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Columbia College papers, 1703-1964 [Bulk Dates: 1754-1920]

Summary Information

At a Glance

Title:Columbia College papers, 1703-1964 [Bulk Dates: 1754-1920]
Physical description:48.50 linear ft. ( 98 document boxes, 2 oversized flat boxes, 1 oversized flat enclosure, and 1 bound volume).
Language(s): Material is in English.


Arranged in three series:


Scope and Content

The surviving files of official correspondence, reports, documents, and printed materials of King's College from 1750 to 1784 and Columbia College from 1785 to 1890, as well as Columbia University up to 1964. The King's College era materials include grants, deeds, indentures, lists of governors, leases, accounts, etc. The Columbia College era papers commences with documentation regarding the attempts to revive the college at the end of the American Revolution. In the later period these papers primarily supplement and document the minutes of the meetings of the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees. Much material was destroyed and scattered in the late 19th century leaving this collection quite incomplete.

Series I: King’s College Papers, 1703-1784

This series contains documents relating to the establishment of King’s College in 1754 and its development. These documents include correspondence of the first president, Samuel Johnson, the Governors of King’s College, and others. In addition, this series contains reports, minutes, bills and receipts, appointment recommendations, and documents by and concerning the students as well as the physical plant of the college. This series also contains some documents relating to the renaming of King’s College as Columbia College and appeals to the Regents of New York State.

Series II: Columbia College Papers, 1784-1964

This series contains documents relating to the newly named Columbia College, including accounts, correspondence, minutes, bills and receipts, documents by and concerning the students, leases of property, and donations. Most of this series includes correspondence, reports, and Trustees related material from before 1900, although one will find minutes and materials from trustee meetings, correspondence, receipts and accounts, speeches and documents post-dating 1900. Post-1900 items of interest include: documents concerning the Contemporary Civilization program in the 1930s, copies of Columbia College valedictorian and salutatorian speeches from the early 1960s, and a copy of the speech given at Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration as Columbia University President in 1948.

Series III: Oversized Materials, 1752-1856

This series contains oversized documents relating to both King's College and Columbia College. Documents are primarily property maps, indentures, land lease documents, and petitions.

Using the Collection

Access Restrictions

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Columbia College Papers; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Finding aid is available online, item level control.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Archives; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Cataloged 05/04/1989 Christina Hilton Fenn

Commencement Oration of 1793 Cataloged 08/02/1995 HR

This collection was processed at the item level by the staff of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library in the 1970s and 1980s.

Some rehousing completed and EAD finding inventory compiled by Ian Post (Pratt SLS Intern), Fall 2014

Additional re-housing and inventory work completed by Kelly Powers (CC 2018), Spring 2015

Finding aid edited by Jocelyn Wilk, Fall 2016

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion October 5, 2016

Finding aid written in English.

    2016-10-05 File created.
    2016-10-13 xml document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Additional Creators

HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Columbia College (Columbia University)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia UniversityPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
King's College (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Land grantsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Barnard, Frederick A. P. (Frederick Augustus Porter), 1809-1889PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
College AdministratorsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
College Administrators--New York (State)--New YorkPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia College (Columbia University)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia College (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia UniversityPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--AdministrationPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--HistoryPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--History--18th centuryPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--History--19th centuryPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--History--20th centuryPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Officials and EmployeesPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--PresidentsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--TrusteesPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Cooper, Myles, 1737-1785PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Dix, Morgan, 1827-1908PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Duer, William Alexander, 1780-1858PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Harris, WIlliam, 1765-1829PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Johnson, Samuel, 1696-1772PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Johnson, William Samuel, 1727-1819PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
King's College (New York, N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
King, Charles, 1789-1867PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Low, Seth, 1850-1916PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Moore, Benjamin, 1748-1816PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Moore, Clement Clarke, 1779-1863PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Moore, Nathaniel, 1782-1872PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note


Columbia College was originally founded as King's College in 1754 with a Royal Charter from King George II, and situated at Wall Street. The first president and first professor was Samuel Johnson. In 1767, Samuel Bard established a medical college as part of King's College. Instruction was suspended from 1776 to 1784 during the Revolutionary War; after the end of the war, King's College was renamed Columbia College to reflect the new independence from Britain. The College was temporarily a state institution until 1787, until it was incorporated under a private board of trustees, which remains in effect today.

A second campus existed on Park Place, but shortly thereafter moved to 49th Street and Madison Avenue in 1857. This location remained for forty years, and expanded to include Columbia Law School and Columbia School of Mines (now The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science). In 1890, President Seth Low advocated to divide the individual schools and colleges into distinct entities under the university's central administration, which came to include Barnard College in 1889 and Teachers College in 1891. In 1896, the trustees approved renaming the university as Columbia University in the City of New York, and Columbia College came to refer solely to the original undergraduate college. President Low also moved the Madison Avenue campus to its current location in Morningside Heights. This campus was designed by Charles McKim.