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Henry Mitchell MacCracken Papers

Call Number



1852-1910, inclusive


MacCracken, Henry Mitchell, 1840-1918


5 Linear Feet (10 boxes)

Language of Materials

Materials are primarily in English.


In 1891 Henry Mitchell MacCracken became chancellor of New York University. During MacCracken's tenure as chancellor, he and the Council established and expanded the university's schools and departments, improved academic standards, increased enrollment, enlarged the physical plant, and effectively managed the University's finances by securing large private donations from benefactors such as Helen Gould, the daughter of Jay Gould, Mrs. Russell Sage, and Mrs. John Stewart Kennedy. MacCracken also conceived the idea for the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1900. The personal papers of Henry Mitchell MacCracken, 1852-1910, contain biographical sketches, correspondence, published and unpublished sermons, articles, and speeches, financial and real estate records, family diaries, account books, and notebooks

Historical/Biographical Note

Henry Mitchell MacCracken was born on September 28, 1840 in Oxford, Ohio, the eldest son of Reverend John Steele and Eliza Hawkins Dougherty Welch MacCracken, and the great-grandson of Henry MacCracken of Sunbury, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, who was killed during the American Revolution in 1780. On the maternal side, he was a great-great-great-grandson of the English Colonel Charles Hawkins of Exeter, who was killed at the seige of Gibraltar in 1704.

Henry MacCracken's father, a minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, had received his education at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, graduating in 1839. His mother had taught in the Seminary in Steubenville, and subsequently in Oxford. MacCracken entered Miami in 1852 when he was twelve years old, and was graduated five years later in July 1857, before he had reached his seventeenth birthday.

Following graduation, MacCracken devoted a year to teaching classics at the Grove Academy in Cedarville, Ohio. In 1858 he became principal of schools in South Charleston, Ohio, where he also established a series of lectures in literature, science, ethics, and civil government for residents of the village. In 1860, he moved to Xenia and began theological studies at the United Presbyterian Seminary, while teaching Latin and Greek in a high school. He had decided to become a minister and soon identified himself not with the churches with which his family had been connected -- the Reformed Church or the United Presbyterian Church -- but with the larger organization known as the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Following two years of study in Ohio, and caring for a church in Toledo in the summer of 1862, MacCracken completed his education at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1863. Shortly thereafter, he was called to become the pastor of the Westminster Church in Columbus, Ohio at the age of twenty-three. He resigned this post in 1867 in order to travel to Europe and pursue philosophical and theological studies in Germany, visiting Tubingen and Berlin, the stronghold of Hegelian philosophy. To help meet his expenses, he wrote weekly letters as a foreign correspondent to the Daily Gazette of Cincinnati.

When he returned to the United States in late 1868, MacCracken became Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Toledo. When a separate Synod of Toledo was organized, he was appointed Stated Clerk of the Synod. He continued his work as a writer, his sermons appearing weekly in the local newspaper, The Toledo Blade; and at the suggestion of Dr. Charles A. Biggs of New York, he undertook the translation of Ferdinand Piper's book, Die Zeugen der Wahrheit, adding to it the lives of certain American denominational leaders. Under the title of The Lives of the Leaders of the Church Universal, the book was published in 1879 by a number of denominational publishing houses in the United States, and by T. & T. Clark in Edinburgh. It was also during this period that MacCracken assisted with the establishment of the University of Wooster.

MacCracken married Catherine Hubbard, the daughter of the Reverend Thomas Swan Hubbard of Rochester, Vermont, on July 2, 1872 in Columbus, Ohio. Four children were born to the couple during their residence in Toledo: Mary Fay, John Henry, George Gere, and Henry Noble MacCracken.

In 1881, Henry MacCracken was chosen to the chancellorship of the Western University of Pennsylvania at Pittsburgh (now the University of Pittsburgh). By assuming this position, he resigned his pastoral duties to devote the remainder of his years to educational work. The position at Pittsburgh combined the duties of professor of philosophy with the administrative responsibilities of the chancellorship. It was during MacCracken's tenure when the university sold its property in Pittsburgh and moved to Allegheny, where an attempt was made to place the university's operations on a firmer foundation. In 1884 MacCracken was invited to join the faculty of the University of the City of New York (renamed New York University in 1896), as professor of Philosophy, a position vacated by the death of Dr. Benjamin N. Martin.

