Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Varnum Lansing Collins served as Princeton University's Secretary from 1917 to 1936. Collins wrote several books on Princeton's history.
Born in Hong Kong, Collins obtained his education in Paris and London before coming to Princeton as a member of the class of 1892. As an undergraduate, he was editor of The Nassau Literary Magazine, president of the Cliosophic Society, leader of the Glee Club, and a member of the Triangle Club. After receiving an Honorary A.M. from Princeton in 1895, Collins worked in the University Library as a reference librarian until he joined the faculty of the Department of Modern Languages in 1906. He was made full professor six years later and assumed the position of clerk of the faculty—a position he held until 1935. Collins also served as the secretary of the Graduate Council from 1917 until 1927 and was an instrumental figure during the years that the Council successfully conducted its $2,000,000 campaign for faculty salaries.
In 1917 he became University secretary and served in this role for nineteen years. When ill health forced Collins to retire in 1936, the Board accepted his resignation "with regret" and named him Historiographer to Princeton University. Collins had written a number of books on Princeton history, notably a biography of President John Witherspoon, a history of Princeton, and a guide to the town and the University. His love and knowledge of Princeton led to the grassroots development of the University Archives. Named editor of the General Catalogue/Biographical Catalogue in 1906, he compiled files on alumni and on possible, doubtful, and fraudulent "alumni" that have been used by researchers ever since. As secretary he began what is now known as the Historical Subject Files, a collection of Princeton history, lore, and trivia organized by subject.
The collection consists of notes, drafts, transcriptions of articles, a typescript, and correspondence gathered by Varnum Lansing Collins (Princeton Class of 1892) in preparation for his biography of Stephen Sayre (Princeton Class of 1757), a merchant, banker, and diplomatic agent who worked in Europe for the cause of the American Colonies.
Arranged in this order: correspondence, notes, rough drafts, transcriptions, and typescript.
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Folder inventory added by Feng Zhu '14 in 2013.
- Manuscripts Division
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The collection is open for research.
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