This Week in Princeton History for February 8-14

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, sophmores take over Quadrangle Club, the Suffrage Walking Pilgrims make their way through campus, and more.

February 8, 1991—Frustrated by their unsuccessful efforts to join other eating clubs during Bicker, 100 sophomores stage a “takeover” of Quadrangle Club, one of the sign-in clubs. Current membership of the club is apprehensive about the likely results of this influx of new members (now over 60% of the total membership).

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Quadrangle Club, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD02, Image No. 7824.

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The Changing Shape of American Football at the College of New Jersey (Princeton)

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, our thoughts have turned toward the history of American football. We’ve repeated the fact several times: On November 6, 1869, the first intercollegiate football match ever was played on College Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, between the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and Rutgers College. Yet some dispute this. The game Princeton and Rutgers played that day looked a lot more like soccer than what we now know as American football. The ball was perfectly round, not the oval we use now. The teams had about 25 players each on the field, rather than 11. But even if this wasn’t “football” as we know football, without that game to attract the attention of other colleges, American football would probably have never gotten off the ground. Thus, we’ll still continue to say that the first intercollegiate American football game happened on November 6, 1869.

Questions might still remain, however. How did Princeton go from playing with approximately 25 men on the field chasing a round ball to playing with 11 men on the field chasing an oval ball?

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The College of New Jersey (Princeton) 1873 football team. Note the round ball in front of the man in the top hat. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box LP36, Image No. 2522.

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This Week in Princeton University History for February 1-7

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Paramount Pictures pulls a movie over collegiate protest, Eleanor Roosevelt is on campus, and more.

February 1, 1929—Under pressure from Princeton University’s president, John Grier Hibben, Paramount Pictures withdraws Varsity, a controversial movie set and filmed on the Princeton campus. It is the last day moviegoers will be able to see it.

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First page of a letter written to John Grier Hibben by Eleanor H. Boyd, November 16, 1928. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 394, Folder 7.

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Woodrow Wilson and the Eating Clubs

Written by Anna Rubin ’15

We are pleased to announce another newly digitized collection: the Woodrow Wilson Correspondence in the Office of the President Records. Wilson was president of Princeton University from 1902-1910, Governor of New Jersey 1911-1913, and U.S. President 1913-1921. This collection contains correspondence between Wilson and University faculty, administrators, alumni, and parents, as well as departmental records and information on University projects that were taking place during his term, such as the construction of the Graduate College. Wilson’s Princeton presidency presented him with many challenges, the most ultimately significant of which was conflict over campus social life. In the first of a two-part series, we take a look at Wilson’s battle with the eating clubs.

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Woodrow Wilson as Princeton’s president. Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project Records (MC178) Box 445.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 25-31

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a dissertation defense occurs 46 years late, Robert Frost gives a poetry reading, and more.

January 25, 1992—75-year-old professor emeritus Milton Babbitt earns his Ph.D. in musicology 46 years after he initially submitted his dissertation for review, having passed a surprise oral exam. Though viewed as impressive, groundbreaking work, his thesis on the mathematics of the 12-tone system was rejected in 1946 because Princeton University’s Department of Music then only offered a Ph.D. in historical musicology, not theory and composition. At that time, the music faculty deemed his work “unreadable” despite praise from his outside reader in the mathematics department, professor John W. Tukey. Colleagues felt he deserved a second opportunity to complete the degree and resubmitted his dissertation for review without his knowledge.

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Milton Byron Babbitt’s Princeton University Graduate School scholastic card, Graduate Alumni Records (AC105), Box 50. Note the “degree granted” date in the lower right corner.

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Princeton University During World War II

By April C. Armstrong *14 and Allie Lichterman ’16

In October 1939, as the Nazi war machine crushed Poland, Princeton University’s newly admitted freshman Class of 1943 voted Adolf Hitler the “greatest living being.” A year later, the next freshman class concurred with this decision. These votes reflect the widespread American apathy toward the Nazi threat prior to the United States entering the conflict.

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Margaret Dodds, diary entry for December 7, 1941 (presumably misdated here). Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 179, Folder 8.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 18-24

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a sleigh ride results in the arrest of 24 undergraduates, Theodore Roosevelt lectures on police reform, and more.

