This Week in Princeton History for November 17-23

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an alum takes the school flag to the moon, Ella Fitzgerald performs, and more.

November 17, 1983—Diplomats from the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Great Britain are in Alexander Hall to commemorate the bicentennial of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended America’s Revolutionary War. Princeton is chosen because the Continental Congress resided here in 1783.

November 19, 1969—Astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. ’53, third man to walk on the moon and Commander of the Apollo XII mission, brings a Princeton flag to the moon’s Ocean of Storms. Princeton President Robert F. Goheen observes that this is “a noble summit for the Orange and Black,” and Dean of the Faculty J. Douglas Brown orders Princeton’s rarely-flown flag to be raised atop Nassau Hall in honor of the occasion. The flag is typically flown only for Commencement exercises, or at half-staff upon the death of a faculty member.

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Princeton University’s flag, back from the moon and signed by Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53, Commander of NASA’s Apollo XII. Memorabilia Collection (AC053).

November 20, 1936—A teenager from  Harlem performs at Princeton for the first time as the featured vocalist at a dance in the old gymnasium. At the 1990 Commencement exercises nearly 54 years later, Princeton will award the woman—Ella Fitzgerald—an honorary Doctorate of Music.

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Ella Fitzgerald with University president Harold Shapiro at Princeton’s 1990 Commencement. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 170.

November 21, 1933—A self-described “most desirable, good-looking northern girl, unfortunately stranded in the South” writes to the Daily Princetonian asking for a “most desirable, good-looking northern Princetonian” with whom to correspond. “Hurry up before I weaken,” she says. “I am in demand here.”

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 10-16

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Arthur Conan Doyle gives a reading of Sherlock Holmes, Theodore Roosevelt lectures, and more.

November 10, 1975—As part of the U.S. Postal Service’s Bicentennial campaign to honor Revolutionary War patriots, a nine-cent postcard depicting former College of New Jersey president John Witherspoon is issued. On the reverse, the card notes that Witherspoon is the only college president to have signed the Declaration of Independence. A ceremony at Maclean House marks the occasion.

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John Witherspoon Postcard, Office of the President Records (AC187), Box 330.

November 12, 1946—Thirty students meet in Murray-Dodge Hall to discuss forming a student group for Jews at Princeton.

November 15, 1894—Arthur Conan Doyle reads extracts from Sherlock Holmes, The Refugees, and the currently unpublished “Le Chateau Noir” at Alexander Hall. He also speaks on his career and inspirations for detective stories. Reserved seats are 75 cents; admission is 50 cents.

November 16, 1917—Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt gives an address in Alexander Hall. He encourages Princeton students to wait for their chance to fight in World War I—it will come, he says, but now they should focus on school.

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Theodore Roosevelt, “National Strength and International Duty,” lecture given at Alexander Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, November 16, 1917. General Manuscripts Collection (MC230), Box 6.

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.

History of Women at Princeton University

Written by Vanessa Snowden ’04

For much of its history, Princeton University had the reputation of being an “old-boys’ school.” Starting in the fall of 1969, Princeton became co-educational, and eight women transfer students graduated in June 1970, with slightly greater numbers graduating in the two subsequent years. Women who matriculated as freshmen in 1969 graduated in the Class of 1973, the first undergraduate class that included women for all four undergraduate years. However, the first steps towards co-education came as early as 1887, with the founding of Evelyn College. From its inception, this women’s institution was associated with Princeton University, and it was hoped that the link would be similar to the Radcliffe and Harvard University relationship. Unfortunately, Evelyn College closed in 1897, due to financial problems and a lack of support from Princeton.

For the next half-century, women instead made their presence known in unofficial positions. Wives and daughters of Princeton faculty and administrators succeeded in exerting significant influence on campus life as advocates for students as well as assistants in research. Isabella Guthrie McCosh, wife of James McCosh, the 11th president of Princeton, was deeply involved in protecting the health and welfare of Princeton students. As a result of her unflagging dedication, the campus infirmary was built and named in her honor.

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“Reminiscences of Mrs. McCosh,” June 1935. Auxiliary to the Isabella McCosh Infirmary Records (AC175), Box 2.

