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..

Dates: 1775-1983.

Extent: 4 boxes (3 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.


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.


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


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.

Preferred Citation

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.

    Request Checked Items
    Title Date Container
    Biographical Information 1893-1978 Box 4, Folder 23
    The College of New Jersey Years 1916-1978 Box 4, Folder 24
    Correspondence 1801-1857 Box 4, Folder 25
    Family Members 1792-1983 Box 4, Folder 26
    Post Mortem 1775 Box 4, Folder 27
    Petition to the Honorable the Legislative-Council and General Assembly of the State of New-Jersey 1825 September 28 Box 4, Folder 28
    Treasurer's Vouchers and Checks 1841-1846 1851-1852 Box 5, Folder 1-7
    President's Vouchers 1843-1844 1846 Box 5, Folder 8-9
    President's Vouchers 1847-1848 Box 6, Folder 1-2
    To the Honorable, the Commissioners of Appeals, for the Township of Princeton Undated Box 253
    Filial Duty 1830 Box 253
    Address to the Students of the College of New Jersey, at the Funeral of Gerard Seymour Hooe, from Virginia 1836 Box 253
    Baccalaureate Sermon: The Importance of Virtuous Habits in Young Men, and the Means by Which They May Be Attained 1854 Box 253
    'Maxima Debetur Puero Reverentia': The Importance of Virtuous Habits in Young Men, and the Means by Which They May Be Attained 1854 Box 253
    The Character and Blessedness of the Good Man 1831 Box 253
    A Discourse Delivered at the Funeral of Miss Mary B. MacLean 1849 Box 253
    The Resurrection of Christ, and of His People, a Discourse Preached March 7, 1859, at the Funeral of the Reverend James Carnahan, D.D., LL.D. 1860 Box 253
    The Dangers of a College Life 1843 Box 253
    Baccalaureate 1829 Box 253
    Laws of the College of New Jersey, Revised, Amended and Adopted by the Board of Trustees (During Carnahan Tenure) 1832 Box 253
    History of the College of New Jersey, from Its Commencement, A.D. 1746, to the Present Time (During Carnahan Tenure) 1844 Box 253

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