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Collection Overview

Raycroft, Joseph Edward, 1867-
Joseph Raycroft Papers
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
1888-1953, 1992
7 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-7


Joseph Edward Raycroft was Princeton University's Chairman of the Department of Health and Physical Education. The Papers contain correspondence, writings, press-releases, reports, newspaper clippings, photographs, and memorabilia documenting Raycroft's personal life and career. Also included are library catalog lists and other material related to Raycrofts Library of memorabilia

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The Joseph E. Raycroft papers document both Raycroft's personal and professional activities, with the bulk of documentation focusing on Raycroft's role in developing training camp activities for the army in World War I and the navy in World War II, as well as the fire that destroyed his personal library. Also included is material documenting Raycroft's involvement in the 1932-1936 Olympic Committees. The records contain correspondence, manuscripts of lectures, notes, writings, printed material, press releases, photographs, and memorabilia.

Please see series descriptions in contents list for additional information about individual series.

Collection Creator Biography:

Raycroft, Joseph Edward, 1867-

Known to Princetonians as the founding father of intramural sports at Princeton, Joseph E. Raycroft was born on November 15, 1867, in Williamstown, Vermont, to William Raycroft and Eliza Kelty. He studied at Worcester Academy in Worchester, Massachusetts, from 1888-1892, where he served as a physical training and athletics instructor while a student. He entered the University of Chicago with the first graduating class of 1896 and earned his M.D. from Rush Medical College in 1899. That same year he married Sarah Elizabeth Butler. They had two children: Myla and Chauncey W.

Throughout his undergraduate years and while studying for his medical degree, Raycroft taught classes for the University of Chicago's Department of Hygiene. He was promoted to an assistant professorship in 1899, to a full professorship in 1904, and for a period of twelve years was the University of Chicago's medical director.

Raycroft became Princeton University's chairman of health and physical education at the retirement of the first director, George Goldie in 1911. Raycroft held this post continuously until his retirement in 1936, when he was awarded emeritus status.

Raycroft made many important contributions to Princeton, including the development of a comprehensive student health program, the construction of the new Isabella McCosh Infirmary, and broadening the participation in intramural athletics to include some ninety per cent of Princeton's student body. Before Raycroft's arrival, Princeton athletics were considered a small part of a student's life, and sports participation at Princeton was limited to the athletes on the University's competitive intercollegiate teams. Raycroft's fundamental goal was to encourage the average student to take part in these sports without forcing him to belong to the intercollegiate teams.

Raycroft applied the same philosophy to the training camp programs he established during the First World War. From 1917 to 1919, Raycroft served on the athletic division of the war department's Committee on Training Camp Activities (also known as the Fosdick Commission) named after its chairman, Raymond B. Fosdick. The goal of the commission was to ensure that soldiers' morale was kept high, whether they were stationed at home or abroad. It sponsored activities that promoted health, athletics, and recreation in order to "conserve the vitality of the men." Raycroft introduced boxing and various other competitive sports to replace long-used calisthenics drills.

Because of Raycroft's success with creating and developing various sports for use in the training camps, his book Mass Physical Training was adopted as the official manual of physical training in the Army. (He later served as chairman of the International Sporting Club where he applied those rules developed in the camps for boxing to the development of New York state's boxing laws.) Raycroft was said by many to head the largest athletic program in the world's history with the largest coaching staff that was ever assembled. His training service continued into the Second World War, when he served on the Council of Physical Training program for navy air cadets.

In addition to his national and civic duties, Raycroft devoted his life to the development of a personal library of rare books, prints, and memorabilia in the fields of medicine and sports. In May 1944, the old University Gymnasium, with his library in it, was destroyed by fire. Personal friends, Princeton alumni, and other academic institutions and organizations came together to donate some 1500 volumes to replace Raycroft's library. In 1948, Raycroft was honored with the opening of the Joseph E. Raycroft Library in Princeton's Herbert Lowell Dillon Gymnasium.

Raycroft served on many committees and associations for the study of student health and mental well being, and intercollegiate athletics. He was a member of the 1932 and 1936 Olympic Committees and in the latter year accompanied the American Olympic team to Berlin as vice president of the American Olympic Association. In 1941, he became vice president for the American Sports Federation. He also served as president of the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League and chairman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's rules committee. He was a medical consultant for New Jersey's Department of Institutions and Agencies, a member of the New Jersey's Committee on Mental Hygiene, and the president of the Board of Mangers of the New Jersey State Hospital for the Insane. In 1934, Dr. Raycroft received an honorary degree in physical education from Springfield College and was awarded a citation for public service by the University of Chicago in 1941. Dr. Raycroft died in Trenton, New Jersey, on September 30, 1955.

Collection History


The Joseph E. Raycroft Papers, including various medals, memorabilia, and photographs were received by Firestone Library, Manuscript Division around September, 1972 .

Custodial History

The Raycroft Papers were previously held in the Raycroft Library, which was dismantled in August or September 1972. Trophies and related material associated with Princeton athletics were given to the athletic department.


Appraisal has been conducted in accordance with Mudd Manuscript Library guidelines.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Rosalba Varallo with the assistance of Page Dykstra '06 in May 2005. Finding aid written by Rosalba Varallo in May 2005.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. If copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers will not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with non-commercial use of materials from the Mudd Library. For materials where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting 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:

Joseph Raycroft 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 1-7

Find More

Related Materials

The Raymond B. Fosdick Papers (MC#55) correspondence contains a small amount of letters relating to Raycroft's affiliation with the Commission on Training Camp Activities.

The Offprint Collection (AC#121) contains articles written by Joseph E. Raycroft in Box 40, Folder 31.

The Joseph E. Raycroft faculty file includes information about Raycroft during his tenure at Princeton University.


The faculty file of Joseph E. Raycroft and Alexander Leitch's A Princeton Companion were consulted during the preparation of the biographical note.

Subject Terms:
Book collecting--New Jersey--Princeton--20th century.
Olympic Games (10th : 1932 : Los Angeles, Calif.)
Olympic Games (11th : 1936 : Berlin, Germany)
Olympic Games--(1st--1896--Athens, Greece).
Physical education and training--Standards.
Physical fitness--Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Rare books--Collectors and collecting--New Jersey--Princeton--20th century.
Genre Terms:
United States
United States
Princeton University
Fosdick, Raymond B. (Raymond Blaine), 1883-1972
Raycroft, Joseph Edward, 1867-