This Week in Princeton History for November 23-29

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, stranded undergrads sing in Trenton, the basketball team gets tickets with nobody’s face on them, and more.

November 23, 1939—When a train wreck blocks all traffic on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad near Princeton Junction Station, 300 stranded undergraduates returning from Thanksgiving break hold an impromptu “songfest” in Trenton Station.

November 24, 1781—James Caldwell, College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1759, is killed by an American sentry in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. The sentry will later be hanged for murder.


Clipping from the New Jersey Gazette, December 12, 1781.

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Princeton’s Thanksgiving Dinners

Last year, we shared a typical Princeton Thanksgiving of football rivalry with Yale rather than turkey and trimmings with you on our blog. That Princetonians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries tended toward urban entertainment in preference to a heavy meal does not mean that the meal was wholly unimportant, however. We’ve been collecting menus from the University Archives on our Tumblr page since June, and in the process of doing so we’ve discovered a handful of Thanksgiving menus we’d like to share with you here during this holiday season.

The first is George Whitefield Betts, Class of 1892, who had his 1890 Thanksgiving dinner at “Mrs. McCarty’s.” A modern audience will recognize some of what was on offer as currently traditional, but might balk at cold boiled tongue. (Scrapbook Collection (AC026), Box 150)


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This Week in Princeton History for November 16-22

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the college president boasts about America’s educational system, Billy Joel draws crowds, and more.

November 16, 1772—The New York Gazette prints a letter from College of New Jersey (Princeton) President John Witherspoon that asserts that an American college education is the best in the world, because Princeton does not practice corporal punishment: “no correction by stripes is permitted: Such as cannot be governed by reason and the principles of honour and shame, are reckoned unfit for residence in a College.”

November 17, 1972—The University Council’s Executive Committee orders flags on campus to fly at half-mast in mourning for two students shot to death during a protest at Southern University in Baton Rouge under circumstances some say mirror deaths at Kent State University in 1970. The committee refers to the police killings as a “tragedy [that] represents a resort to violence as response to disagreement among people.” The Association for Black Collegians is taking up a collection to help provide for other students in Louisiana affected by the incident.

November 19, 2001—Billy Joel lectures on the history of music and performs in a variety of styles in Princeton’s Richardson Auditorium.


Billy Joel gestures to the crowd in Richardson Auditorium, November 19, 2001. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 197.

November 21, 1917—The Daily Princetonian runs an editorial suggesting “meatless and wheatless” days in campus dining halls and eating clubs in response to widespread food shortages.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

Dear Mr. Mudd: Whose Cannon Is It?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

My friend goes to Rutgers and keeps saying that the cannon in Cannon Green isn’t really Princeton’s. Whose cannon is it?


Princeton students have revered the “big cannon” on Cannon Green for close to two centuries. This version of the Princeton “Cannon Song,” as well as others, may be found in the Princeton Music Collection (AC056), Box 10.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 9-15

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the school holds its first Commencement, a “food revolt” causes tension between students and administrators, and more.

November 9, 1748—The College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) holds its first Commencement in Newark, where six students are granted the degree of Bachelor of the Arts. The New York Gazette reports “That Learning, like the Sun in its Western Progress, had now began to dawn upon the Province of New Jersey…”

November 11, 1985—Director of University Health Services Dr. Louis Pyle ‘41 speaks to the University Council on medical and administrative issues arising from a new national concern: the spread of AIDS. Though no cases have been found at Princeton, Pyle believes it is only a matter of time before UHS begins facing the issue head on, and refers to the syndrome as “medicine’s most challenging current problem.”

November 13, 1978—Princeton administrators warn 180 students who have signed a petition threatening to cancel their meal plans if food quality does not improve that they will not allow contract cancellations related to what is known as the Wilson College “food revolt.” (Students organized under the slogan “The food is revolting, so why aren’t you?”) In response, hundreds more will sign the petition, for a total of 715 students.


Princeton University dining hall, ca. 1970s. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP192.

November 15, 1877—The Princetonian editorializes, “We regret that Yale has again been constrained to make herself obnoxious,” in response to Yale’s refusal to modify the rules of American football to have 15 players per team rather than 11.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for November 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian laments changes in New Jersey laws, Billy Graham addresses Christianity and the Civil Rights Movement on campus, and more.

November 2, 1876—In response to a new state law that banned billiard tables within three miles of Nassau Hall, the Princetonian editorializes: “Billiards exeunt. Gone! They are gone. … Oh the cruel, cruel souls who feasted on the gnat and tasted not the camel. … Ah, be still sad heart. … But law—law transcendent—law whose seat is the bosom of the eternal and locus inflictus the State of New Jersey, law’s bright eye flasheth, that eye before whose flash the common sense of man doth fade as doth a match before the lime ball of a calcium-light.”

November 3, 1963—Well-known evangelist Billy Graham speaks twice on campus, once in the University Chapel and once in Alexander Hall. He asserts the Civil Rights Movement’s need for the church and speaks of his hope that Christianity will end racism in the American South.


Billy Graham at Princeton, November 3, 1963. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

November 4, 1987—Princeton University architecture lab technician Leon Barth awakes to discover he has been elected as mayor of Roosevelt Borough, New Jersey, against his will. Residents of the town have ignored his repeated refusals to run for mayor and have campaigned for him anyway as a write in candidate. Though not wanting the job, he says he will submit to the will of his fellow townspeople and take it anyway. As the mayor of Roosevelt is an unpaid position, he will keep his day job at Princeton.

