Biography and History

Jonathan Dickinson, Princeton University's first President, died after only four and a half months in office and is chiefly remembered for having been the leader of the group who, in his words, "first concocted the plan and foundation of the College.". Born in Hatfield, Mass., he studied theology, and in 1706 graduated from the Collegiate School of Connecticut (now Yale University). In 1709 he was ordained minister of the church in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), New Jersey. In spite of opposition, Dickinson and three other pastors (Ebenezer Pemberton, Aaron Burr, Sr., and John Pierson) and three laymen (William Smith, Peter Van Brugh Livingston, and William Peartree Smith) began to plan the founding of the college. Led by Dickinson, this group applied to Governor Lewis Morris for a charter and, following his death, renewed their application to Acting Governor John Hamilton, who granted a charter on October 22, 1746. The trustees appointed Dickinson as president in April 1747, and classes began in May in Elizabethtown, with a student body of eight to ten members.

Source: From the finding aid for C1046

  • Office of the President Records : Jonathan Dickinson to Harold W. Dodds Subgroup. 1746-1999 (inclusive), 1830-1869 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC117

    This collection contains records relating to Princeton University presidents from Jonathan Dickinson, who served in this capacity from 1746 to 1747, to Harold W. Dodds, whose tenure spanned the period from 1933 to 1957. It brings together both primary and secondary materials pertaining to individual presidents as well as the office of the president itself. The Princeton University Presidents' Records document the lives and accomplishments of each president with varying completeness, as well as the functions of their office.

  • Thomas Foxcroft Correspondence. 1729-1759 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0160

    Thomas Foxcroft served as a Congregational minister at the First Church of Boston. The collection consists primarily of letters sent to Foxcroft by acquaintances and colleagues, notably Jonathan Dickinson (1688-1747) and Experience Mayhew (1673-1758). Several manuscripts, including sermons by Jonathan Dickinson (both written and printed) and lengthy responses to theological debates, are also included.

  • Jonathan Dickinson Collection. 1704-1763 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1046

    Consists chiefly of eighteenth-century correspondence and documents of clergyman Jonathan Dickinson relating to his establishment of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).