- Series 10: John Maclean, Jr. Records
Series 10: John Maclean, Jr. Records
34 boxes (5 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: 34 boxes (5 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.
John Maclean, Jr. was the eldest of six children of John Maclean, Sr. and
Phoebe Bainbridge. His father was born in Glasgow, studied for the medical
profession, and became a surgeon. At 24, the elder Maclean immigrated to the
United States for political reasons. He was invited to take the vacant chair
of natural philosophy, which included chemistry, at the College of New
Jersey, becoming the institution's first professor of chemistry. He married
in 1797, and John was born on March 3, 1800. Entering the College of New
Jersey as a sophomore, he graduated in 1816 as the youngest in his class. He
taught for a few months in Lawrenceville, New Jersey before earning a
divinity degree from the Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1818 he was
appointed as a tutor of Greek at the College of New Jersey, beginning a
long, varied, and devoted career at his alma mater. Four years later he was
elected to fill the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy, though this
did not prevent him from subsequently teaching languages and literature.
Maclean also served as the College's librarian from 1824 until 1849.
When James Carnahan wanted to resign as president and, later, close the
College, citing falling enrollments, financial problems, and the necessity
of cutting faculty salaries, Maclean convinced him to persevere. The
energetic professor collected funds due the College and recruited additional
faculty. Enrollment increased as a result, and Maclean was named vice
president at the age of twenty-nine. In 1854 Maclean assumed the presidency.
The following year Nassau Hall caught fire, forcing him to tighten the
budget and raise funds from friends and alumni for the building's
restoration. He contributed part of his own salary as well, and Nassau Hall
was completely restored in 1860. During the Civil War Maclean and his
faculty supported the Union cause, yet demonstrated understanding towards
the plight of Southern students. In 1868 he resigned after half a century of
service to the College of New Jersey. During his presidency he added 10 new
professors to the faculty, and 895 students (an average of 64 per year)
Maclean never married. He lived on campus along with his two unwed sisters
and dedicated his life to the students around him. According to published
sources, Maclean often walked the campus during the night with his lantern,
carrying food and a teakettle to the rooms of ailing students. The Macleans
would bring particularly ill students into their own home, as well as
lodging a worried relative if need be. Maclean kept a close watch on the
students and was known to detect inappropriate behavior quickly, often
pursuing delinquents at a run, but he was lenient when assigning penalties.
He was generous with those who needed financial help and had a drawer full
of watches and other items that students had pledged as payment but never
redeemed. Students affectionately called him "Old Johnny" among themselves.
Maclean was also involved in a plethora of associations and charities. These
included religious, educational, prison reform, literary, and temperance
societies. During his retirement he wrote a two-volume history of the
College of New Jersey from the granting of its charter to the resignation of
his predecessor. He died on August 9, 1886.
Jacob N. Beam, Class of 1896, initially organized Maclean's records in 1940.
He created a useful and copious index to much of the material, dividing the
collection into two groupings: letters and papers. He created a card catalog
for these records, which was updated in 2001 to include the names of
correspondents and dates of letters that were added to the collection after
Beam's work. The card catalog is located in the lobby of the Seeley G. Mudd
Manuscript Library. The bulk of the records remain in Beam's order, though
additional folders were added at the beginning of this series. Most of the
collection relates to Maclean's tenure as president. It is divided into four
subseries: General Materials, Correspondence, Subject Files, and Sermons and
No arrangement action taken or arrangement information not recorded at the time of processing.
Series 10: John Maclean, Jr. Records; 1752-1997; 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.