Princeton University Archives

Princeton University Archives
What: Key members of the Princeton faculty — which was greatly enlarged by President James Carnahan 1800, top center — stare out from a haunting daguerreotype made shortly before he retired in 1854.

Tall, dignified, and dull, Carnahan nearly became the College’s last president. Early in his administration, enrollment sank to just 70, and he considered closing the doors. But his lieutenant, John Maclean Jr. 1816, bottom center, would not give up so easily. Born in his father’s faculty apartment on campus and devoted to the institution, Maclean, who would succeed Carnahan as president, founded the Alumni Association of Nassau Hall to raise funds aggressively — launching a ­Princeton tradition.  

As money rolled in, Maclean hired astronomer Stephen Alexander, upper left, and botanist John Torrey, lower left, among other bright minds. The latter taught ­chemistry in Philosophical Hall, then rode home at day’s end to his nearby farm, where he wrote the pioneering “A Flora of the State of New York.”

Of the 1,600 students who graduated under Carnahan, 300 became ministers. Proud of having ballooned the teaching staff to 14 – with six full professors – he would not recognize Princeton today, with more than 1,000 faculty.

Where: Historical Photograph Collection, Princeton University Archives in ­Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library