MacCracken had agreed to take this new teaching post but only if he was provided the opportunity to carry out ideas for the enlargement and development of the University. The plan was approved by the Council of the University, and the following year the office of Vice-chancellor was created, with powers which made him the active executive of the University, under the nominal chancellorship of Dr. John Hall. On June 1, 1891, MacCracken succeeded Hall, remaining chancellor of New York University until September 28, 1910.

During MacCracken's tenure as chancellor, he and the Council established and expanded the university's schools and departments, improved academic standards, increased enrollment, enlarged the physical plant, and effectively managed the University's finances by securing large private donations from benefactors such as Helen Gould, the daughter of Jay Gould, Mrs. Russell Sage, and Mrs. John Stewart Kennedy. MacCracken also conceived the idea for the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1900 and he arranged for the architect Stanford White to design a colonnade as part of the Gould Memorial Library on the University Heights campus of New York University. It was also in 1901 when MacCracken coauthored with classics professor Ernest G. Sihler, a history of New York University.

In 1910 Henry MacCracken became chancellor emritus and retained his seat on the University Council. But his retirement was devoted to travel, where he studied educational conditions around the world. He also turned again to his life-long interest in history, and delivered several historical addresses. Henry Mitchell Maccracken died in Orlando, Florida on December 24, 1918 at the age of seventy-eight.


Havighurst, Walter. Men of Old Miami, 1809-1873: A Book of Portraits. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1974.Jones, Theodore Francis, ed., New York University, 1832-1932. New York: New York University Press, 1933.MacCracken, Henry Mitchell and Ernest G. Sihler. Universities and Their Sons. New York University: Its History, Influence, Equipment and Characteristics. Boston: R. Herndon Company, 1901.MacCracken, Henry Noble. The Family on Gramercy Park. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1949.MacCracken, John Henry. "Henry Mitchell MacCracken: A Biographical Sketch," in Henry Mitchell MacCracken, In Memoriam. New York: New York University Press, 1923.


Folders are arranged topically.

The files are grouped into seven series:

Missing Title

  1. I, MacCracken Family Correspondence and Biography
  2. II, Published and Unpublished Writings
  3. III, Organizations
  4. IV, Finances and Real Estate
  5. V, Diaries, Account Books, and Notebooks
  6. VI, Artifacts
  7. VII, Testimonial and Retirement

Scope and Content Note

The personal papers of Henry Mitchell MacCracken, 1852-1910, contain biographical sketches, correspondence, published and unpublished sermons, articles, and speeches, financial and real estate records, family diaries, account books, and notebooks. The papers have been arranged into the following seven series: I. MacCracken Family Correspondence and Biography, II. Published and Unpublished Writings, III. Organizations, IV. Finances and Real Estate, V. Diaries, Account Books, and Notebooks, VI. Artifacts, and VII. Testimonial and Retirement.

Series I: MacCracken Family Correspondence and Biography, 1889-1910 (Box 1)

The MacCracken family correspondence files contain biographical sketches, photographs, letters, and other unpublished material concerning Henry Mitchell MacCracken, his wife Catherine Hubbard MacCracken, and three of their four children, John Henry, Henry Noble, and Mary Fay. Other MacCracken and Hubbard family members are also included. Papers on John Henry MacCracken include material on his selection as president of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri (1899), a copy of his dissertation, and letters to his mother and father. Correspondence concerning speeches and articles delivered and written by Henry MacCracken, and comments on his Hall of Fame Official Book (1900-1901) is also included in this series.

Series II: Writings (Published and Unpublished), 1852-1910, undated (Boxes 2-6)

The MacCracken writings form the largest series of his personal papers, and they are organized in five subseries: sermons, manuscripts, published articles, speeches (dated), and speeches (undated).

