Princeton Junction & Back: Our Dinky Archives

Though New Jersey Transit lists the stop as the “Princeton Station,” locals refer to their train as the “Dinky” or “PJ&B” (Princeton Junction & Back). Recently, the station moved several hundred feet from its former site near University Place along Alexander Road, making it the talk of the town. Protests of a planned replacement of the little train with a bus spared this bit of Princeton history, which most of our readers are likely to remember. As it happens, the “Save the Dinky” movement echoes a nineteenth-century protest that both saved the train and created its route. Aside from a short-lived Boston & Albany route that ran 1.2 miles in the early 1950s, Riverside to Newton Lower Falls (Massachusetts), this has always been—and remains—the shortest passenger train route in the United States. Here we take a look at how Princeton got its tiny train and kept it running.

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Princeton Station with the College of New Jersey (Princeton) campus visible in the background, 1870. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 91.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 31-September 6

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an increase in the cost of food inspires student entrepreneurs, the Civil War fells an alum, and more.

September 2, 1975—Prices on most items available at the Student Center go up by five cents. Empty cups, previously free, now cost a nickel. The move will inspire some students to form new student agencies to compete for food sales at lower costs.

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Ad from the Daily Princetonian, 1975.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 24-30

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a future U.S. president insults Princetonians’ singing, kegs of beer are banned from campus, and more.

August 25, 1783—The College of New Jersey (Princeton) welcomes George Washington to campus.

August 27, 1774—After a visit to the College chapel, John Adams writes that Princetonians sing “as badly as the Presbyterians in New York.”

August 29, 1991—President Shapiro bans kegs of beer from campus.

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Keggers have long been a part of college life with which administrators have had to contend. Here we see students drinking from a keg of beer at the College of New Jersey (Princeton), ca. 1870. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP16, Image No. 3916.

August 30, 2011—Princeton University finally reopens at midday, having closed August 26 due to high winds, flooding, and road closures related to Hurricane Irene. Many roads remain closed and some student housing is still without power.

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 August 17-23

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a prisoner of war says he deserves credit for independent study while held captive, the U-Store breaks ground on a new home, and more.

August 18, 1944—Lt. Nicholas Katzenbach ’43 writes to the War Service Bureau that he has been studying 8 hours per day in a German prison camp and feels he has completed the requirements for his A.B. despite missing the final three semesters with his class at Princeton. After submitting a thesis and passing a series of exams given by Princeton faculty the following year, he will be given given credit for ten courses and awarded his degree with honors in October 1945. Katzenbach will ultimately achieve his greatest fame as the U.S. Attorney General who will confront segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace in an incident that will be known as the “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.”

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This Week in Princeton History for August 10-16

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the school gives up sports, violence erupts at morning prayers, and more.

August 11, 1956—Philip E. Capicotto ’56’s death only months after graduation shakes the Princeton University community. Diagnosed with cancer the previous April, Capicotto kept his condition a secret.

August 12, 1944—Due to the pressures of war, University president Harold Dodds announces that Princeton will not participate in Ivy League sporting events during the academic year, including baseball, basketball, soccer, swimming, and tennis. Princeton has already ceased participation in Ivy League football, rowing, fencing, squash, polo, golf, hockey, and gymnastics.

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Princeton in wartime, ca. 1942. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Image No. 4431.

August 14, 1986—Shashi Ramakrishna ’86, who had disappeared from campus 7 months earlier, is found in Troy, New York.

August 15, 1805—An argument between two students during morning prayers results in one student stabbing the other. The freshman later confesses but says there were mitigating circumstances: the other student “wished to sit on his head” and “he did not intend to wound him so badly as he had done in the heat of passion.” He is later suspended, but ultimately completes his degree.

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 August 3-9

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a graduate secures her spot on the Supreme Court, multiple fights break out in Nassau Hall at the same time, and more.

August 4, 1979—The University retires its IBM 370-158 and IBM 360-91 in favor of a new IBM 3033, a much faster processor with 4 MB of memory and a price tag of $3.45 million (approximately $11.35 million in 2015 currency). It is predicted to save operating costs in the long term.

August 6, 2009—The U.S. Senate confirms the appointment of Princeton alum Sonia Sotomayor ’76, making her the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court.

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Sonia Sotomayor ’76’s Nassau Herald (senior yearbook) photo.

August 7, 1805—What the faculty refer to as a “considerable disturbance” occurs in Nassau Hall. A later investigation will find, among other things, that a sophomore “had insulted one of his fellow students, without any provocation, by giving him some drink which he afterward told him contained some nastiness,” and “this was the beginning of the noise.” In a seemingly unrelated incident, another fight breaks out simultaneously when a sophomore begins kicking a large jug down the hallways.

August 8, 1843—The start of the first term is changed from November to August and opens with about 50 students.

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 July 27-August 2

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus cracks down on gambling, students get to work to put themselves through college, and more.

