The Early Years

Princeton University Archives

Courtesy of Princeton University Archives

The founding of Princeton, originally the College of New Jersey, followed the Great Awakening, the series of religious revivals that swept the English colonies in America in the 18th century. On October 22, 1746, which is celebrated as the day of Princeton's founding, a charter for the College of New Jersey was granted by Acting Governor John Hamilton. Remarkably, and unique in that time, the charter declared welcome students of "every Religious Denomination." In May 1747 the first eight or 10 undergraduates of the future Princeton University gathered for lessons at the home of Jonathan Dickinson, who was named president the previous month by the newly formed board of trustees.

Princeton's broad role in public service and national development was evident from the very beginning of its existence. "Though our great Intention was to erect a seminary for educating Ministers of the Gospel," a founder wrote at the time, "yet we hope it will be useful in other learned professions — Ornaments of the State as Well as the Church. Therefore we propose to make the plan of Education as extensive as our Circumstances will permit."