A. Sermons, 1862-1909

The selection of sermons in the collection consist of printed and manuscript copies of sermons which MacCracken delivered as pastor of the Westminster Church of Columbus, the Presbyterian Church of Toledo, various churches in Pittsburgh and New York City, and student chapel services at the University of Western Pennsylvania and New York University.

B. Manuscripts, 1852-1876, undated

The manuscripts subseries include notes and passages which MacCracken compiled for Lives and Leaders of the Church Universal (1879) ; a student composition he wrote at Miami University in 1852, and two versions of his "Autobiography in Verse" (undated).

C. Published Articles, 1884-1909, undated

The urban university was a central theme for Henry MacCracken during his years of leadership at Western Pennsylvania and New York University. Among the numerous items included in this subseries are such articles as "The Relation of the Metropolis and University," his inaugural address at N.Y.U. in 1884; "A Metropolitan University" (1892) ; and "University Problems in the Metropolis" (1904). Other articles are concerned with the movement of New York University's undergraduate school to the Bronx, and the development of higher education in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

D. Speeches, 1857-1910

The speech files contain both printed and manuscript copies of speeches delivered by MacCracken during his tenure as chancellor of New York University. These include remarks delivered at functions such as opening day, commencement, alumni gatherings, and building dedications. MacCracken's concern for athletic programs at American colleges and universities, and particularly the violence of intercollegiate football, is represented by a number of speeches delivered before various university and civic groups. His involvement in this latter issue led to the formation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Of special interest is a copy of MacCracken's commencement oration at Miami University in 1857 entitled, "Our Inquisition -- The Newspaper Press."

E. Speeches, undated

MacCracken's undated speeches form the final subseries of his published and unpublished writings and include many of the topics addressed in his dated speeches.

Series III: Organizations, 1893-1910 (Box 7)

During his tenure as chancellor of New York University, MacCracken was involved with a number of civic and religious organizations. Among these groups represented in his personal papers are St. Paul's Institute in Tarsus, Turkey; the Presbyterian Reformed Church; and various peace associations and conferences, including the New York City Peace Society and the Saratoga (N.Y.) National Conference on Foreign Policy.

Series IV: Finances and Real Estate, 1881-1909 (Boxes 8-9)

The MacCracken family real estate holdings in Ohio, Vermont, and New York are documented in the correspondence and financial records of this series. Included are letters exchanged with financial agents and businessmen in Ohio, and various account books. One account book concerns the estate of George Gere MacCracken, the youngest son of Henry MacCracken.

Series V: Diaries, Account Hooks, and Notebooks, 1885-1899 (Box 10)

Henry MacCracken's diaries for 1890 and 1898, and other account books, including one belonging to his son, Henry Noble MacCracken, are contained in this series. One interesting item is a grocery account book maintained by Catherine Hubbard MacCracken for 1896 and 1899.

Series VI: Artifacts, 1899, undated (Box 10)

Two artifacts are contained in the MacCracken Papers: an engraving plate with a portrait of John Henry MacCracken, and a snakeskin folder purse, presumably belonging to Henry MacCracken.

Series VII: Testimonial and Retirement, 1909-1910 (Box 10)

The final series includes a clipping of a testimonial in his honor by the New Jersey alumni of New York University in 1909, and newspaper coverage of MacCracken's retirement from the chancellorship of New York University in 1910.

Access Restrictions

Materials are open without restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the creator are maintained by New York University. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from New York University Archives, (212) 998-2646,

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form: Identification of item, date (if known); Henry Mitchell MacCracken Papers; MC 15; box number; folder number; New York University Archives, New York University Libraries.

Location of Materials

Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least two business days prior to your research visit to coordinate access.


Transfered from Gould Memorial Library, University Heights campus, 1974.

Separated Material

There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.

Related Material at the New York University Archives

Administrative Papers of the Chancellor Henry Mitchell MacCracken, 1884-1910.

Nineteenth Century Notebooks, Diaries, and Journals 1833-1938.

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About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 17:50:32 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from a paper finding aid.


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