Orange Key Guide Service
Founding of Princeton

Princeton University received its first charter from King George II, under the seal of John Hamilton, Acting Governor of the Royal Province of New Jersey, on October 22, 1746. Princeton is the fourth extant college to be established in the British colonies—after Harvard (1639), William and Mary (1693), and Yale (1701)—and first in the middle colonies. The charter was obtained through the efforts of a number of Presbyterians under the direct influence of the Great Awakening, a religious revival that swept the colonies in the early 18th century. Six of Princeton's seven original trustees were graduates of Yale, which the trustees believed no longer provided a suitable atmosphere in which men could be trained for "truly enlightened" pulpits. This situation influenced the trustees to establish a school where young men could be trained not only for the ministry, but also for other worthy endeavors—"the State as well as the Church."

Chartered officially as the College of New Jersey, Princeton was popularly known in the early days as Nassau Hall, a title taken from its principal building, and later as Princeton College, derived from her location. Only at the sesquicentennial in 1896 did the University formally adopt the name "Princeton University."

The first president of the College was a distinguished writer and pastor, the Reverend Jonathan Dickinson. In May 1747, the first group of eight undergraduates assembled in Dickinson's home in Elizabeth, N.J. Less than five months later Dickinson died and another founder, the Reverend Aaron Burr, Sr., succeeded him as president. The College and its undergraduates then moved to Burr's home in Newark, N.J. It was not until 1756 that the College moved to its permanent location in Princeton.

(Adapted from A Princeton Companion.)