January 18, 1879—A Columbia student is surprised when an innocent-seeming sleigh ride with Princeton students in Trenton lands him in jail alongside 24 Princetonians. Sleighing having become a public nuisance in Trenton, the local police had decided to make an example of these students. The New York papers will report later that at the time of their arrest, the students had been drinking and were singing “Jingle Bells” and “Sweet By and By” loudly at around 1:00 AM. After being denied bail, all plead guilty to disorderly conduct and pay a fine of $3.85 each to avoid spending the night to stand trial in the morning. The College of New Jersey (Princeton) president, James McCosh, will be quoted in the New York Times: “They are a very honorable set of young gentlemen. I do not believe those who went to Trenton would use indecent language, insult ladies, or get intoxicated.”

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As noted by several newspapers in the aftermath of the Trenton arrests, sleighing was a popular form of recreation for College of New Jersey (Princeton) students in the late 19th century. Pictured here are four members of the Class of 1895 outside University Hall. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP14, Image No. 4856.

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Princeton University During World War I

By Spencer Shen ’16

On the afternoon of September 24, 1914, President John G. Hibben gave an address to incoming freshman in Marquand Chapel, acknowledging that “the opening of this new academic year…presents to our minds a striking contrast: the peaceful setting of this assembly against the dark background of the terrible European war.” With the outbreak of the conflict only a month before, many Princetonians took Hibben’s call “to the service of the world” to heart. Several joined Canadian regiments and other branches of the Allied military services. Still others volunteered as ambulance drivers for the French Red Cross. A Princeton chapter of the National Red Cross Society formed, with representatives from both town and gown.

By December 1914, students had petitioned successfully for Princeton to offer organized military training. Overseen by what would later become the Committee on War Courses, the program was approved by the University trustees and headed by General Leonard Wood. Over the next two years, more and more lectures were presented by officers of the Army on military history and organization. Tactical excursions were offered and covered skills such as trench and pontoon building, bridgework and road construction, and rifle practice.

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Soldiers near Princeton University’s Witherspoon Hall, ca. 1915. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Image No. 4378.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 11-17

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus tries to get back into the swing of things after the holidays, a professor expresses irritation with William Jennings Bryan, and more.

January 11, 1945—Princeton University Librarian Julian P. Boyd’s lunch with United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sparks rumors that he is being considered for the position of Librarian of Congress.

January 13, 1882—Feeling a bit of the post-holiday blues, the Princetonian asks, “The recreations of the holiday season have been thoroughly enjoyed, and we now settle down to—work?”

January 14, 1814—The faculty of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) determine that the “villainous acts” of January 9 (an arsonist attack on the College privy) was the work of young men not affiliated with the school and turn the matter over to civil authorities.

January 15, 1923—Princeton University geology professor William B. Scott responds in frustration to anti-evolution activist William Jennings Bryan’s local lecture asserting that the theory is a menace to religion, civilization, and society: “Upon that subject he is an ignoramus. … His arguments are absurd; he does not know what he is talking about; he does not even want to learn.”

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William Jennings Bryan boxes with a monkey in front of a huge crowd. Donald R. McKee, “Why Dempsey and Wills?” Political Cartoon Collection (MC180), Box 22.

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.

Who Founded Princeton University?

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Who founded Princeton University? 

A. The founding of Princeton University is nearly as complex as the courses that have been and continue to be taught within its hallowed lecture halls. The College of New Jersey (as Princeton University was known until 1896) was a child of the Great Awakening, an institution born in opposition to the religious tenets that had ruled the colonial era.

The principles on which Princeton University was founded may be traced to the Log College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, founded by William Tennent in 1726. Tennent was a Presbyterian minister who, along with fellow evangelists Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies, and George Whitefield of England, preached and taught an approach to religion and life that was the very essence of the Great Awakening period. The seven founders of the College of New Jersey were all Presbyterians. Ebenezer Pemberton, a minister and a graduate of Harvard, was the only one of the seven who did not graduate from Yale. The remaining six were Jonathan Dickinson, Aaron Burr Sr., and John Pierson, who were ministers; William Smith, a lawyer; Peter Van Brugh Livingston, a merchant; and William Peartree Smith.

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Original location of Pennsylvania’s Log College (photo taken in 1914). Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP62, Image No. 2402.

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