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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This Week in Princeton History for May 9-15

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, President Taft is visiting, fire ravages the campus, and more.

May 11, 1912—U.S. President William Howard Taft is the guest of John Grier Hibben at Prospect House on campus, having come to celebrate Hibben’s inauguration as president of Princeton University. (Video here.)

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William Howard Taft at Prospect House. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box LP1.

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Mother Loves Me

With Mother’s Day coming up, we thought now was a great time to highlight this theater poster from our General Princeton Theater Collection (AC385).

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Princeton General Theater Collection (AC385), Box 3.

“Mother Loves Me” was a 1958 one-act musical comedy written and produced for Theatre Intime by Clark Gesner ’60, a member of the Triangle Club who also contributed to a few of its productions, including “After a Fashion” and “For Heaven’s Sake.” To fund this enterprise, Gesner had support from the Producers Fund, a modest grant of $200 originally donated by D. Brooks Jones ’56 from his profits from his own 1956 production, “Three Folk Sing.” The fund supported student artistic endeavors in various forms of public entertainment, including plays, literature readings, and musical revues. It had first been used in 1957 to finance “Listen Here” by Theodore James, Jr. ’57, who returned the initial grant and added a percentage of his profits to keep the fund going in accordance with the award’s rules.

For “Mother Loves Me,” male parts were performed by Princeton students, but as the school was not yet coeducational, casting had to look elsewhere for female actors. They drew upon local talent: Janet Thornsen of the Westminster Choir School took the lead soprano part, while Marcy Carroll of Princeton High School appeared in a supporting role. The male cast included Peter Cook ’60, Clinton Jakeman ’60, Robert Tellander ’60, and Philip Weinstein ’61. Grenville Cuyler ’60 directed. Using amateurs fulfilled the terms of the grant from the Producers Fund, which stipulated that the production could not employ more than one professional in any capacity, on stage or off.

The satirical musical focused on the field of psychology’s outlook on love. One viewer wrote of “Mother Loves Me,” “it is hard not to point out a number of particular flaws, but it is a great deal more difficult to explain the sheer and wonderful delight felt by the audience throughout the performance.” The production was a success and nearly sold out, making it possible for Gesner to keep a share of $50.68 from the profits after putting the requisite $352.01 into the Producers Fund. Though this wasn’t the main catalyst for Gesner’s fame, he did ultimately become a highly successful composer. He is best known today for the Broadway play, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” which was nominated for a Grammy in 1968. He also wrote and composed for a handful of television programs, including Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, and The Electric Company.

 

Sources:

Clark Gesner Papers (C1163)

General Princeton Theater Collection (AC385)

Daily Princetonian

Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students Records (AC136)

Triangle Club Records (AC122)

Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC199)

This Week in Princeton History for May 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the first Triangle Show is performed, two freshmen kick a soccer ball to Manhattan and back, and more.

May 2, 1983—Reporters descend on Princeton University to ask current students for their reaction to the news that Brooke Shields has been admitted to the Class of 1987.

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Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 25-May 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, John F. Kennedy urges students to enter politics, the campus bids farewell to a landmark, and more.

April 25, 1957—Senator John F. Kennedy addresses the Class of 1957 in Dillon Gymnasium, urging their involvement in politics as “intellectuals…who deal with the truth, unlike politicians who deal in half-truths—in order to keep the voters’ interest.”

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Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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Grading at Princeton University

We sometimes get questions about what people see in alumni files. One of the more challenging things about reading academic records is dealing with unfamiliar grading rubrics. For example, we shared F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grade card with you a while ago. Though a dropped semester and repeated classes would indicate he did not do so well academically, the actual grades he received—mostly a series of 4s and 5s—are bewildering to modern eyes.

Grading at Princeton table

Click to enlarge this table.

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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.)

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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