Biography and History

Hugh Simm was a mechanic by trade in the town of Paisley in Scotland. He also studied the classics and divinity under the tutelage of the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon. When Witherspoon left Paisley to take the presidency of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1768, he took Simm with him. On Witherspoon's recommendation, Simm was hired by the trustees of the college to become Princeton's first librarian and inspector of rooms, for a salary of £5. Simm was awarded the honorary degree of Bachelor of Arts from the College in 1768. Simm received news about friends and family in Scotland from his brother, Andrew, and sent information about the growing community of people coming to America from Paisley and Glasgow, Scotland. Within a year Simm became a teacher at the grammar school, which was in the same building as the College, and following that he took another teaching position at a grammar school in Freehold, N.J., where he taught Latin, Greek, and natural philosophy, earning a salary of £50 to £55 per year. Simm left Freehold to teach at another grammar school in New York City, where he got married, then became the head of another school in Albany, N.Y. The advent of the Revolution caused a break in his relationship with Witherspoon. Simm was a loyalist to the British Crown while Witherspoon was a member of the Continental Congress. Simm finally returned to Paisley and was rewarded for his loyalty during the Revolution by the British Crown.

Andrew Simm, Hugh Simm's brother, was a weaver in Paisley, Scotland.

John Witherspoon was the sixth president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and, from 1776 to 1782, a leading member of the Continental Congress. He came from Scotland in 1768 to assume the presidency of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and held office there until his death, a quarter of a century later.

"Paisley" is world famous as the name of the teardrop pattern used on everything from clothing to a range of everyday domestic goods. However, the pattern did not actually originate in the town of Paisley, Scotland; it can be traced back 2,000 years to Indo-European cultures. It became associated with Paisley after soldiers returning from British colonies in India brought back cashmere shawls containing the pattern and weavers in Paisley adopted it for their own use. At the end of the 18th century a very large number of Scottish individuals and their families from Paisley immigrated to America seeking a better life. Their letters home provide a valuable source of information about the towns where they settled.

Source: From the finding aid for C1201