This Week in Princeton History for June 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 campus newspaper gets its start, a senior carries the Olympic torch, and more.

June 13, 1908—The first-ever session of Princeton Summer Camp begins with 17 boys from Philadelphia. In later years, the camp will become the Princeton-Blairstown Center.

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Princeton Summer Campers at the shore, 1916. Student Christian Association Records (AC125), Box 11, Folder 13.

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A Hope and A Hypothesis: The Curious Case of the Sonia Sotomayor ’76 Interview

Briana Christophers ‘17, a rising senior at Princeton University, made a discovery in the University Archives that solved a mystery we archivists didn’t know existed. In March, Briana visited us at the Mudd Manuscript Library, a visit arranged by Mudd’s Assistant University Archivist for Technical Services, Alexis Antracoli, in response to a petition Briana helped author and circulate through the Latinx Collective. Alexis coordinated the visit to respond directly to the petition’s section about the lack of Latinx presence and history at Princeton. In that section, the Collective stated the following needs, to:

1) Compile information on the contributions of students of color to this campus and beyond.

2) Organize the Mudd Manuscript Library resources related to students of color and the Third World Center/Carl A. Fields Center.

3) Collect information from alumni to create a permanent Students of Color at Princeton archive.

Thus, the purpose of Briana’s visit—which I attended as did my colleague, Lynn Durgin—was to affirm the truth behind the Collective’s observation, brainstorm about different ways for the Archives to do better, and allow Briana a chance to comb through the sparse records we do have pertaining to the history of Latinx students at Princeton. In the course of her perusing the Historical Subject Files, Briana stumbled upon something that few current undergraduate students have ever seen before: a 3.5’’ floppy disk.

3.5-inch floppy disk found by Briana Christophers '2017.

3.5-inch floppy disk found by Briana Christophers ’17 in AC109, Historical Subject Files.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 6-12

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a decision is reached about the location of the Graduate College, swords are banned from campus, and more.

June 7, 1910—A long battle ends when the Board of Trustees accepts the bequest of Isaac Wyman, Class of 1848, and with it Dean Andrew Fleming West’s plan to build the Graduate College across from the Springdale Golf Club. Woodrow Wilson, whose hopes of locating the College in the center of campus have been dashed, will resign his University presidency and leave Princeton for politics as a result.

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Woodrow Wilson’s plan for the Graduate College imagined dormitories built adjacent to the existing 1879 Hall (at Washington & Prospect) to create inner and outer courtyards. Today, this space is occupied by the Woolworth Center, home of the Department of Music. Graduate School Records (AC127), Box 27, Folder 5. Click to enlarge.

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NHPRC-Funded Digitization Grant Final Report

In December 2012, the Mudd Library announced that we had received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to digitize the most frequently accessed portions of six highly-used collections documenting United States foreign policy and the origins of the Cold War. We are pleased to announce that as of December 2015, all of the series and subseries selected for digitization— over 350,000 pages of documents— are freely available to view and download from Princeton University’s finding aids site (a complete page breakdown by collection is listed below). Now individuals anywhere in the world can read John Foster Dulles’s first major speech outlining the policy of “massive retaliation,” George Kennan’s unsent letter to Walter Lippmann regarding containment, and a myriad of other one-of-a-kind materials from any computer or device, at any time of day.

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The digitization of archival materials is an expansion of the Mudd Library’s ongoing mission to make our holdings accessible to a wider set of users. While the completion of this specific project is an important step forward in its own right, we also knew that this project was going to be part of a bigger picture. From the start, our goal was to use the lessons learned from this project to create sustainable large-scale digitization workflows for future implementation at the Mudd Library, and potentially other archival repositories, as well.