Women were also important forces in the academic world. Margaret Farrand Thorp, wife of English professor, Willard Thorp, often assisted with her husband’s research while simultaneously producing her own independent work. Fittingly, she wrote a book entitled Female Persuasion: Six Strong-Minded Women, which was published in 1949. Speaking of her lot as a female at Princeton, Thorp once quipped, “We who practice the pleasant profession of faculty wife are often amused by Princeton University’s apparent hostility to the feminine sex. Hostility is probably too strong a word. The situation is, rather, that for the University, the feminine sex does not exist.” (See William K. Selden, Women of Princeton, p. 33.)
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This Week in Princeton History for November 3-9

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Penn Jillette’s joke falls flat, the town decides on Prohibition, and more.

November 3, 1975—Penn Jillette (now of Penn & Teller) tries to garner publicity for his upcoming performances with the “The Asparagus Valley Cultural Society” by staging a joke attempt to jump over five Volkswagen Rabbits on a unicycle in front of Murray-Dodge Hall, where the group will later perform. The joke falls flat; 2,000 onlookers (mostly not affiliated with Princeton University) express mob outrage when he simply rides his unicycle off a ramp instead. “People were calling me a fraud, when I knew OF COURSE I was a fraud. That was the point,” Jillette later says. “I found myself playing a joke without a punch line.”

Penn Jillette Unicycle Stunt

Penn Jillette and his “Unicycle Jump” set up outside Murray-Dodge Hall. Photos from the Daily Princetonian.

November 5, 1918—Princeton voters decide whether Prohibition will continue in town after World War I is over. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ultimately renders this question moot, and national prohibition of alcohol remains in effect for approximately 14 years. When the ban is finally lifted, Princetonians will have their first legal drinks in 1933, at the Tap Room at the Nassau Inn.

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Campaign mailing, Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), Box 354, Folder 1. Click to enlarge.

November 6, 1844—Election results for the New Jersey 3rd Congressional District are disputed on the grounds that students voted in Princeton (both from The College of New Jersey and Princeton Theological Seminary). The election was close—John Runk won by 16 votes. His opponent, Isaac G. Farlee, said that the Princeton students should not have voted; further, that since Farlee thought it could be assumed that most voted for Runk, he should win the seat instead. The House of Representatives itself ended up deciding the issue, voting that Princeton students were, indeed, legal residents of Princeton and eligible to vote in the district, setting a precedent regarding the definition of “resident.”

November 9, 1969—A fire almost completely destroys 76-year-old Whig Hall. The cause is determined to be a group of students smoking cigarettes inside at around 4:00 AM.

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Whig Hall, November 9, 1969, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 142.

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 October 27-November 2

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, reports of Martians landing nearby distress the University community, Bruce Springsteen packs Jadwin Gym, and more.

October 29, 1955—A Princeton undergraduate is arrested for disturbing the peace when found kicking a pineapple juice can in front of G & L Restaurant in the wee hours of the morning. He will later be found guilty and fined $5 for the crime.

October 30, 1884—Princeton trounces Lafayette in football 140 to 0.

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1884 College of New Jersey football team, Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Campus Life Series, Additions, Box AD34, Folder 6.

October 31, 1938—The Princeton campus and the rest of the nation are still reeling from Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds that began at 8:00 PM October 30. The broadcast made many people believe Martians had landed in Grovers Mill, New Jersey, a mere 4 miles from Nassau Hall. Later, the Princeton Radio Project, a group that analyzes the influence of radio upon listeners, will receive a grant of $3,000 from the General Education Board to study the panicked response.

November 1, 1978—Bruce Springsteen gives a concert in Jadwin gym. Tickets initially sold for $6.50-$8.50 are being scalped for $100.

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Bruce Springsteen in concert at Jadwin Gym, November 1, 1978. Photo from 1979 Bric-a-Brac.

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 and Apartheid: The 1978 Nassau Hall Sit-In

Princeton di-vest!
Oh yeah

Just like the rest!
Oh yeah

And if you don’t!
Oh yeah

We will not rest!
Oh yeah

We gonna fight
And fight

And keep on fightin’ some more
Princeton di-vest!

(Student protest chant, quoted in Princeton Alumni Weekly 24 April 1978)

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Protest Signs, April 1978, Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 33.

