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William Woodhull Notebook


Held at: Princeton University Library: University Archives [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: University Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

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Woodhull, William

William Woodhull (1741-1824) received an AB from Princeton in 1764 and an AM in 1785. Following graduation he was a pastor at a number of New Jersey Presbyterian congregations between 1768 and 1774. Active in public affairs, he served as a member of the New Jersey Legislature from 1776-1790 and the New Jersey Constitutional Ratifying Convention in 1787. Later, he served variously as a Justice of the Peace in Morris County, Judge of the Circuit Court and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas from 1808 to his death in 1824. He was the first of many members of the Woodhull family to attend Princeton.

The handwritten notebook is hard bound, eight inches by six inches. It is worn with some damage to the spine and front cover. However, its sixty-five pages are intact.

The inside front cover has the inscriptions "Wm Woodhull Book, 1760" and "Wm Woodhull's Book, 1766" as well as "January 1760\S.H.Rose\This Book belongs to Wm. Woodhull." The back cover has the inscription "David Platt\Me polsidet\Name\William Woodhull." David Platt, who died in 1768, was a classmate of Woodhull's. S.H. Rose was not a Princeton alumnus.

The volume's entries range from 1763-1850, but most are undated. It would appear that most of the entries are by Woodhull but since some are dated after his death in 1824 someone else continued to use the book.

The contents of the notebook can be divided into four general groups:

1) Daily catechism to 25 questions of a religious nature (dated from December 4, 1763 to July 29, 1764). Examples are: "What works of Necessity and Mercy may be done on the Sabbath?" and "In what sense can we love our neighbor as ourselves?" This section comprises approximately one-fourth of the book.

2) Two orations. "On the Creation" (January 15, 1764) and "On Death" (undated) written as part of graduation exercises. Each oration is 6-7 pages in length.

3) Recipes and prescriptions for various illness and afflictions. There are approximately 100 such recipes and together they comprise one-half of the book. Some examples are "To cure the cholera," "Cure of Mal de Franse; or the Clap," and "Rheumatick Ointment."

The recipes appear to have been entered in two groups. The first, approximately two-thirds of the total, consists of little more than lists of ingredients. They are separated by carefully drawn lines with two or three recipes per page. This group was apparently written during Woodhull's college days as one of the last entries is dated "July 10 [17]66."

The second group of recipes consists of more extensive entries many dealing with dosages and treatment. They are entered somewhat more haphazardly than the first group. They also extend over a longer period of time with the earliest date being 1802 and the latest 1850, indicating that some were entered by someone other than Woodhull. This group also gives the source for some of the recipes, e.g. "Taken from the National Advocate of June 27th, 1823."

4) A poem (undated) of four pages entitled "A Dialogue between the fallen Angels and a human Spirit just entered into the other worlds..." and extracts (undated) from "Sherloe on Death", "Cato's letters, " and an extract from a sermon by Joshua Huntington delivered in 1816.

(There are also two brief descriptions of the weather in Morris County, dated April 14 and May 24, 1832.)

It would appear that Woodhull used his book for a variety of purposes. After listing some medicinal recipes, he began his daily catechism. After the last catechism and a few blank pages, he began his two orations. Blank pages follow, then the rest of the recipes.

Woodhull arranged his poems and extracts starting from the back of the book. Blank pages between sections would indicate that he intended to partition his book for different purposes.

Little if any insight to the daily life and regimen of the mid-18th century Princeton student can be gained from this book. However, the daily catechism and orations do give an idea of the curriculum at that time. Of more interest to the history of 18th century medicine and pharmacy may be the many recipes and prescriptions.

This volume was donated to the University Archives in 1994 by Elisabeth Thompson Rosamilia (Accession Number AR1994-47).

Described by John S. Riddle, September, 1994.

No appraisal information is available.

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Collection Inventory

William Woodhull Notebook, 1763-1850. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

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