This Week in Princeton History for April 18-24

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus mourns Abraham Lincoln, Fidel Castro pays a visit, and more.

April 19, 1865—Someone etches “We Mourn Our Loss” into a window on the third floor of Nassau Hall in reference to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (More on campus reaction to Lincoln’s death here.)

Scrapbook ribbon

Ribbon found in the college scrapbook of Edward Wilder Haines, Class of 1866. Scrapbook Collection (AC026), Box 16.

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Dear Mr. Mudd: Who Was Princeton’s First Jewish Student?

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Who was the first Jewish student at Princeton?

A. An exhibit at the Historical Society of Princeton speculated that Albert Mordecai of the Class of 1863 was “very likely the first” Jewish student at the College of New Jersey (now named Princeton University). Although Mordecai might well have been the first Jewish student at Princeton, our records cannot offer a definitive confirmation.

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Albert Mordecai, Class of 1863. Historical Photograph Collection, Alumni Photographs Series (AC058), Box MP20.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 11-17

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Swedish royalty visit campus, mysterious postcards from Boston arrive, and more.

April 11, 1935—Compulsory chapel attendance is abolished for juniors and seniors; it will be abolished for sophomores in 1960 and freshmen in 1964.

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Princeton University Chapel, January 13, 1932. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC111), Box MP30, Image No. 771.

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Kidnapping Handsome Dan XII

Princeton University’s intense football rivalry with Yale is a longstanding tradition. The tiger has been challenging the bulldog on the gridiron for well over a century. The mascots have done figurative battle with one another about as much as the students have, a fight commemorated in song, line drawings, and magazine covers. In 1979, a group of four Princeton students took this rivalry a bit farther when they kidnapped Handsome Dan XII, Yale’s first female mascot.

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Handsome Dan XII with her Princeton counterparts, November 1979. Photo from 1980 Bric-a-Brac.

Dan, also known as Bingo Osterweis, lived with Yale emeritus history professor Rolin Osterweis. It was common for the Yale cheerleaders to ask to borrow the dog for photographs, which the Princetonians—Mark Hallam ’80, Jamie Herbert ’81, Rod Shepard ’80, and Scott Thompson ’81—knew. Wanting to boost the morale of Princeton’s football team, they came up with a plan to take Dan. They posed as Yale cheerleaders and approached Osterweis to ask if they could take her for an hour to pose for pictures in a football program. Osterweis later described the students as “ingenious.” Fully convinced that he was dealing with Yale cheerleaders, Osterweis handed Dan over to her kidnappers, along with a leash and some dog biscuits.

Rather than returning Dan when the hour was up, the students instead called Osterweis from a payphone, telling the professor the dog was going to be out of town for a few days. Osterweis then thought to himself that it was most likely he was talking to Princeton students and warned them that they were “about to take stolen property over a state line” and he would have to report them to the police.

The kidnappers did not take Dan to Princeton right away, but instead holed up with her in a New York apartment in an effort to avoid both Connecticut and New Jersey police, finally bringing her to Princeton the following Friday. Osterweis did not report them to the local police, but only Yale authorities, explaining, “I was certain Princeton undergraduates would be kind to her. Most undergraduates, I suspect, are likely to be kinder to dogs than to their fellow undergraduates.”

While at Princeton, sometimes wearing an orange and black t-shirt, Dan visited the eating clubs and football practice, where she was greeted with enthusiasm. She spent the night at the home of Howard Menard ’36, emeritus dean of the School of Engineering, then went to Palmer Stadium for Princeton’s football match with Yale. During the first half of the game, she was in the refreshment booth, but at halftime, made an appearance on the field in a golf cart to the cheers of the crowd. Finally, Princeton’s own mascot carried Dan, who wore an orange and black scarf around her neck, to the waiting Yale cheerleaders.

Yale got its revenge on the field, beating Princeton 35-10. Afterward, Dan returned home to New Haven “happy and looking fat as a pig.” Osterweis said he assumed that she must have been fed everywhere she went.