November 6, 1869—The College of New Jersey (Princeton) and Rutgers College face off in the first intercollegiate game in the history of American football.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

Dear Mr. Mudd: Princeton Theological Seminary

By Spencer Shen ’16

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Is Princeton Theological Seminary part of Princeton University?

Alexander Hall ca 1843 (1)

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Alexander Hall, ca. 1843. Image courtesy Princeton Theological Seminary Archives.

A. In short, no. The two are separate institutions. However, they enjoy a cooperative relationship that began in 1811. In 1810, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church judged that the College of New Jersey (Princeton) had grown too secular to train ministers and decided to establish a theological seminary. The following year, the trustees of the College approached the General Assembly to propose Princeton as the seminary’s location, giving birth to agreements below:

  • The trustees engage not to interfere in any way with the Assembly and its directors in carrying out the plan of the seminary adopted in 1810.
  • The trustees permit the Assembly to erect buildings necessary for the seminary on the College grounds.
  • The trustees engage to grant accommodations to the Assembly in their present buildings when desirable.
  • The trustees engage to receive such students as are sent by the Assembly and to endeavor to reduce the College expense.
  • The trustees undertake to receive moneys for investment, subject to the Assembly’s order.
  • The trustees grant to the seminary the use of the College library, subject to certain rules.
  • The trustees agree to help the Assembly to establish a preparatory school.
  • The Assembly is at liberty to remove at any time the seminary elsewhere, and the trustees promise to establish no professorship of theology in the College while the seminary shall remain at Princeton.
  • The trustees engage to use certain moneys in their hands chiefly according to the recommendation of the Assembly.

Other than this agreement, there has never been an organic connection between the two institutions.

On May 30, 1812, 31 directors of the Seminary were elected, including the Reverend Dr. Archibald Alexander of Philadelphia, who was soon elected professor of didactic and polemic theology on June 2. The seminary officially opened on August 12 with the inauguration of Dr. Alexander and the matriculation of three students.

Today, the Princeton Theological Seminary is one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. In 2014-2015, 523 students from 20 countries were enrolled at the seminary, receiving instruction from 61 faculty members. Its libraries contain nearly 1.3 million items, which are also open to Princeton University students and faculty. Despite their separate identities, the Seminary and the University cooperate to enrich their academic and civic communities through the sharing of certain resources.

For further information concerning the Princeton Theological Seminary, please contact Kenneth Henke, Curator of Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library, P.O. Box 821, Princeton, NJ, 08542-0111. He can also be reached by email.

This post was originally written by Rosemary Switzer (2003) as an FAQ page on our old website. It has been revised and expanded here by Spencer Shen ’16 as part of the launch of our new website.

Related Sources:

Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109)

Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978. Also available online.

Moorhead, James H. Princeton Seminary in American Culture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.

Selden, William K. Princeton Theological Seminary: A Narrative History, 1812-1992. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.

This Week in Princeton History for October 26-November 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus suspends mail delivery due to fears of contamination, Coretta Scott King speaks to an audience of more than 500, and more.

October 26, 1963—An undetermined number of Princeton undergraduates join an estimated 4,000 participants in a civil rights “March on Trenton for Jobs and Freedom.” It is the first statewide civil rights demonstration in the United States, having been modeled on the March on Washington the previous August 28.

October 29, 1951—Princeton junior James G. Hiering ’53’s hiccups cause his roommate to call the infirmary in desperation in the middle of the night. The infirmary sends two uniformed campus proctors to escort Hiering to them for treatment. Hiering, not knowing anything about his roommate’s call, is so surprised to see the officers that his hiccups are instantly cured.

October 31, 2001—The New York Times reports that Princeton University has suspended campus mail delivery in the wake of the discovery that a nearby mailbox in Palmer Square has tested positive for anthrax spores. With the campus pharmacy running low on Cipro, the antibiotic used to treat anthrax, the nationwide concerns about contaminated mail are verging on panic on campus. The anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001 (“Amerithrax”) will ultimately kill five people and infect 17 others in a wide geographic area.


Editorial cartoon depicting “love in the age of anthrax” from the October 24, 2001 issue of the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian suggests the grading “vogue” is a bad idea, the campus mourns Thomas Alva Edison, and more.

October 19, 1876—The Daily Princetonian laments that the College of New Jersey (Princeton) has joined in the grading “vogue,” and urges that the practice of giving students grades be stopped.

October 21, 1931—In memorial of inventor Thomas Edison, who died on October 19, the University observes a one-minute period from 7:00-7:01 PM when all electric lights are extinguished.


Thomas Alva Edison, Allen West, and George W. Goethals, at Princeton University Commencement, June 15, 1915. Edison, along with Goethals (builder of the Panama Canal), received honorary degrees that day. Honorary Degree Records (AC106), Box 6.

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Streaking and the Nude Olympics

In the 1960s and 1970s, streaking became a common prank for students to play on college campuses across America, reaching its zenith of popularity around the mid-1970s.  Princeton was no exception. In fact, the school held onto naked running in public much longer than others; the last major such event at Princeton occurred in 1999.

The most famous individual streaker at Princeton was probably the “Red Baron.” No student has been definitively identified as the Baron, but during a three-year period in the late 1960s, many exams and athletic events were visited by a nude Caucasian male running down aisles and through stands wearing nothing but red accessories, such as hats, scarves, or a cape. Princeton’s classes and events were interrupted by other naked visitors sporadically in the 1970s. Outdoor running was also popular, especially among certain athletic teams who would jog nude around campus following practices.


Streakers interrupt an organic chemistry class at Princeton University, 1975. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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