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Collection Overview

Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University Library Collection of John Maclean Family Materials
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
3 boxes and 2.5 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Boxes 1-2; B-001623


Consists of selected personal and family papers of John Maclean (1771-1814), Princeton's first professor of chemistry, including correspondence and documents of Maclean and other family members, including John Maclean Jr. (1800-1886), Archibald Maclean (1810-1894), William Bainbridge (1774-1833), Phebe Bainbridge Maclean, and Mary B. Maclean, as well as a genealogy of the Maclean, Bainbridge, and Taylor families.

Collection Description & Creator Information


Consists of selected papers of the Maclean family, particularly John Maclean (1771-1814), the first professor of chemistry at Princeton University, then called the College of New Jersey. John Maclean was born in Scotland and educated to become a surgeon like his father. He came to the United States in 1795 and, on the advice of Benjamin Rush, established himself in Princeton in the practice of "physic" and surgery. In October 1795, Maclean was appointed professor of chemistry at Princeton. In 1798, he married Phebe Bainbridge, the eldest daughter of Absolom Bainbridge and Mary Taylor Bainbridge of Middletown, New Jersey. Phebe's brother was United States Navy Commodore William Bainbridge (1774-1833). John and Phebe Maclean's eldest son, John Maclean Jr. (1800-1886), became Princeton's tenth president in 1854.

Materials in this collection include ten letters written by John Maclean (1777-1814), including letters addressed to Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864), the first lecturer at Yale in chemistry for whom Maclean served as mentor in the teaching of chemistry; Samuel Stanhope Smith (1751-1819) and Ashbel Green (1762-1848), the seventh and eighth presidents of Princeton; Major Benjamin Walker (1753-1818), United States Representative from New York; and Joshua Maddox Wallace. The letter to Ashbel Green concerns the student rebellion and suspensions in 1807. There is also a manuscript containing biographical details of Maclean's life, an extract of a letter of introduction by Dr. Miller of Glasgow to Dr. Caspar Wistar (1761-1818) of Philadelphia on Maclean's behalf, and Maclean's medical license from the State of New Jersey.

Materials related to John Maclean Jr. (1800-1886) include his Princeton Theological Seminary diploma and an honorary doctorate from the University of the State of New York. There is also some legal correspondence of Archibald Maclean (1810-1894), family letters from William Bainbridge, and a power of attorney document for Mary B. Maclean. Of note is a bound volume containing a detailed genealogy of the Maclean, Bainbridge, and Taylor families.

This collection was formerly referred to as the "John Maclean Collection" and the "John Maclean Letters and Papers."


Arranged by family member.

Collection History


Materials in this collection were acquired through multiple gifts, transfers, and purchases, as noted at the file-level.

Custodial History:

This collection was formed as a result of a departmental practice of combining into one collection manuscript material of various accessions relating to a particular author.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No materials were separated during 2017 processing.

Processing Information:

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.

Finding aid updated by Kelly Bolding in August 2017 and August 2021.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Princeton University Library Collection of John Maclean Family Materials; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184