This Week in Princeton History for December 26-January 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Christmas holiday is extended to 9:45AM, a graduate eulogizes George Washington, and more.

December 26, 1944—The President of Princeton University generously allows for an extension of the Christmas holiday, dismissing students from classes that meet at 7:45 and 8:45AM. Classes resume at 9:45AM.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus gets its first bathtubs, an undergraduate spends a contented Christmas Eve alone, and more.

December 21, 1889—Two stained glass windows later to be installed in Princeton’s Marquand Chapel are on display in artist Francis Lathrop’s studio in New York.

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These stained glass windows, depicting the biblical figures Jonathan and David, were the ones on display in New York. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box SP02, Image No. 439. To see the subdued colors Lathrop chose, visit the Princeton University Art Museum’s website.

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Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Day in the “Chinese” Way

By Xinxian Cynthia Zheng GS

Recently, I found a file of 72 “Chinese New Year cards” in the Princeton University Library Records (AC 123). Looking through them, I saw that they were a syncretic fusion of Chinese and Western elements, rather than the kind of Chinese New Year cards I usually receive from friends now. Dated between 1935 and 1942, many of these “Chinese” cards came from non-Chinese Westerners—some were book collectors and art connoisseurs, while others were individuals with non-profit organizations. They were sent to Dr. Nancy Lee Swann (1881–1966), one of the first female scholars of Chinese history who served as the curator of what became Princeton’s East Asian Library between 1931 and 1948.

Intriguingly, the existence of these “Chinese” cards suggests Chinese elements became part of the consumption culture of celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Day for some in the Americas. Beginning in the nineteenth century, people increasingly romanticized the two religious festivals and made them the rites of selling and buying, as Leigh Schmidt has detailed in Consumer Rites. Just as individual tastes varied in Christmas shopping, these “Chinese” cards also show significant diversity. They came in various sizes, ranging from a greeting on letter size paper to a small card of 5 × 2.75 inches. The cards employed metaphors from Chinese arts and classics in the personalized envelopes, cover illustrations, and greeting messages. Depending on the social context and the sender’s relationship with the recipient, individual authors used elements of Chinese culture as tools to socialize with colleagues, pay respect to friends, convey messages of religious teaching, send off encouragement and good wishes, and reinforce the effect of fundraising. This blog post is the first in a two-part series about these cards. Here, the focus is on cards blending Eastern and Western themes in cards from religious groups and non-profit organizations. Next month, I will highlight the imagery Chinese scholars used in corresponding with Princeton’s librarian.

Because many senders were corresponding overseas from China, their envelopes often presented combinations of Chinese and English, which may appear exotic to our audience today. As the envelope below shows on the front, the staff of the National Committee of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Shanghai used a five-sent stamp issued by the Chinese Post Office in memory of Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China. On the back of the envelope, the sender rendered the return address in Shanghai in both Chinese and English.

Because many senders were corresponding overseas from China, their envelopes often presented combinations of Chinese and English. As the envelope above shows on the front, the staff of the National Committee of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Shanghai used a five-sent stamp issued by the Chinese Post Office in memory of Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China. On the back of the envelope, the sender rendered the return address in Shanghai in both Chinese and English.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the debate team wins its argument over football with Harvard, a yearbook cover change draws complaint, and more.

December 12, 1896—First Lady Frances Fulsom Cleveland draws student notice as she shops for a house in Princeton for her family to move into after Grover Cleveland finishes his presidency.

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Frances Fulsom Cleveland. Grover Cleveland Collection (AC348), Box 1.

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Bob Dylan’s Honorary Princeton University Degree

When news of Bob Dylan being honored with a Nobel Prize in Literature broke a few months ago, the Swedish Academy responsible for the award acknowledged that it might appear to be an inappropriate choice. Dylan, as a musician, might not be thought of as an author so much as a composer. “If you look back,” permanent secretary Sara Danius told the press, “you discover Homer and Sappho, and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to … But we still read Homer and Sappho…and we enjoy it, and same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read, and should be read.”

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Bob Dylan at Princeton University, June 9, 1970. Honorary Degree Records (AC106), Box 6.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 5-11

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Hoagie Haven stops delivering sandwiches, the campus holds its first beauty contest, and more.

December 5, 1950—University employees vote on whether to participate in the Social Security plan.

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Social Security election notice, November 29, 1950. Office of the Dean of the Faculty Records (AC118), Box 128, Folder 3.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 28-December 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, residents flee Nassau Hall, Theodore Roosevelt goes to a football game, and more.

November 29, 1776—John Witherspoon calls all the students of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) together in the Prayer Hall in Nassau Hall to dismiss them to safety. Taking what they can carry with them and leaving the rest to become spoils of war for the rapidly approaching British soldiers, the students say good-bye to one another and take flight from campus.

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Nassau Hall, 1760. Nassau Hall Iconography Collection (AC177), Box 1.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 21-27

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian defends the Class of 1883’s right to wear orange and black, intercollegiate baseball begins, and more.

November 21, 1879—The Princetonian defends the freshman Class of 1883 against charges that they should not be allowed to wear orange and black, made on the grounds that only football players should be permitted to do so.

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A Lotta Kicks: 125 Years of the Triangle Club

By Jessica Serrao

Join us at the Mudd Library as we celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Princeton University’s Triangle Club with an exhibit featuring archival materials from the Triangle Club Records housed in the University Archives. The exhibit walks you through some highlights from the past century and a quarter bringing to light the extensive history of this Princeton standard. Playbills, photographs, sheet music, memorabilia, travel plans, costume sketches, and, of course, punny titles, can all be found in this exhibit, and to a much greater degree in the Triangle Club Records.

The history of the Triangle Club is long and involved, but it’s still kicking today. During the mid-nineteenth century, dramatics at Princeton began in fits and starts as it struggled to take hold within a college steeped in Presbyterian morals. By 1883, religious views softened and Triangle Club’s predecessor formed as the Princeton College Dramatic Association (PCDA). “David Garrick” was PCDA’s first production held May 10, 1883. By 1891, PCDA had joined forces with the University Glee Club to stage its first musical performance, “Po-ca-hon-tas.” It was so successful, it was performed again the next year with revisions.

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Some of the cast of “Po-ca-hon-tas,” 1891. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 93.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 14-20

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, football rivalry with Yale begins, an African American graduate breaks through a color barrier, and more.

November 14, 1969—Charles Conrad, Jr. ’53 is in command of the Apollo 12 mission, the second mission in which humans will travel to the moon, when it launches today. He carries four Princeton University flags with him.

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Flag taken to the moon by Charles Conrad, Jr. ’53. Memorabilia Collection (AC053).

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