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