Series 6: John Witherspoon Records

4 boxes (2 partial)

This collection is stored at Mudd Manuscript Library.

Requests will be delivered to Princeton University Archives, MUDD Reading Room .

Collection Creator: Princeton University. Office of the President..

Dates: 1772-1996.

Extent: 4 boxes (2 partial)

Languages: English.

Access Restrictions

Materials generated by the office of the president are closed for 40 years from the date of their creation. Some records relating to personnel or students are closed for longer periods of time.


John Witherspoon arrived in America from Scotland in 1768 having been persuaded by the trustees and then medical student Benjamin Rush to assume the presidency of the College of New Jersey. After declining initially, Witherspoon, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, became one of the most popular and influential presidents in Princeton University's history. Witherspoon served not only Princeton, but also the nascent United States as a member of the Continental Congress. During Witherspoon's tenure the College weathered the turmoil caused by the American Revolution: Nassau Hall sustained heavy damage, enrollment declined, and finances were precarious. In the wake of this conflict, Witherspoon's preaching tours increased enrollment, particularly from the southern United States, and he broadened the curriculum by his emphasis on English grammar and composition. He also obtained needed instruments of instruction such as books for the library and apparatus for scientific study (such as the Rittenhouse Orrery). Witherspoon advocated a well-rounded clergy, emphasizing the liberal education of students, rather than just religious instruction. It was his aspiration to produce men who would not only make exceptional clerics, but also outstanding statesmen. Witherspoon instructed many students who became notable for their contributions to state and federal government, including James Madison, Aaron Burr, Jr., William Smith Livingston, Andrew Kirkpatrick, and Ashbel Green. Part of Witherspoon's popularity and influence with both students and politicians derived from his ability to discuss the merits of contesting views, while using reason to reach an ultimate conclusion.

This series is arranged topically and contains biographical, genealogical, and post- mortem documents, as well as information about Witherspoon's years at the College of New Jersey, including original letters. Information concerning Witherspoon possessions donated to the College and Tusculum, his home one mile north of the College, is also present, as are business papers, including an account of repairs completed at the College, trustee accounts, and receipts. This series contains several pamphlets and sermons referencing Witherspoon, as well as Varnum Lansing Collins's notes for his book, President Witherspoon: A Biography. There are a significant number of images in this series, including portraits, photographs of cameos and statues, and views of Tusculum and St. George's Church in Paisley, Scotland, the town where Witherspoon ministered prior to coming to Princeton.


No arrangement action taken or arrangement information not recorded at the time of processing.

Preferred Citation

Series 6: John Witherspoon Records; 1772-1996; Office of the President Records : Jonathan Dickinson to Harold W. Dodds Subgroup, Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

    Request Checked Items
    Title Date Container
    Biographical Information 1834-1973 Box 2, Folder 13-14
    V. Lansing Collins research notes and letters re Witherspoon 1925 Box 3, Folder 1
    The College of New Jersey Years 1772-1996 Box 3, Folder 2
    The College of New Jersey, Repair Account 1772 Box 3, Folder 3
    Accounts of the Trustees of The College of New Jersey 1774-1788 Box 3, Folder 4
    Receipts 1783-1794 Box 3, Folder 5
    Tusculum 1796-1932 Box 3, Folder 6
    Family Members 1834-1973 Box 3, Folder 7-8
    Genealogical Charts undated Box 3, Folder 9
    Post Mortem 1794-1996 Box 3, Folder 10-11
    Princeton-Paisley Service, Audio Tape, Reel I 1968 Box 3A, Folder 1
    Princeton-Paisley Service, Audio Tape, Reel II 1968 Box 3A, Folder 2
    Princeton-Paisley Service, Audio Tape 1968 Box 3A, Folder 3
    Memorial of Emigration to Princeton 1968 Box 3A, Folder 4
    Professor Talbot Rice, University of Edinburgh, Audio Tape 1968 Box 3A, Folder 5
    Witherspoon Desk 1936-1946 Box 4, Folder 1
    Witherspoon Watch 1902 Box 4, Folder 2
    Witherspoon Clock 1930-1931 Box 4, Folder 3
    Post Cards 1924 1941 Box 4, Folder 4
    Witherspoon Memorial, Paisley to Princeton 1901-1976 Box 4, Folder 5
    United States Postal Service, John Witherspoon Nine Cent Post Card 1975 Box 4, Folder 6
    Witherspoon Statue, Washington, D.C. 1907 1908 1976 Box 4, Folder 7
    Sermons by Freddie Fox 1976 Box 4, Folder 8
    Writings Referencing Witherspoon 1913-1974 Box 4, Folder 9

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