This Week in Princeton History for March 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, juniors take up roller skating when cars are banned, a fire forces the school to start over almost from scratch, and more.

March 2, 1927—In order to protest the new “car rule,” which bans student use of automobiles on campus, Princeton juniors take to roller skating. The New York Times reports on their activities, noting the posters the skaters pinned to their shirts, with various comic slogans, including “And Mama said I could.” Five of the skaters will be photographed for the March 13, 1927 issue of the New York Herald Tribune. Although their efforts capture national attention, ultimately the car rule will remain in effect for decades.

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Three students with a car on campus, ca. 1920s, presumably before the ban on student use of automobiles. Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box SP14, Item No. 3412.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 23-March 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Jewish students get their own space, the campus reels from discovering the true identity of a student, and more.

February 23, 1883—The Princetonian calls for coeducation in an editorial that asserts, “The time has now come … when the onward march of learning demands for woman the same attention as is bestowed upon men.” An added plus, the editorial says, will be an improvement in the morals of the male students. In order to ensure this, it proposes that female students be required to sign the following pledge: “We, the undersigned, solemnly promise, while connected with this institution, to receive no attention from any gentlemen who use tobacco or intoxicating liquors.” Princeton will actually become coeducational 86 years later, without requiring such a pledge from any student.

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Nineteenth-century drawing, Princeton Artwork Collection (AC376), Box 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 16-22

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, James Brown performs, Jimmy Stewart ’32 reflects on his college days, and more.

February 16, 1996—James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul,” performs in Dillon Gymnasium.

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Photo from Daily Princetonian.

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Princeton Presidential

By Dan Linke

Since tomorrow is Presidents Day, we wanted to take the opportunity to share some of Princeton University’s many connections to the presidents of the United States. We note that of the 43 men who have served as America’s presidents, we have confirmed that at least 25 and possibly as many as 29 have visited Princeton at some point, with eight gracing campus while serving as the nation’s chief executive.

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This chart is arranged in the order in which each held the office of President. The names in parentheses indicate those for whom we have some records asserting they visited, but have not been able to definitively verify the visit with contemporary accounts.

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“Princeton College Bought Me”: The Life of a Fugitive Slave in Princeton

Many nearly-forgotten legends surround James “Jimmy Stink” Collins Johnson, who lived in Princeton for most of his life after escaping from slavery in Maryland. Today it is impossible to completely separate fact from fiction, but this is our best reconstruction:

The sources tell us that two slaves in Easton, Maryland, welcomed a baby on October 2, 1816. Early in his childhood, their mistress gave the boy, James Collins, to their master’s son, Teakle Wallace, who was only a month older than James. James married a freedwoman in Church Hill, several miles away, in 1836. Frustrated with captivity, James began planning an escape. When Wallace gave James five dollars for some reason, James seized the opportunity and left Easton on foot at midnight on August 8, 1839, never to return. After stopping to say good-bye to his wife and promise he would send for her when he could, he continued walking to Wilmington, Delaware, where a portion of his money bought him fare on a riverboat to Philadelphia. At this point, he changed his name to James Johnson. In Philadelphia, he bought a train ticket to Trenton. Legend has it that he had just fifty cents left when he arrived in Trenton, which he spent on train fare to carry him as far north as possible. His destination was Princeton, New Jersey, where he arrived on August 10.

In Princeton, Johnson found work at the College of New Jersey, colloquially called “Princeton College,” as a janitor in Nassau Hall. A few years later, Simon Weeks (Class of 1838), a student at Princeton Theological Seminary and a friend of the Wallaces, saw and recognized Johnson and wrote back to Maryland to report on this. Some weeks passed. Then, as Andrew Clerk Imbrie later wrote for the Nassau Lit, Johnson’s master confronted him at the local post office. Johnson “stood quaking before young Teakle Wallace a picture of abject misery. Visions of the old days came back to him … he had tasted liberty since then, and his whole nature revolted at the idea of going back to once more become a slave.”

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James Johnson and unknown young man, ca. 1890, Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC67), Box MP4.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 9-15

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, underclassmen get a chance to read more books, the College of New Jersey changes its name, and more.

February 9, 1999—Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wendy Wasserstein speaks on the experiences of a female Jewish playwright and public reaction to her award-winning 1989 play, “The Heidi Chronicles,” in McCormick Hall. Wasserstein’s best-known work is probably the 1998 screenplay The Object of My Affection, starring Jennifer Aniston.

February 10, 1890—The Princetonian announces that freshmen and sophomores may now take three books out of the library at once, a privilege previously reserved for upperclassmen.

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Some of the books students might have checked out of the Princeton University library in 1890. (Photo taken in 1947.) Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP4, Item No. 66.

February 12, 1970—Princeton mathematics professor Gerard Washnitzer *50 is delivering a lecture at a seminar at the University of Pennsylvania when Robert H. Cantor opens fire on two Penn professors before turning the gun on himself. One of the Penn professors, Walter Koppelman, will die of his injuries two weeks later.

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Gerard Washnitzer, ca. 1970s. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 116.

February 13, 1896—The Board of Trustees officially change the name of the College of New Jersey to Princeton University.

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Board of Trustees Minutes (AC102), February 13, 1896.

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.