Following the recent “Coming Back: Reconnecting Princeton’s Black Alumni” conference, we wanted to take a closer look an issue that involved Princeton’s Association of Black Collegians: policies on South African investment during apartheid. Relatively recent events in the University’s history often challenge researchers, since many of our archival records related to the history of Princeton are initially restricted (most commonly for a period of 40 years). Yet we can still learn a great deal about how Princetonians addressed apartheid’s moral questions through our open collections.

Princeton first articulated its stand on this issue in 1969, partly in response to a February 26 student rally sponsored by a coalition of black and white student groups at Princeton, The United Front on South Africa. They asked Princeton to divest stock in 39 companies. On March 4, University President Robert F. Goheen publicly outlined University policy on investment in companies doing business in South Africa and presented six steps Princeton was willing to take in response to these concerns. Although Goheen promised that Princeton would let these companies know their feelings about apartheid, he said that Princeton should not fully divest. In his statement, Goheen reasoned that these companies “derive on average less than one percent of their sales and profits from southern Africa” and that divesting would not have a “substantial prospect” of meaningful impact on apartheid. Meanwhile, he argued, Princeton would suffer the loss of $3.5 million in income, which would hinder its ability to carry out its educational mission. Far from satisfying the United Front, Princeton’s stated policies provoked the Association of Black Collegians to stage a sit-in at New South Hall, which then held the University’s administrative offices. Students for a Democratic Society, a predominantly white student group, also participated. (See Office of the Provost Records (AC195), Box 23, Folder 3).

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Cannon Green protest, April 1978, Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 33.

Such protests became relatively common throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and in January 1977, a new student group, the People’s Front for the Liberation of South Africa, took the lead in organizing them. After 32 consecutive days of picketing in front of Nassau Hall in March and April 1978, the students entered the building and stayed there. Some students kept vigil outside, while the others organized themselves into “cells” of 4-5 students inside. Spending the night under a half-moon while the bronze tigers flanking the steps held candles in their paws that cast somber shadows on their faces, one student said, “Somehow…I don’t think this building will ever seem the same to any one of us again.” (Princeton Alumni Weekly, 24 April 1978)

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Nassau Hall protest, ca. 1978, Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 33.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 20-26

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the first charter is issued for the College of New Jersey, the first mid-semester fall break occurs, and more.

For the week of October 20-26:

October 20, 2000—A ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the official dedication of Frist Campus Center.

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Frist Center Dedication, October 20, 2000, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 197.

October 21, 1970—For the first time, Princeton takes a mid-semester break from classes during the fall. This two-week “Election Break” is meant to allow students more time to engage in activism in the weeks leading up to national elections.

October 22, 1913—Ceremonies mark the formal dedication of the brand new Graduate College (now Old Graduate College).

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Graduate College, Historical Postcards Collection (AC045), Box 1. This collection has been digitized and is viewable here.

October 23, 1746—The first charter of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) is issued. Its guarantee of equal access to any person regardless of religion distinguishes it from its peer institutions. Although the original charter has been lost long ago, Princeton does retain the second charter, issued in 1748. It is rarely removed from our vaults, but you may view video of University Archivist Dan Linke showing it to Mudd Library visitors here.

First Charter in Board of Trustees Minutes

Charter of the College of New Jersey, in Board of Trustees Minutes, Vol. 1. (Board of Trustees Records (AC120)). The first 8 volumes of the Board of Trustees Minutes have been digitized and are viewable here.

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 October 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 College starts wearing orange, students protest the Vietnam War, and more.

For the week of October 13-19:

October 13, 1868—The faculty pass a resolution permitting students to adopt and wear orange ribbons imprinted with the word “PRINCETON.” The color honors England’s Prince William III of Orange, for whom Nassau Hall is named. In 1874, William Libbey, Jr. (Class of 1877) will obtain 1,000 yards of orange and black ribbon for freshmen to wear, and call them “Princeton’s colors.” They will be officially adopted as Princeton’s colors when the College of New Jersey takes the name “Princeton University” in 1896.

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19th century “Princeton” ribbon. Memorabilia Collection (AC053), Box E10.

October 14, 1887—The Daily Princetonian runs an editorial asking students to be considerate of others when playing pianos in their dorm rooms.

