- Series 9: James Carnahan Records
Series 9: James Carnahan Records
4 boxes (3 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..
Extent: 4 boxes (3 partial)
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.
James Carnahan, the longest serving president in Princeton University's
history, was the son of a farmer, Major James Carnahan. Born in Cumberland
County, Pennsylvania in 1775, Carnahan soon moved with his family to
Sewickley, Pennsylvania. When James was 13, his father died, leaving him to
work the family farm and attend Canonsburg Academy. During his time there,
he founded the Franklin Literary Society, which was modeled after the
College of New Jersey's American Whig and Cliosophic Societies, and taught
classics during his last year. Carnahan entered the College of New Jersey as
a junior in 1798, graduated second in his class in 1800, and returned to
Canonsburg Academy for one year to study theology. In 1801 he returned to
Princeton as a tutor, studying theology under Samuel Stanhope Smith. In 1803
he married Mary Vandyke, with whom he had two daughters, and the following
year was ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick. He became the pastor
of the united churches of Whitesboro and Utica in New York in 1805, where he
remained until 1812. The next major phase of his career began in 1814, when
he founded and became the headmaster of a classical seminary in Georgetown,
D.C. He held this position until he was invited to assume the presidency of
the College of New Jersey in 1823. Unfortunately, he found the College in
difficult straits, with a divided Board of Trustees, declining enrollments,
and inadequate funds. Things grew so bad that Carnahan considered closing
the institution, but his successor, John Maclean, Jr., persuaded him and the
trustees to strengthen the faculty instead. Enrollments began to increase,
and by Carnahan's retirement in 1854, the student body had doubled, and the
faculty had tripled. During his tenure, East and West Colleges and the first
Whig and Clio Halls were added to the campus. In addition, a new refectory,
chapel, and three new faculty homes were built or purchased, and trees from
his nursery were planted at the College's entrance.
This series is arranged topically and contains biographical and genealogical
information, correspondence, and financial records. The correspondence
folder contains two items in Carnahan's hand: the first is his acceptance of
the presidency in 1823; the second is a report on the state of College in
1852. Also to be found is a letter from John Quincy Adams declining an
invitation to attend the College's centennial celebrations, as well as
various letters sent to Carnahan. Financial materials include treasurer's
and president's vouchers and checks. Among the images in this series is a
photograph of a portrait of Carnahan's wife, Mary Vandyke.
Series 9: James Carnahan Records; 1775-1983; 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.