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Collection Overview

Simm, Hugh, d. 1810
Hugh Simm Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1748-1810 (mostly 1768-1784)
1 box and 1.33 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1


Consists of twenty-two letters and documents of Hugh Simm, a mechanic from Paisley, Scotland, who, after moving to America in 1768, briefly served as Princeton University's first librarian and inspector of rooms.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of twenty-two letters and documents of Hugh Simm who traveled to America in 1768 with John Witherspoon. The correspondence provides a personal account of a British immigrant to North America during the Revolutionary era. The bulk of Simm's letters, postmarked from New Jersey or New York, are addressed to his brother, Andrew Simm, of Paisley, Scotland. The first letter, headed "from my cell princeton college decem 2 1768," explains how Simm got his bachelor's degree from Princeton after his arrival, and describes the graduation gown he had to purchase. In other letters, Simm writes about what is happening in America at the time, including Witherspoon and the College of New Jersey, the Stamp Act, the arrival in Boston of regiments from Ireland, the destruction to cities following the Spanish and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. In his letter dated 8 June 1769, Simm notes the accomplishments of Witherspoon at the College of New Jersey which was almost bankrupt at the time of his arrival. Simm also writes about the different positions he accepted, his marriage, the death at childbirth of two sons, and his joining the Loyalists and accepting a commission of Quarter Master of the regiment of Col. Rudolph Ritzina. Also included is a letter from Hugh Simm to Robert Atkin in Freehold; a document indenturing his brother, Andrew, to Robert Pollack and John Marshall, dated Paisley, 12 February 1747, signed by Andrew Simm, his father, John Simm, and others, and a document dated 1808 informing Andrew Simm that he has been chosen to serve in the Renfrew County Militia. In a letter dated New York, 2 October 1778, Simm gives statistics of the "present state of New York," which include the number of homes, inhabitants, and ships of war in the harbor.


Material is arranged chronologically.

Collection Creator Biography:

Simm, Hugh, d. 1810

Hugh Simm was a mechanic by trade in the town of Paisley in Scotland. He also studied the classics and divinity under the tutelage of the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon. When Witherspoon left Paisley to take the presidency of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1768, he took Simm with him. On Witherspoon's recommendation, Simm was hired by the trustees of the college to become Princeton's first librarian and inspector of rooms, for a salary of £5. Simm was awarded the honorary degree of Bachelor of Arts from the College in 1768. Simm received news about friends and family in Scotland from his brother, Andrew, and sent information about the growing community of people coming to America from Paisley and Glasgow, Scotland. Within a year Simm became a teacher at the grammar school, which was in the same building as the College, and following that he took another teaching position at a grammar school in Freehold, N.J., where he taught Latin, Greek, and natural philosophy, earning a salary of £50 to £55 per year. Simm left Freehold to teach at another grammar school in New York City, where he got married, then became the head of another school in Albany, N.Y. The advent of the Revolution caused a break in his relationship with Witherspoon. Simm was a loyalist to the British Crown while Witherspoon was a member of the Continental Congress. Simm finally returned to Paisley and was rewarded for his loyalty during the Revolution by the British Crown.

Andrew Simm, Hugh Simm's brother, was a weaver in Paisley, Scotland.

John Witherspoon was the sixth president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and, from 1776 to 1782, a leading member of the Continental Congress. He came from Scotland in 1768 to assume the presidency of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and held office there until his death, a quarter of a century later.

"Paisley" is world famous as the name of the teardrop pattern used on everything from clothing to a range of everyday domestic goods. However, the pattern did not actually originate in the town of Paisley, Scotland; it can be traced back 2,000 years to Indo-European cultures. It became associated with Paisley after soldiers returning from British colonies in India brought back cashmere shawls containing the pattern and weavers in Paisley adopted it for their own use. At the end of the 18th century a very large number of Scottish individuals and their families from Paisley immigrated to America seeking a better life. Their letters home provide a valuable source of information about the towns where they settled.

Collection History


Gift of John M. Brodie, Elmira, N.Y., on May 30, 1951 (AM14417).


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dina Britain in July 2007. Finding aid written by Traci Ballou-Broadnax on August 16, 2007. Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (2015) in 2012.

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. For instances beyond Fair Use, 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:

Hugh Simm Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1