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New York University Collection of Printed Materials on the Founding of the University

Call Number



1830-1982, inclusive
; 1830-1860, bulk


Wainwright, Jonathan Mayhew, 1792-1854
Anthon, George, George C. (George Christian), 1820-1877
Council of the University of the City of New York
Mott, Valentine, 1785-1865
Lewis, Morgan, 1754-1844
New York University


4 Linear Feet in 7 manuscript boxes and 2 half manuscript boxes

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.


New York University (NYU) was founded in 1831. This collection contains documentation surrounding that event, as well as material from subsequent decades pertaining to NYU's early history.

Historical Note

New York University was founded as the University of the City of New-York in 1831. It retained this name until 1896. The University's founders envisioned the school as a departure from other American institutions of higher learning. It would be a nonsectarian university and educate the working classes with a practical and useful curriculum in modern language, sciences and politics. In 1830 a group of men, comprised of local merchants and businessmen, issued "Considerations upon the Expediency and the Means of Establishing a University in the City of New-York," addressed to the citizens of the city. They desired to expand educational opportunities beyond the "privileged class" by establishing a university to prepare young men for a variety of occupations, from merchant to physician.

The New York State Legislature officially incorporated the University of the City of New-York in 1831. In 1833 the University celebrated its first commencement and graduated three students. The University's first permanent home was completed in 1835. The ornate, marble, neo-Gothic building housed classrooms, apartments and office space as well as a chapel. Before its construction, classes were held further downtown near City Hall.

For additional information, see:

"Considerations Upon the Expediency and the Means of Establishing a University of the City of New-York," 1830; The Records of the Founding of the University; RG 1.00; Box 2, Folder 1; New York University Archives.

Dim, Joan Marans and Nancy Cricco, The Miracle on Washington Square: New York University, Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2001.

Jones, Theodore Francis, ed. New York University: 1832-1932, New York: The New York University Press, 1933.


The collections is arranged in four series:

  1. Documents Related to Founding
  2. Early Documents
  3. Published Articles
  4. Clippings and Publications

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection is comprised of primary materials related to New York University's founding. These include the documents and manifestos the founders drafted to establish the University as well as some of the earliest articles written about NYU, recollections from students and material about the University Building. Materials also highlight certain episodes in the first half-century of the University, such as the 1881 effort to abolish the undergraduate department, resignation of the University's first Chancellor, James A. Matthews, and the firing of various professors. The collection also includes 20th-century material related to the early years of the university. Contained within the collection are clippings, correspondence, circulars, addresses and publications. Most of the material is either bound or has been photocopied.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions, but special care must be given to fragile original documents.

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

Identification of item, date (if known); New York University Collection of Printed Materials on the Founding of the University; MC 228; 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.

Custodial History

The collection was compiled from various sources and donors within the University.

Related Materials

RG 3.0.1 Records of the Office of the Chancellor

Collection processed by

Steven A. Walker and Cynthia Siu, October 1987. Alison Lotto and Bernadette Siddiqi contributed to the description of the collection. Additional description and arrangement by Shannon McDonald. Additional arrangement completed by Katie Ehrlich. Electronic version prepared by Katie Ehrlich.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 17:49:49 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English

Processing Information

Materials were placed in archival boxes and folders at the time of processing.

Correspondence re: Journal of the Proceedings of the Literary Convention, 1956 September 9 (formerly Box 1, Folder 1) was removed from the collection by Janet Bunde in October 2019. It was transfered to the New York University Archives Biographical Files' (MC 317) folder on Joseph Leo-Wolf.

1830 Establishment Papers (reproductions) (formerly Box 1, Folder 2) were also removed. These were transfered to the New York University Archives Subject Files' (MC 308) folder on the Founding of Schools, Colleges, and Divisions of NYU.

Revisions to this Guide

July 2019: Edited by Jacqueline Rider for compliance with DACS and ACM Required Elements for Archival Description


New York University Archives
New York University Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012