Though the caper made the news across the region, it was not the first time a rival had stolen Handsome Dan. In 1934, Harvard took Handsome Dan II to Cambridge, where with a bit of hamburger they coaxed him to lick the boots of a statue of John Harvard. Mostly, however, Yale’s bulldogs have historically avoided capture.

 

Princeton sources:

Bric-a-Brac (1980)

Daily Princetonian

Princeton Alumni Weekly

 

Other sources:

New York Times

Trenton Times

Yale Daily News

Yale Herald

This Week in Princeton History for April 4-10

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Betty Friedan is on campus, the school chooses an official shade of orange, and more.

April 5, 1895—In a letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian, the editorial board of the Nassau Lit defends their controversial decision to change the cover of the magazine for the first time in decades. In response to outcry from students and alumni, they will return to the original cover in May.

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Princeton University during the Korean War

By Spencer Shen ’16

Beginning in the summer of 1950, reserve officers and those enrolled in the Selective Service System were called up for service in the Korean War, including personnel at Princeton. J. Douglas Brown, then Dean of the Faculty, initially requested information to better cooperate with the government, but later opposed the universal military training advocated by Harvard University president James B. Conant and other educators. The “Conant Plan” called for all 18-year-olds and high school graduates to serve a two-year training period. Brown felt that the induction ages should not be rigid, summing up his position in the Daily Princetonian on November 15, 1950: “I believe that all able bodied young men will need to give two years of service to the Armed Forces at some time in their career, but the necessity for an uninterrupted flow of men trained in medicine, science, and engineering is such that we will need to defer certain men for eventual service.” Princeton students enrolled in either the Navy or Army ROTC programs were eligible for draft deferment through their reserve status. In 1950, 746 men at Princeton had served in the ROTC, 272 in the Navy and 474 in the Army.

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Princeton University’s ROTC Class of 1950. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP190, Image No. 5116.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 28-April 3

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the community gets the first public transit option for leaving town, George H. W. Bush visits the campus, and more.

March 30, 1868—John C. and Sarah H. Green endow building and library funds; later gifts include Chancellor Green Library and the School of Science.

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John C. Green School of Science, 1876. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box SP6, Image No. 1510.

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An Update on Archiving Student Activism at Princeton (ASAP)

The following is a guest post by Chase Hommeyer ’19, a first-year undergraduate student at Princeton working at the Mudd Manuscript Library this semester.

Hi everyone! My name’s Chase, I’m an undergraduate here at Princeton, and I’ll be working at the Mudd Manuscript Library in the Princeton University Archives this semester on the initiative Archiving Student Activism and Princeton (ASAP).

I arrived on campus with the perception that the legacy of Princeton was one of prestige, rigor, achievement…and rigid tradition. I didn’t perceive that there was, or ever had been, a great deal of room on Princeton’s campus for activism–which is why I was so shocked when I started talking to Princeton’s archivists and began learning about the incredible tradition of movement, contention, and action on our campus.

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Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 38

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This Week in Princeton History for March 21-27

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a fugitive steals a professor’s car to make his getaway, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel makes a big splash, and more.

March 22, 1980—About 45 Princeton students join 30,000 protesters in Washington, D.C. at an anti-draft rally.

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Princeton’s banner at the Washington anti-draft rally, March 22, 1980. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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The Temples of Cloacina

Today, behind Nassau Hall just beyond Cannon Green, visitors to the Princeton University campus will see stairs between two large tiger sculptures installed in 1969. This sharp incline had different scenery prior to the twentieth century, however. Students sometimes called it “South Campus,” “The Temples of Cloacina,” or “Cloaca Maxima.” Less euphemistically or poetically, it served a most basic purpose, which students studying ancient Rome will have already guessed from the last two names: this was where the College of New Jersey (Princeton) sent its sewage.

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Photo by Denise Applewhite, 2015. Courtesy Princeton University Office of Communications.

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