Contents and Arrangement

Series 10: John Maclean, Jr. Records, 1752-1997

36 boxes
Restrictions may apply. See Access Note.

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

John Maclean, Jr. was the eldest of six children of John Maclean, Sr. and Phoebe Bainbridge. His father was born in Glasgow, studied for the medical profession, and became a surgeon. At 24, the elder Maclean immigrated to the United States for political reasons. He was invited to take the vacant chair of natural philosophy, which included chemistry, at the College of New Jersey, becoming the institution's first professor of chemistry. He married in 1797, and John was born on March 3, 1800. Entering the College of New Jersey as a sophomore, he graduated in 1816 as the youngest in his class. He taught for a few months in Lawrenceville, New Jersey before earning a divinity degree from the Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1818 he was appointed as a tutor of Greek at the College of New Jersey, beginning a long, varied, and devoted career at his alma mater. Four years later he was elected to fill the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy, though this did not prevent him from subsequently teaching languages and literature. Maclean also served as the College's librarian from 1824 until 1849.

When James Carnahan wanted to resign as president and, later, close the College, citing falling enrollments, financial problems, and the necessity of cutting faculty salaries, Maclean convinced him to persevere. The energetic professor collected funds due the College and recruited additional faculty. Enrollment increased as a result, and Maclean was named vice president at the age of twenty-nine. In 1854 Maclean assumed the presidency. The following year Nassau Hall caught fire, forcing him to tighten the budget and raise funds from friends and alumni for the building's restoration. He contributed part of his own salary as well, and Nassau Hall was completely restored in 1860. During the Civil War Maclean and his faculty supported the Union cause, yet demonstrated understanding towards the plight of Southern students. In 1868 he resigned after half a century of service to the College of New Jersey. During his presidency he added 10 new professors to the faculty, and 895 students (an average of 64 per year) graduated.

Maclean never married. He lived on campus along with his two unwed sisters and dedicated his life to the students around him. According to published sources, Maclean often walked the campus during the night with his lantern, carrying food and a teakettle to the rooms of ailing students. The Macleans would bring particularly ill students into their own home, as well as lodging a worried relative if need be. Maclean kept a close watch on the students and was known to detect inappropriate behavior quickly, often pursuing delinquents at a run, but he was lenient when assigning penalties. He was generous with those who needed financial help and had a drawer full of watches and other items that students had pledged as payment but never redeemed. Students affectionately called him "Old Johnny" among themselves. Maclean was also involved in a plethora of associations and charities. These included religious, educational, prison reform, literary, and temperance societies. During his retirement he wrote a two-volume history of the College of New Jersey from the granting of its charter to the resignation of his predecessor. He died on August 9, 1886.

Jacob N. Beam, Class of 1896, initially organized Maclean's records in 1940. He created a useful and copious index to much of the material, dividing the collection into two groupings: letters and papers. Copies of the index are in Box 6. Beam also created a card catalog for these records, which was updated in 2001 to include the names of correspondents and dates of letters that were added to the collection after Beam's work. The card catalog is housed with Princeton University Library Records (AC123). The bulk of the records remain in Beam's order, though additional folders were added at the beginning of this series. Most of the collection relates to Maclean's tenure as president. It is divided into four subseries: General Materials, Correspondence, Subject Files, and Sermons and Addresses.


No arrangement action taken or arrangement information not recorded at the time of processing.

Collection History


No information on appraisal is available.


These papers were processed with the generous support of former Princeton University President Harold T. Shapiro, Charles Brothman '51, and the John Foster Dulles and Janet Avery Dulles Fund.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Carol V. Burke and Stacey C. Peeples in 2002. Finding aid written by Carol V. Burke and Stacey C. Peeples in 2002.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Materials generated by the office of the president are closed for 30 years from the date of their creation. Some records relating to personnel or students are closed for longer periods of time.

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:

Series 10: John Maclean, Jr. Records; Office of the President Records : Jonathan Dickinson to Harold W. Dodds Subgroup, AC117, Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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 (mudd): Boxes 6-34; 254; 257; 261; 34A; 34B; 34C; 34D