This Week in Princeton History for November 24-30

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 the death of John F. Kennedy, the first classes are held in Nassau Hall, and more.

JFK_Whig-Clio_undated_AC112_SP13_Item_3168

John F. Kennedy speaks to the Whig-Cliosophic Society, April 26, 1954, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP13, Item No. 3168.

November 25, 1963—In observation of the National Day of Mourning for United States President and (briefly) former Princetonian John F. Kennedy, all classes are canceled and University offices are closed.

November 26, 1787—The Faculty of the College of New Jersey resolve that baseball, being “low and unbecoming gentlemen and students,” and “attended by great danger to the health,” must be prohibited, “inasmuch as there are many amusements both more honorable and more useful.” Baseball continues to be played anyway.

November 28, 1756—With carpenters and others still at work on the building the students attend the first day of classes at Nassau Hall.

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Nassau Hall commemorative plate by Wedgwood, Memorabilia Collection (AC053), Box A2.

Philip_Vickers_Fithian_1772_AC104_Box_24

Charcoal drawing of Philip Vickers Fithian, Class of 1772, by an unknown artist., ca. October 1776, Undergraduate Alumni Records 1748-1920 (AC104), Box 24.

November 30, 1770—Philip Vickers Fithian (Class of 1772) writes to his father about his experiences at the College of New Jersey. A standard schedule:

5:00 AM—Rising Bell
5:30 AM—Morning Prayers
8:00 AM—Breakfast
9:00 AM-1:00 PM—Recitation
1:00 PM—Dinner
1:00-3:00 PM—Recreation
3:00-5:00 PM—Study Hours
5:00 PM—Evening Prayers
7:00 PM—Supper
9:00 PM—Study Bell (to go to bed before this is “reproachful”)

Students who repeatedly miss morning prayers will receive “public Admonition in the Hall for Contempt of Authority.” Fithian feels the customs of the College are “exceedingly well formed to check & restrain the vicious, & to assist the studious, & to countenance & incourage (sic) the virtuous.” Read this letter and others here.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 25-31

Here at the Princeton University Archives we love to bring the history of the school, students and alumni to life by sharing what happened “This Week in Princeton History,” which will be an ongoing series here on our blog.

For the week of August 25-31:

Nassau Hall hosts the first legislature of New Jersey, an alumnus sets a new record, Princeton undergraduates keep the Pennsylvania Railroad running, and more.

August 27, 1776—The first legislature of New Jersey meets in the College library in Nassau Hall.

AC177_Box_2_Folder_5(Nassau)

Nassau Hall Iconography Collection, AC177, Box 2, Folder 5.

August 28, 1982—Preparatory school headmaster Ashby “Brud” Harper ’39, winner of the 9 varsity P’s, becomes the oldest person to swim the English Channel at 65 years old.

August 28-29, 1943—100 Princeton undergraduates are excused from classes to volunteer handling freight at the Olden Avenue Yards of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Trenton.

August 29, 1804—For promotion of science, Noah Webster deeds to Nassau Hall royalties from some of his publications: American Spelling Book, American Selections, and Elements of Useful Knowledge.

August 31, 1952—Town Topics names then-Assistant Dean of the College Jeremiah Stanton Finch their “man of the week,” noting his commitment to making a Princeton education “as close as possible to the ideal.”

Jeremiah_S._Finch_Bric-a-Brac_1958

Photo from 1958 Bric-a-Brac.

Fact Check: We aim for accuracy, but, if you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us!

When did people start referring to the College of New Jersey as Princeton?

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Q: From your FAQ website: “In 1896, when expanded program offerings brought the College university status, the College of New Jersey was officially renamed Princeton University in honor of its host community of Princeton.”

I am currently editing a novel that includes both Nassau Hall and Princeton; would the use of “Princeton” be anachronistic in 1818? Or was “Princeton” used informally, much as “Augusta” in reference to that city’s Masters Tournament?

Princeton College

A: While the college was informally called Princeton before its official name change in 1896, the earliest reference in that form that we have here in the University Archives dates from 1853 (within a publication entitled “College As It Is”). Our sources before 1853 are scanty, due to a paucity of things created (no student newspaper yet, no yearbooks, etc.). However, your question piqued my interest and so I did a search of the America’s Historical Newspapers database and found frequent references to “Princeton College” or “Princeton college” starting in 1772. For fun, I have attached a photo (above) of that first article from a Philadelphia newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet [page 1, issue 43, Publication Date: August 17, 1772].

Update, May 29, 2014: Additional research into this revealed that an October 18, 1756 newspaper ad used the phrase “Prince-town college.” This is notable not only for its earlier date, but also that this was about five weeks before the college actually started operations in Princeton (November 28, 1756). According to Princeton, 1746-1896, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker, it was during fall break that the college moved from Newark to Princeton, “although carpenters and plasterers were still working in Nassau Hall when the session began” (p.40). So it can be safely said that the institution was known as Princeton from the very start of its time in the town of Princeton.

New-York Mercury, page 4, iss. 219; October 18, 1756

New-York Mercury, page 4, issue 219; October 18, 1756