly retired. At least for a time. Before CBS shed its non-broadcasting companies like Fender in 1985, the powers that be attempted to resurrect the Harvard in a set of successive twenty watt solid state amps that, apart from their surname and short lifespan, had very little in common with their ancestor. The tiny Harvard ran from 1981-1982 with the slightly larger Harvard II lasting only 1983-1985.

In these ways, despite its Ivy League appeal, the Harvard seems to have achieved more of a relic role than rock star status in the Fender line.

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One thought on “Fender’s Other Ivy League Amp: The Fender Harvard

  • June 23, 2019 at 11:01 am

    I’ve been playing stages for 40 plus years and have used Fenders, Marshalls, Peaveys, several Mesa Boogies and a weird little amp from Pignose the 150 cross-mix. Through them all only one made the cut. In 1985 I purchased a Mesa Boogie Mark IIB combo with the reverb option and EV speaker. I still and always will own it as it has never failed me on the thousands of gigs I have played. It even has the original EV speaker.
    Recently while doing some horse trading I got an opportunity to play through a boutique made Princeton clone from Morgan amps their PR12 model. This little beast literally took my breath away when I hit the first chord. With the controls set at 6 o’clock, spring reverb set at 3 every note just jumped out with bloom,sustain and pure natural compression. The previous owner had replaced the stock 12″ speaker with a Weber for even more tone. With minimal controls, single channel, bass and treble knobs and a reverb control knob, just plug and play. No switches, no FX loops, no useless parametric eq’s just basic old school controls that work.
    The front end of the Morgan loves and craves FX pedals better than any amp I’ve ever used and lets them work as designed. Originally acquired for a stay at home practice amp the Morgan has found its way on stage with a 7 piece horn band (Tower of Power, Chicago, EWF style) to a 4 piece country variety band and never failed to impress.
    The Mesa Mark IIB is still my # 1 while the Morgan PR12 is just as cherished and has found a home forever.


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