July 27, 1837—James W. Albert, Class of 1838, writes to his mother about the news from Nassau Hall. A crackdown on gambling has already resulted in a dozen students being expelled, but is still ongoing: “Boss says he is going to dismiss forty for gambling; more than half the students are suspected.”

July 28, 1754—Nathaniel Fitz Randolph deeds 4 ½ acres in Princeton to the College of New Jersey (including the building site of Nassau Hall).

July 29, 1993—Three Princetonians begin a record-setting road trip that will have them seeing 28 major league baseball games in 28 cities in 28 days.

August 1, 1911—The Student Bureau of Self-Help, precursor to the Student Employment Agency, begins connecting cash-strapped Princeton students with local jobs.

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Students have held a wide variety of jobs on campus since 1911. Here, Edwin Salter ’39 works as the night switchboard operator for the University exchange, ca. 1938. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP13, Image No. 3315.

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: Which School Is Older, Penn or Princeton?

By Spencer Shen ’16

Q: Dear Mr. Mudd,

I have a friend at Penn who claims that his school is older than Princeton. Is he right?

A: The answer to this question depends on what you mean by “older”, but institutional pride can result in tenuous claims for precedence. The University of Pennsylvania currently asserts that it is the fourth oldest college in the United States, placing Princeton in fifth place after Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, and Penn. Its basis for this claim is that it is an outgrowth of a “charity school” founded in 1740, but the school was never operational. Its building was used for religious services until 1749, when it was acquired by Benjamin Franklin and his associates for the purposes of establishing an “academy”, including an agreement to operate a charity school. “We have bought for the Academy,” Franklin wrote on February 13, 1750, “the house that was built for itinerant preaching, which stands on a large lot of ground capable of receiving more buildings.” The charter for Franklin’s Academy incorporated the text of the previous charity school’s trust verbatim. This adoption of the exact wording of the trust lies at the heart of Penn’s claim to precedence. However, it was not until 1751 that instruction actually commenced and not until 1753 that the “College, Academy and Charitable School of Philadelphia in the Province of Pennsylvania” was chartered.

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Click to enlarge graphic.

Penn celebrated its centennial in 1849, and its trustees did not formally accept 1740 as the year of the institution’s founding until 1899. By contrast, Princeton was chartered in 1746 as the College of New Jersey, began to offer instruction in 1747, and moved to Newark later that year. To the south, in Philadelphia, no such signs of higher educational life existed.

This post was originally written by John Weeren (2001) 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.

This Week in Princeton History for July 20-26

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a beloved staff member dies, the opening of a new recreational center for military personnel on campus is announced, and more.

July 20, 1899—The Peary Relief Expedition arrives in the port of North Sydney, Nova Scotia with several Princeton professors on board. Their boat, the Diana, carries supplies for Robert Peary, who is exploring Greenland in his quest to reach the North Pole. The professors take the opportunity to conduct scientific research in the Arctic along the way.

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The Diana in port, July 20, 1899. Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection (AC012), Box 9.

July 22, 1902—James Johnson, an escaped slave who became known as the “students’ friend” during his long sojourn working at Princeton, dies at the age of 87.

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James Johnson in the 1894 Bric-a-Brac.

July 23, 1797—In a letter to his ward and stepgrandson, George Washington Parke Custis, College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1799, George Washington observes that “no college has turned out better scholars or more estimable characters than Nassau.”

July 26, 1943—In cooperation with the USO, the University announces the opening of a new recreation center in Murray-Dodge Hall for military personnel assigned to Princeton.

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Soldiers walking by Murray-Dodge Hall, ca. 1943. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP208, Image No. 5495.

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 July 13-19

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the first African American head coach in the Ivy League is hired, a professor climbs a mountain, and more.

July 13, 1770—Students are outraged by a “Letter from the Merchants in New York to the Committee of Merchants in Philadelphia,” which they have somehow intercepted. The letter outlines the intent of the New York merchants to abandon a nonimportation agreement within the colonies. In response, the students process in front of Nassau Hall and burn the letter “with hearty Wishes, that the Names of all Promoters of such a daring Breach of Faith, may be blasted in the Eyes of every Lover of Liberty, and their Names handed down to Posterity, as Betrayers of their Country.”

July 14, 1970—Larry Ellis is named head coach of track and cross country at Princeton University, becoming the first African American head coach in the Ivy League. He will later coach at the 1984 Olympic Games.

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Larry Ellis (far left, middle row) with the 1981 Princeton University cross country team. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 168.

July 16, 1799—Three students are brought before the faculty on charges of “a violation of those Laws of the College which forbid the carrying of firearms.” They write a letter of apology and are permitted to continue their studies.

July 17, 1877—Princeton professor William Libbey makes the first recorded ascent of Mount Princeton near Nathrop, Colorado.

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Mount Princeton, undated. Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 27.

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.