Series 12: Francis Landey Patton Records

19 boxes (1 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: 1877-1994.

Extent: 19 boxes (1 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.


Francis Landey Patton served as president from 1888 to 1902 during an era of change and growth, reflected in the adoption of the name Princeton University in 1896. Born January 22, 1843 in Warwick, Bermuda in a house called Carberry, Patton was the eldest of three sons. His father died when he was six years old. Patton attended the Warwick Academy in Bermuda and graduated from Knox College at the University of Toronto in 1862 and from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1865, the year in which he was ordained a Presbyterian minister. His first three pastorates were in the state of New York. In 1865 he married Rosa Antoinette Stevenson, with whom he had seven children.

Patton moved to Chicago, where he served as pastor of the Jefferson Park Presbyterian church from 1873 to 1876 and occupied the chair of didactic and polemical theology at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the Northwest from 1872 to 1881. He was also editor of the Chicago Presbyterian paper, The Interior. In 1874 Patton joined in the prosecution of the Rev. David Swing, an influential preacher at four Chicago churches whose sermons were often published. Patton, a conservative who preached the classic doctrines of Calvinism, wrote editorials against Swing's liberal teaching and brought charges of heresy against him. The Presbytery acquitted Swing, but Patton was ready to appeal to the Synod when Swing forestalled him by forming an independent church. In the aftermath of this controversy, Patton became a prominent leader of Presbyterian orthodoxy, serving as moderator of the General Assembly in 1878. In 1881 he accepted the chair of the relations of philosophy and science to the Christian religion at the Princeton Theological Seminary. In addition, in 1884, he began teaching ethics and philosophy of religion courses at the College of New Jersey, and after James McCosh's retirement in 1888, became its president.

During Patton's presidency the endowment increased, the number of faculty and students more than doubled, the Graduate School was created, 17 buildings were erected, the undergraduate eating clubs grew in popularity, and interest in sports increased. Of all his improvements, Patton was proudest of inaugurating the honor system. However, most of the other changes during his tenure were largely due to a robust economy, his predecessor, McCosh, and the work of faculty and trustees. Economic growth made college more affordable, and enrollments increased at colleges in the United States in general. Faculties also increased to accommodate this growth, and Patton was responsible for appointing Woodrow Wilson, Bliss Perry, John Grier Hibben, and several other accomplished scholars to the faculty. However, it was McCosh, not Patton, who initiated the vast expansion of the campus, though much of the building took place during Patton's time in office. Known as a great intellectual and preacher, Patton was characterized as a contemplative yet witty man. He was popular with the students, and his sermons drew them to chapel. While Patton allowed modern languages to be taught, he loved the classics and insisted that Latin be kept in the curriculum.

The role of Princeton University's president was in flux, with an ever-greater emphasis on administrative and business skills. However, administratively speaking, Patton was viewed as somewhat inept, and in an era of change, some of the faculty and trustees regarded him as a hindrance rather than an impetus to progress. When the faculty and trustees established the Graduate School, the trustees bypassed Patton and directly appointed Andrew Fleming West as its dean, allowing West to manage the School without Patton's approval. The Board of Trustees, like the presidency, was also changing as professional and businessmen replaced the clergy who had once been dominant. In 1902 trustees and faculty suggested that Patton create an executive committee from among the two groups to perform some presidential functions. Patton protested at first, but then resigned instead, after negotiating and receiving compensation for leaving six years earlier than he had anticipated. He retained his position as professor of ethics and continued to teach at the Princeton Theological Seminary, whose presidency he assumed in the fall of 1902. In 1913 Patton retired and returned to Carberry in Bermuda, but he continued to write and preach. He died on November 25, 1932.

The Patton records contain correspondence, publications, and speeches documenting his life as a clergyman and as a college and, beginning in 1896, university president, as well as 16 letterpress books containing copies of his outgoing correspondence. This series is arranged in two subseries, the first topically and the second in chronological order: General Materials and Letterpress Books.


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Preferred Citation

Series 12: Francis Landey Patton Records; 1877-1994; 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.

    Title Date Container
    Subseries 12A: General Materials 1877-1994 Explore Multiple Containers
    Subseries 12B: Letterpress Books 1889-1902 Explore Multiple Containers

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