“Princeton University Does Not Discriminate…”: African American Exclusion at Princeton

Bruce Wright applied for admission to Princeton University in the 1930s, having spent some of his childhood living in its shadow in Princeton, New Jersey. He was excited to be awarded a scholarship, and showed up in the fall ready to start as a freshman. So far as the Dean of Admissions was concerned, however, there was just one problem: Wright was black, and the Admissions Office hadn’t known that when they offered him a place among white Princetonians. Though many students who stood in line to register with Wright were not at all resistant to having him there, Dean Radcliffe Heermance (Graduate Class of 1909) decided that Princeton would not accept him as one of its own. In a later interview, Wright recalled, Heermance had told him: “If you’re trying to come here, you’re going someplace where you’re not wanted.” With no other recourse he could see, Wright went outside, sat down on his suitcase, and waited for his father to drive down from New York to pick him up.

The words lingered in Wright’s mind. “I was shattered, and I became more so as time went on,” Wright said. “For some reason I persisted in writing to Heermance to demand to know why. Was I a danger, a menace to a great university?”

This was Heermance’s answer:

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Mudd Manuscript Library Summer Fellowship Available

The Mudd Manuscript Library, a unit of Princeton University Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, offers the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Archival Fellowship for one graduate student each year. This fellowship provides a summer of work experience for a graduate student interested in pursuing an archival career.

The 2015 Fellow will focus primarily on technical services but will also gain experience in public services. Under the guidance of the Digital Archivist and Public Policy Papers Archivist, the Fellow will conduct a survey of digital media held within the University Archives and Public Policy Papers. The Fellow will then process select born-digital collections in accordance with the Library’s priorities and the Fellow’s interests. Additionally, the Fellow will participate in the reference rotation and conduct research for an upcoming exhibition on the Princeton Triangle Club. As time allows, the Fellow will assist with projects to enhance existing description in finding aids and curate a small exhibition on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Japan. Previous Fellows and their work are listed here.

The Mudd Library is a state-of-the-art repository housing the Princeton University Archives and a highly regarded collection of 20th-century public policy papers. The more than 35,000 linear feet of archival and manuscript material are widely used by local, national, and international researchers. More than 2,000 visitors use Mudd Library’s reading room each year, and its staff field some 2,000 electronic, mail, and telephone inquiries annually. A progressive processing program, the use of new technologies, and an emphasis on access and public service have ensured that Mudd Library’s collections are ever more accessible.

The ten- to twelve-week fellowship program, which may be started as early as May, provides a stipend of $775 per week. In addition, travel, registration, and hotel costs to the Society of American Archivists’ annual meeting in August will be reimbursed.

Requirements: Successful completion of at least twelve graduate semester hours (or the equivalent) applied toward an advanced degree in archives, library or information management, American history, American studies, or museum studies; demonstrated interest in the archival profession; and good organizational and communication skills. At least twelve undergraduate semester hours (or the equivalent) in American history is preferred. The Library highly encourages applicants from under-represented communities to apply.

To apply: Applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to: mudd@princeton.edu. Additionally, applicants should have two letters of recommendation sent to mudd@princeton.edu directly from the persons making the recommendation. Applications must be received by Monday, March 9, 2015. Skype interviews will be conducted with the top candidates, and the successful candidate will be notified in late March.

Please note: University housing will not be available to the successful candidate. Interested applicants should consider their housing options carefully and may wish to consult the online campus bulletin board for more information on this topic.

This Week in Princeton History for February 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior saves two friends after an avalanche, Tiger Inn holds its first coed bicker, and more.

February 2, 1953—Princeton University junior John K. Ewing ’54 saves the lives of Richard H. Evans ’55 and John E. Stauffer ’54 in the aftermath of an avalanche on Mount Washington. The following May, Ewing will die tragically in another mountain climbing accident in Connecticut’s Sleeping Giant State Park, at the age of 19.

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John Kennedy Ewing IV’s Class of 1954 Freshman Herald photo (taken ca. 1950).

February 3, 1991—Tiger Inn holds its first coed Bicker.

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This group photo from the 1992 Bric-a-Brac is the first such Tiger Inn photo to include female Princetonians.

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Acquiring Digital Archives in the Field at Princeton

As a digital archivist on Mudd’s Technical Services team, I spend a fair amount of my time looking at screens like the one pictured here.

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21st century mold

I briefly panicked when I came across this screen while processing a restricted University Archives collection last year. The information was the output of the software ClamTK, the default virus scanner for our customized Ubuntu Linux digital archives workstation that I wrote about previously. How, in a collection of nearly 7,000 files that are spread across more than 800 subfolders, was I supposed to identify, assess, and possibly remove 34 individual viruses? The theatrics of the term “threats” was, fortunately, more dramatic than the actual threats themselves: embedded links in several PDF documents that the software flagged as PUA’s, or potentially unwanted applications. I reviewed the specifics of each file, and afterwards packaged the bundle of documents for our secure storage location.

I joked with a few of my colleagues that handling digital archives might require archivists to become epidemiologists on the spot. The fortunate aspect of the above scenario was that it happened in our processing room, which means that I was able to thoroughly research the issue, weigh the considerations, and then make a decision. I could have only wished for such calm and contained circumstances two weeks ago when I went to acquire 50 gigabytes of historical materials from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

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