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Princeton University and “Meet Me in St. Louis”

By Madeline Lea ’16

In the opening scenes of the 1944 MGM motion picture Meet Me in St. Louis, Lon Smith receives his Princeton University Catalogue in the mail (view the clip here). Lon, the eldest child of the Smith family, has been accepted to Princeton in the fall, and his going away party is the excuse to invite John Truett, “The Boy Next Door”  to the Smith house. Lon’s sister, Esther (played by Judy Garland), has a crush on the new next door neighbor, and she believes Lon’s party will be the perfect excuse to meet him.

The University Archives receives numerous requests for information about the Catalogue of Princeton University: 1903-1904.

The Catalogue for the academic year of 1903-1904 (the edition fictional incoming freshman Lon Smith received) was fairly lengthy with 407 pages of Princeton facts and figures. The volume is 8 inches x 5 ¾ inches. The cover is tan with black lettering.

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The Catalogue was given to every student and intended to provide basic information about Princeton University. Early Catalogues contained the following: names of the Board of Trustees, a list of the Faculty, a list of students (by class year), information about admission, courses of instruction, examinations, expenses, and commencement exercises. Over the years more detailed information was included, such as a history of the University, a map of the campus, an academic calendar, and library hours. As Princeton grew from a college to a university, it provided new services to its students, faculty, and staff. The Catalogue is a valuable resource that helps to document this growth.

Additional Related Source:

Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978). Also available online.

This post was originally written by Nancy M. Shader in 2003 for the FAQ section on our old website. It has been revised and expanded by Madeline Lea ’16 as part of the launch of our new website.

This Week in Princeton History for May 30-June 5

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a conference defends the study of classics for all students regardless of major, a nineteenth-century alum envisions 2015 New York in a dystopian science fiction novel, and more.

June 1, 1761—The Board of Trustees vote to ban ball-playing against the College of New Jersey (Princeton) president’s house: “The Trustees having on their own view been made sensible of the Damages done to the President’s House by the Students playing at Ball against it, do hereby strictly forbid all & every of the Students, the Officers & all other Persons belonging to the College playing at Ball against the President’s House, under the Penalty of Five Shillings for every Offence to be levied on each Person who shall offend in the Premises.”

June 2, 1917—Academics, college administrators, business tycoons, politicians, and the general public gather at a “Classical Conference” at Princeton University to discuss the future of American education and defend traditional instruction in classics for all students regardless of their specializations or future careers.

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Some notable attendees at the Princeton University’s “Classical Conference” pose for a photograph on June 2, 1917. Left to right: Princeton University president John Grier Hibben, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson (sister of Theodore Roosevelt), Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jenny Davidson Hibben (wife of John Grier Hibben), Andrew F. West (Princeton University dean of the Graduate School), Lawrence Eugene Sexton (a Harvard University overseer), Douglas Robinson (husband of Corinne Roosevelt Robinson), Allan Chester Johnson (Princeton University professor of classics), an unknown visitor, and Dr. Lewellys F. Barker (Physician-in-Chief at Johns Hopkins University and former President of the American Neurological Association). Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP17, Image No. 435.

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“This Is More Than a School”: James M. Stewart ’32’s Princeton

When we launched our Tumblr page in January 2015, we filled it with a variety of content on the history of Princeton University, but it didn’t take long for us to discover that one alumnus in particular consistently received a lot of attention on the platform: James Maitland Stewart ’32. In honor of this, we currently have an exhibit case in our lobby dedicated to Stewart’s long-term connection to Princeton: “‘This Is More Than a School’: James M. Stewart 32’s Princeton.”

Jimmy Stewart, the son of Alexander “Eck” Stewart of the Class of 1898, wrote on his 1928 application to Princeton that he chose it due to family connections and his belief that Princeton “is by far the best equipped to give me a broad, profitable education, provided that I apply myself diligently to the work.” His dreams of becoming a civil engineer, however, were short-lived. Diligent work proved a challenge in the face of tempting recreational activities. He later told Princeton Living, “College algebra was like a death blow to me.” He did especially poorly in a Shakespeare course and “did not survive Spanish.” Unable to keep up in his classes, Stewart was forced to attend summer school to avoid flunking out. At the end of Stewart’s freshman year, his math professor told him, “You’d better think very seriously about being something else [other than a civil engineer], or you’ll be in deep trouble.”

