Biography and History

Varnum Lansing Collins was a Princeton alum of the Class of 1893 and served as the University's Secretary from 1917 to 1936. Throughout his life Collins exhibited a special interest in Princeton's history and he authored a number of works relating to that theme.

Born in Hong Kong, Collins obtained his education in Paris and London before coming to Princeton as a member of the class of 1892. As an undergraduate, he was editor of The Nassau Literary Magazine, president of the Cliosophic Society, leader of the Glee Club, and a member of the Triangle Club. After receiving an Honorary A.M. from Princeton in 1895, Collins worked in the University Library as a reference librarian until he joined the faculty of the Department of Modern Languages in 1906. He was made full professor six years later and assumed the position of clerk of the faculty—a position he held until 1935. Collins also served as the secretary of the Graduate Council from 1917 until 1927 and was an instrumental figure during the years that the Council successfully conducted its $2,000,000 campaign for faculty salaries. In 1917 he became University secretary and served in this pivotal role for nineteen years. When ill health forced Collins to retire in 1936, the Board accepted his resignation "with regret” and named him Historiographer to Princeton University. Collins had long been recognized as the foremost authority on Princeton history, and authored a number of books on the subject, notably a biography of President John Witherspoon, a history of Princeton, and a guide to the town and the University. His love and knowledge of Princeton led to the grassroots development of the University Archives. Named editor of the General Catalogue/Biographical Catalogue in 1906, he compiled files on alumni and on possible, doubtful, and fraudulent "alumni" that have been gold mines for researchers ever since. As secretary he began what is now known as the Historical Subject File, an enormously valuable (and still growing) cache of Princeton history, lore, and trivia.

Source: From the finding aid for AC347

Biography and History

A grduate of Princeton University (Class of 1892), Varnum Lansing Collins was a writer on early American history. Among his books is The Continental Congress at Princeton (?).

Source: From the finding aid for C0289

  • Office of the Secretary Records. 1853-2007 (inclusive), 1901-1985 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC190

    This collection chronicles the administrative responsibilities and activities of the secretaries of the University. Included are correspondence, memoranda, and notes concerning committee activities. Also included are press releases, discussions pertaining to trustee matters, scholarship information, and biographical files on honorary degree recipients.

  • New Jersey Board of University Extension Records. 1914-1916 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC298

    The New Jersey Board of University Extension was proposed in 1915 by Princeton president John Grier Hibben to formulate a strategy for the coordination of the university extension programs of the various colleges in the New Jersey area. The records consist of organizational materials pertaining to the formation of the Board as well as plans and conference minutes. Also included are letters from conference invitees, indicating their intentions to attend.

  • Varnum Lansing Collins Papers. 1842-1972 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC347

    Varnum Lansing Collins was a Princeton alum of the Class of 1893 and served as the University's Secretary from 1917 to 1936. Throughout his life Collins exhibited a special interest in Princeton's history and he authored a number of works relating to that theme. The Varnum Lansing Collins Papers consist primarily of materials generated by Collins while writing several of his most well-known works on Princeton history.

  • Varnum Lansing Collins Papers. 1842-1972 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC347

    Varnum Lansing Collins was a Princeton alum of the Class of 1893 and served as the University's Secretary from 1917 to 1936. Throughout his life Collins exhibited a special interest in Princeton's history and he authored a number of works relating to that theme. The Varnum Lansing Collins Papers consist primarily of materials generated by Collins while writing several of his most well-known works on Princeton history.

  • Varnum Lansing Collins Collection on Stephen Sayre. 1898-1903 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0289

    Consists of material gathered by historical writer Varnum Lansing Collins (Princeton Class of 1892) in preparation for his biography of American patriot Stephen Sayre (Princeton Class of 1757).