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James C. Mackenzie Papers

Identifier: DC033

Scope and Contents

The James C. Mackenzie Papers consist of documents pertaining to Mackenzie's student and occupational career prior to his arrival at Lawrenceville; his correspondence, reports, writings, sermons, addresses, and activities at The Lawrenceville School, Jacob Tome Institute, and Mackenzie School, as well as with the Headmasters' Association and the Committee of Ten; the correspondence of his family, including reminiscences of Lawrenceville by his wife and daughter; and biographical accounts of Mackenzie by his son Richard, T. Dean Swift (his secretary at Lawrenceville), and others. Items of particular interest include correspondence with Peabody and Sterns and Frederic Law Olmsted pertaining to the design and building of The Circle.


  • 1855 - 1982
  • Majority of material found within 1869 - 1933

Conditions Governing Access

The James C. Mackenzie Papers are open for research use..

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies and digital photographs may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Archivist. Researchers are responsible for determining any other copyright questions.

Biographical / Historical

James Cameron Mackenzie was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1852. At the age of six, he emigrated with his family, settling in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. His was a family of modest means, and he received almost no formal education, save for a single term of public school. As a teenager, Mackenzie began working as a clerk in a bookshop, and taught himself to read and write using the books available to him there. At age 18, he entered Phillips Exeter Academy, and in spite of his simple background and lack of formal education, distinguished himself both in scholarship and in the esteem of his peers. Following his graduation from Exeter in 1873, Mackenzie studied at Lafayette College, and worked as the principle and the director of the Wilkes-Barre Institute, a school for girls.

In 1880 he married Ella Smith of Wilkes-Barre, the daughter of General R.C. Smith. Mrs. Mackenzie would be fondly recognized by Lawrenceville students as calm and gracious person, providing a warm and serene presence in the midst of the male-dominated Lawrenceville landscape. Along with his wife, Mackenzie came to Lawrenceville to begin his work in the fall of 1883.

Dr. Mackenzie entered Lawrenceville just after the incorporation of the John Cleve Green foundation, the leading force behind great changes at Lawrenceville. With revenue from the estate of former student John Cleve Green, the school was growing both physically and philosophically. New buildings were erected, the student body expanded, and the curriculum was revolutionized. The “New School” was formed on the model of the British Boarding schools, featuring grade levels or “forms” and distinct individual dormitories or Houses. Notable, Mackenzie spearheaded efforts to create the Upper House (formerly known as Caleb Smith Hall), which has remained a Lawrenceville icon. Mackenzie believed that boys in their final year would benefit from a period of minimally-supervised independence, during which they could adapt to the freedom that college would allow them. This effort illustrates Mackenzie’s inherent trust in the good nature and trustworthiness of his students, who in turn saw him as a trusted advisor and mentor. Athletics and other extracurricular activities also flourished under Mackenzie’s leadership, and it was during this period that the school developed a reputation for producing some of the best collegiate athletes in the country. The Lawrenceville name was also becoming associated with students who were not simply well-versed in academic subjects, but endowed with confidence and strength of character.

In 1899, Mackenzie resigned from Lawrenceville and accepted the position of director at the Tome Institute in Maryland. The school had recently been incorporated, and Mackenzie’s energy and experience were invaluable in its organization and planning. In 1901, Mackenzie left the Tome Institute to found his own school at Dobbs Ferry, NY. The school would later move to Monroe, NY, where Mackenzie remained as director until his retirement in 1926. He died in 1931, and is buried in Lawrenceville, near campus.


4.17 Linear Feet (10 boxes)

Language of Materials



The James C. Mackenzie Papers are arranged into six series: Series 1: Pre-Lawrenceville, 1855-1965; Series 2: The Lawrenceville School, 1878-1965; Series 3: Toms Institute, 1883-1937; Series 4: Mackenzie School, 1885-1971; Series 5: Retirement, Death, and Biographical Material, 1892-1982; Series 6: Sermons, 1881-1920. The original order of the files has been maintained within each series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The acquisition history of the Mackenzie papers is unclear. The bulk of the papers were likely acquired by A.R. Evans in the early-1960s and transferred to the Archives shortly their after. The papers include gifts from Mackenzie family members and transfers from Lawrenceville School administration.


Appraisal has been conducted in accordance with The Lawrenceville School Stephan Archives guidelines.

Related Materials

More information on the life of James C. Mackenzie can be found in the T. Dean Swift papers (DC065).


Information in the biographical note was gathered from material within the Mackenzie papers. The Lawrenceville Lexicon: A Compendium of All Things Lawrenceville, Merrell Noden, editor, was also consulted.

Processing Information

The James C. Mackenzie Papers were initially processed by A.R. Evans in the mid-1960s. It was reprocessed by Casey Babcock in November of 2011 to reflect current archival standards. The biographical note was written by Zoe Vybiral.

James C. Mackenzie Papers: Finding Aid
Casey Babcock, A.R. Evans, and Zoe Vybiral
June 12, 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The Lawrenceville School Stephan Archives Repository

Box 6128
2500 Main St.
Lawrenceville 08648 U.S.A. US