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Grade card for James Maitland Stewart ’32, Undergraduate Academic Records 1920-2015 (AC198), Box 25. To better understand Stewart’s academic struggles, see our previous blog post explaining the 1-7 grading system used here. N.B.: Access to student academic records is governed by this policy.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 23-29

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a firecracker explodes in Nassau Hall, an athlete pitches the first no-hitter ever recorded in baseball history, and more.

May 24, 1916—Princeton professor Alfred Noyes gives a public reading of his poetry, including his best-known “The Highwayman,” at a benefit event for the local Red Cross chapter.

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Alfred Noyes at Princeton University, February 15, 1915. Faculty and Professional Staff Files (AC107), Box 381.

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An Update on the Earliest Records of Jewish Students at Princeton

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the search to find the first Jewish student at Princeton. As I noted, the “first” student in any category is probably impossible to determine. However, I was able to find a record suggesting possible Jewish presence dating back to 1859, when Albert Mordecai of the Class of 1863 arrived to begin his studies. In today’s post, I support my own claims about the difficulty of determining “firsts” by showing that Jewish presence at Princeton goes back at least half a century further than initially thought. The earliest records I have found thus far now uncover the life of another Jewish student who began his work at Princeton in 1809, Mordecai Myers, but a handful of other Jewish students also attended Princeton in the antebellum period.

Follow up from our readers has prompted this update on two counts. The first concerns Albert Mordecai’s connection to Judaism. Yosef Razin ’11 wrote in with research he conducted on the Mordecai family in the U. S. Census records and other sources. There is conflicting data regarding the family origins, he says, but sources seem to agree that Mordecai’s origins through his paternal line were Jewish. His mother’s ethnic background may or may not have been Jewish. Those on campus or with a subscription can access these records through the Ancestry.com databases.

The second update makes it clear, however, that whether or not Albert Mordecai considered himself Jewish, he would not have been the first Jewish student at Princeton. Sven Henningson ’16 uncovered a reference to Mordecai Myers as a Jewish graduate of Princeton and alerted us to the possibility that he had been on campus much earlier than Albert Mordecai. Having done some digging, I have confirmed that Mordecai Myers, Class of 1812, was Jewish and earned his A.B. from Princeton in 1812. This research led down a path that uncovered a few other Jewish students at Princeton prior to the Civil War.

Mordecai Myers, the son of Levi Myers and Francis Minis, born November 9, 1794, was just shy of 15 years old when he arrived at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1809. Myers was advanced enough to skip his freshman year and was admitted to the sophomore Class of 1812. This proved fortuitous in terms of being able to finish his degree, because war broke out in 1812. According to a 1909 letter from his son to the Princeton University Secretary, when armed conflict began with Great Britain in June 1812, Myers returned home to his native Charleston, South Carolina, but this didn’t prevent him from graduating with his class the following September.

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Mordecai Myers, Class of 1812. Undergraduate Alumni Records 1748-1920 (AC104), Box 72.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 16-22

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Thomas Mann says he has found a new home, a miniseries about a professor premieres, and more.

May 16, 1959—In today’s issue of Nation, Princeton University’s resident psychiatrist, Louis E. Reik, writes of Cold War tensions among the undergraduate population, “the problem of whether the individual’s aggressive energies will be expressed in useful or destructive ways has never before cast such a deep and terrible shadow over human life. … That the days of unbridled individualism are gone is a lesson that, at bottom, no high-spirited young man wants to learn.”

May 17, 1927—The results of the Nassau Herald’s poll of graduating seniors are released. Isaac Hall is selected as the “Greatest Woman-Hater” of the Class of 1927.

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Photo from 1927 Nassau Herald.

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