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Piano playing at a party in a Princeton dorm room, ca. 1896. Historical Photographs Collection (AC112), Box SP14, Item No. 3444.

October 15, 1969—Students join a nationwide Moratorium to protest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War with a variety of activities. 1200 people assemble on the lawn in front of Nassau Hall in the afternoon. To learn more about the Vietnam War and its impact on Princeton, be sure to stop by Mudd to take a look at our current exhibit.

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Anti-Vietnam War demonstration outside Nassau Hall, circa 1967. Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 26.

October 16, 1924—800 students attack the Ku Klux Klan as their convoy of cars attempts to make it up Nassau Street, ripping off hoods until local police stop them.

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.

The Year Princeton University Delayed the Start of Classes until October 10

 

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Senior Council Record Book, 1917, Student Council Records, Manuscript Collection AC253, Box 2.

The motion was passed that the following resolutions of the Council be printed in the Princetonian issue of October 16th:

(1) That all undergraduates shall not enter any moving picture theatre in Princeton.

(2) That all undergraduates shall stay within the University limits, avoiding Witherspoon street and other congested districts unless there is an urgent need to the contrary.

(3) That all undergraduates eat only at the Clubs or the University Dining Halls.

(4) That all undergraduates refrain from leaving town and thereby exposing themselves and the rest of the student body to unnecessary danger.

On October 14, 1916, Princeton University president John Grier Hibben asked the Senior Council to adopt the resolution quoted above. He had already taken the unprecedented step of delaying the start of classes from the usual mid-September until October 10. The faculty had decided, in light of the shortened academic year, to reduce the length of the usual breaks students would otherwise have received.

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1917 Senior Council. Photo from 1918 Bric-a-Brac.

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1957 Epidemics at Princeton

The most characteristic sound around the Princeton campus last week was not the familiar and rhythmic tolling of Nassau Hall’s bell, nor even the sleep-shattering bedlam of the steam-shovels on the new U-Store site. The sound around campus was everywhere: if you went to the heights of Blair Tower, behold, it was there, and even C Floor of the Libe, normally a haven for silence seekers, echoed and re-echoed the irritating noise. Everywhere you went, people were coughing. … The cough was almost always a good, lusty, chesty type which sort of set one apart as the bearer of a badge of courage and defiance—no infirmary was going to get his hands on him. No sir!

                                        –Princeton Alumni Weekly, November 1, 1957

 

This week’s FluFest is one of the ways the University works to keep students in good health for their studies, but keeping Princetonians healthy has sometimes proven to be a significant challenge. The Bric-a-Brac for 1958 reported on hundreds of students “plagued by a rash of…sickness” (118) “bedded down at home or in the campus infirmary,” including in the Student Center, which “was converted into an emergency annex.” It doesn’t sound like students had as much fun that year, with many social events canceled by Dean of the College Jeremiah S. Finch. One morose senior complained,  “I mean it, it’s tragic—this [epidemic] … is ruining my senior year! Now I’ve got nothing at all to do but work on my thesis.” (Princeton Alumni Weekly, October 25, 1957)

Infirmary Admissions graphic

Data taken from Report of the Committee on Health and Athletics for October 17, 1958 (found in the Board of Trustees Records).

There were typically about 100 infirmary admissions per month, but this jumped to over 600 in October 1957. The primary reason was a new kind of influenza sweeping across the globe. Nobody is certain where the new strain of “Asiatic Flu” (H2N2) originated, but the first reports of people falling ill from it came in Hong Kong in April 1957, with huge numbers of people succumbing to it wherever it was found. Concerned about the implications for the United States, government officials requested samples of the virus, and the Centers for Disease Control urged America’s six manufacturers of vaccines to get to work on a vaccine for it as soon as possible. By September, the vaccine was ready, but there was not enough supply to meet demand. Once school started, the virus began spreading dramatically. About 3-6 weeks after school began (the incubation period of the illness), absenteeism reached its highest levels. The Prince noted that at one point, 71% of Philadelphia’s students, including those at the University of Pennsylvania, were out with the flu. Indeed, this particular flu seemed to infect the young more than the old. A 1959 study later estimated that approximately 60% of America’s students had, at some point, been absent due to the flu in 1957.

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