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Collection Overview

Maclean, John, 1800-1886
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University Archives John Maclean, Jr. Collection
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
1794-1935 (mostly 1852-1880)
6 boxes
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-6


John Maclean, Jr. was a professor, vice president, and president of Princeton University. The Princeton University Archives John Maclean, Jr. Collection consists of letters to and from John Maclean regarding the history of the College of New Jersey as well as family matters.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The Princeton University John Maclean, Jr. Collection consists of letters to and from John Maclean, his family and his associates documenting the history of the College of New Jersey during his time there, as well as family matters. The collection also includes financial documents, notably the 1814 inventory of the estate of John Maclean, Sr., commencement programs, a photograph of the 20th reunion of the class of 1876, and other Princeton University memorabilia.

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

Collection Creator Biography:

Maclean, John, 1800-1886

John Maclean, Jr. was a professor, vice president, and president of Princeton University. Born on March 3, 1800, Maclean was the son of the College's first chemistry professor, John Maclean, Sr. 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 he would later return to teaching languages and literature. Maclean also served as the College's librarian from 1824 until 1849. In 1829, Maclean was named vice president at the age of twenty-nine.

In 1854 Maclean assumed the presidency of the College of New Jersey. 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 was also involved in a plethora of associations and charities. These included religious, educational, prison reform, literary, and temperance societies. Maclean was ordained to the gospel ministry by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1828. He was also a principal founder and first secretary of the College of New Jersey Alumni Association. 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.

Collection History


The collection consists of multiple accessions, five of which were purchases.

An accession consisting of approximately 1 linear foot was purchased from Amy Smith in March 2008 .

A second accession, consisting of 230 letters, was purchased from Amy Smith in June 2008 .

The third accession consists of membership certificates from the American Bible Society (Series 4), which were transferred from the Manuscripts Division of the Special Collections in March 2011 .

The fourth accession, consisting of six letters to John Maclean, Jr. and one financial document, was purchased from Joseph Felcone in July 2017 and is associated with accession number AR.2017.099.

The fifth accession, one letter from Edward Drayton '1845 to John Maclean, Jr., was purchased from David Nathan in December, 2016 December 2016 and is associated with accession number AR.2017.104. The accession that makes up Series 6 was purchased from Joseph J. Felcone, Inc., Antiquarian Booksellers, in 2020 and is associated with accession number AR.2021.009.

Custodial History

According to Joseph Felcone, the seller, papers in Series 6 (AR.2021.009) all came from the papers of Edna Netter, who was a New Jersey antiques dealer active from the 1920s to the 1950s. Felcone writes that Netter acquired all the Maclean material from an estate auction in Princeton. Edna Netter's business partner, Virginia Smith, was also Netter's exeutrix. Virginia Smith's descendants, Denise Smith and Amy Smith, sold Maclean papers in this collection to Princeton University through Joseph J. Felcone.

Other papers in this collection derived from the Edna Netter estate, as well.


Appraisal has been conducted in accordance with Mudd Library guidelines. Two locks of George Maclean's hair were separated during processing in 2008.


These papers were purchased, in part, with the generous support of Steven Brown '77, Dave Cleaves '78, Scott Clemons '90, Donald Farren '58, Jan Kubik '70, Gregg Lange '70, Sev Onyshkevych '83, Cynthia Penney '83, Robert Rodgers '56, Jonathan Sapan '04, Paul Sittenfeld '69 and Frank Sloat '55. These papers were processed with an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Casey Babcock in May 2008. Finding aid written by Casey Babcock in May 2008.

The name of the collection was changed in October, 2017 from the John Maclean, Jr. Papers to the Princeton University Archives John Maclean, Jr. Collection. Series 6, John Maclean, Jr. and Maclean Family Papers Accrual, was added and described by Phoebe Nobles in April, 2022.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

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.

Credit this material:

Princeton University Archives John Maclean, Jr. Collection; 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

Find More

Existence and Location of Copies

FOR DIGITIZED CONTENT: Almost all of the collection, with the exception of Series 6, has been digitized and may be viewed or downloaded through this finding aid. To view materials, navigate to the title of the item, rather than the series.

Related Materials

The Princeton University Archives holds additional John Maclean, Jr. material in the Office of the President Records (AC117). The Manuscripts Division of the Special Collections holds the Princeton University Library Collection of John Maclean Family Materials (C0342).


A Princeton Companion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978) by Alexander Leitch was consulted during preparation of the biographical note.

Subject Terms:
College of New Jersey (Princeton, N.J.)
Fathers and sons -- New Jersey -- Princeton.
Genre Terms:
Princeton University
Henry, Joseph, 1797-1878
Maclean, George Macintosh, 1806-1886
Maclean, John, 1771-1814
Pennington, Samuel Hayes, 1806-1900