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Collection Overview

Smith, Robert, 1722-1777
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Robert Smith Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1755-1790 (mostly 1755-1758)
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1


Consists of correspondence and documents of carpenter-architect Robert Smith, the leading building professional in Philadelphia in the eighteenth century, chiefly concerning the building of Nassau Hall at The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and the house of the college president.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The material consists of correspondence and documents of Robert Smith which are chiefly related to the building of The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and of the house of the College president. Included is correspondence with the Rev. Aaron Burr, second president of the College of New Jersey, and receipts in payment for the building of Nassau Hall, dated August 19, 1757. There are accounts of monies paid to Smith on behalf of the Trustees of the College signed by Richard Stockton. In addtion, there are several receipts in payment for windows and other material related to the building of Nassau Hall and the President's house by the Rev. John Brainerd, Aaron Burr, David Ogden, Charles Read, and Jonathan Sergeant, dated between 1755 and 1758. Also, there is an autograph document signed by Smith and dated August 5, 1790, regarding the title of a 53 acre tract of land In Penns Neck, New Jersey.


Folders are arranged by accession number.

Collection Creator Biography:

Smith, Robert, 1722-1777

Robert Smith was considered by many to be the foremost master-builder, or carpenter-architect, of the Colonial period, and has been called "America's most important eighteenth-century architect.". Nassau Hall at the College of New Jersey was the third building he designed in the American colonies. Smith was also responsible for the college president's house, built concurrently with Nassau Hall (1753-1756). Other important works by Smith include St. Peter's Church, Benjamin Franklin's house, Carpenter's Hall, and the Walnut Street Prison, all in Philadelphia, and University Hall at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Smith was also involved in the struggle for American independence. He produced designs for military architecture to protect Philadelphia from British attack, such as the elaborate system of underwater fortifications in the Delaware River that stymied British communications off the coast, and the Continental Army barracks (1777) at Billingsport, New Jersey.

Collection History


Robert Smith's description and title of a 53 acre tract in Penn's Neck, N.J., was a gift of C. C. Abbott, Princeton Historical Society in February 1901 .

All other accessions were originally part of the Pyne-Henry Collection. Various AM.

Custodial History:

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on August 16, 2007. Finding aid written by Traci Ballou-Broadnax on August 21, 2007. Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (2015) in 2012.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

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:

Robert Smith Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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