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Collection Overview

Thompson, Henry B., 1856-1924
Henry Burling Thompson Papers
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
4 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-4


The Papers of Henry Burling Thompson, Class of 1877, (1857-1935) consist of some 500 loose pieces of correspondence (much of it incoming letters), eight letterpress copy books, and one scrapbook of printed matter relating to the Princeton Endowment Fund campaign of 1919-1920. The loose letters are dated from 1906 through 1913, and all of them pertain to Princeton matters. The eight copy books contain copies of Thompson's outgoing correspondence in about 4500 pages, about 1200 of which deal with Princeton.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

On the letterpress copy books (1889-1911): The chief interest of these letters, aside from Princeton matters, is in the volumes for 1895-1904 and 1904-1906, when Thompson was deeply involved in Delaware politics; and in Wilmington local history. Although there are company and business letters in nearly all the books, they are comparatively few in number and embody nothing like a history of Thompson's Bancroft Company. Except to a biographer the family and personal letters are of scant interest. From a literary standpoint the letters are totally uninteresting; Thompson was a businessman who said what he had to say directly and in as few words as possible. There is a handwritten list of Princeton-related letters by number for each of the copybooks.

On the loose correspondence (1906-1913): The letters are entirely related to Princeton. Because Thompson chaired the Board of Trustees for a period, and was chairman of the Grounds and Buildings Committee for 20 years, the bulk of them refer to issues related to these offices. A number refer to Curriculum Committee matters, and a few concern personal favors or opinions requested of Thompson as a trustee. Of significant interest are the proposals for alternative dining and housing systems at Princeton (i.e. Quad and Sophomore Commons plans), which involve controversies over the value of the club system and the nature of Princeton undergraduate social life in general. These controversies were part of Wilson's "academic ideals" conflict in 1910, which encouraged his decision to resign as president. There are letters from Woodrow Wilson (8), Theodore Roosevelt (2), William Gibbs McAdoo, Edwin Denby and a single letter to Col. E. M. House.

Collection Creator Biography:

Thompson, Henry B., 1856-1924

Biographical details may be obtained from Thompson's alumni file. A life trustee, he was elected a charter trustee in 1906, and for a period chaired the Board of Trustees as well as the Endowment, Alumni Rowing, and Grounds and Buildings committees. A summary of his major posts is as follows:

As chairman of the Grounds and Buildings Committee from 1909-1928, Thompson saw to the construction of twenty-five campus buildings, beginning with Holder Hall and ending with the University Chapel. He was also an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects and a friend of Woodrow Wilson; his correspondence with Wilson on committee matters during Wilson's presidency at Princeton is in the files.

Collection History


The bulk of the papers were the gift of Mrs. James H. Douglas, Jr. in 1953 . The Archives has no knowledge regarding Thompson's Princeton correspondence for the period after 1913.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Andrea Schorr in 1990. Finding aid written by Andrea Schorr in 1990.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. For instances beyond Fair Use, if copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of materials from the Princeton University Archives.

For instances beyond Fair Use where the copyright is not held by the University, while permission from the Library is not required, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Henry Burling Thompson Papers; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-4