“I Pledge My Honor”

Final exams begin at Princeton University today. Professors, Lecturers, and Assistants in Instruction (Preceptors) will not be present while students are taking them, trusting them to police themselves. In return, the students will sign their exams under this handwritten statement: I pledge my honor that I have not violated the Honor Code during this examination.

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Students taking an exam in Princeton University’s McCosh 50, ca. 1950s. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP163, Item No. 4402.

The Honor System, one of Princeton’s most distinctive traditions, was established and has been maintained almost exclusively by undergraduates. Cheating ran rampant at the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) in the late nineteenth century; students saw it as a way to outwit the faculty, while professors expended a great deal of energy trying to catch cheaters. Booth Tarkington (Class of 1893) described this rivalry as a “continuous sly warfare between the professor and the student.” Crib sheets were common, as was sharing answers during tests. Students who refused to collaborate were ridiculed. Reporting fellow students to the faculty was seen as dishonorable and unthinkable for most, while professors would stalk exam rooms looking for any inconsistencies. Sometimes faculty also hired extra proctors help keep an eye on students.

Student dissatisfaction with this culture of cheating and “sly warfare” peaked in 1893, when some of the most influential juniors and seniors proposed an honor pledge. Honor systems were not uncommon at southern schools, such as the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia, and many Princeton undergraduates had gone to southern preparatory schools with prominent and successful honor systems. Senior Charles Ottley  (Class of 1893) and several juniors drew on their practical experience with the honor system at the Webb School in central Tennessee as they pushed for an honor system at Princeton.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, final exams prove stressful, the Nude Olympics meet their end, and more.

January 12, 1941—A pre-finals blackout distresses residents of five Princeton dormitories. The next morning, the Daily Princetonian will report: “After hesitatingly peering skyward to assure themselves that no Nazi bombers were heaving over the horizon, they swore that even in London they didn’t have to take exams the day following a blackout.”

January 13, 1893—In response to widespread cheating that many fear diminishes the accomplishments of those who do their own work, College of New Jersey (Princeton University) students call for an honor system. The Honor Code will be adopted and first used on an English Literature exam on January 26.

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Philip Ellicott Barringer ’38’s final exam in History 314 (The Renaissance and the Reformation), Spring 1938. Note the Honor Pledge’s now-outdated wording. Course Examinations Collection (AC054), Box 22. (Access to students’ academic records is governed by this policy.)

January 14, 1969—To protest the concept of grades, 27 Princeton philosophy majors go on “strike,” refusing to sign their final exams. Several other students in Philosophy 300 reportedly follow their lead in solidarity. Their effort to rid Princeton of grades ultimately fails, and the students will all identify their exams and accept the grades assigned by their professors several weeks later.

January 15, 1999—The New York Times reports that the Nude Olympics will likely not continue at Princeton after the year’s event resulted in the hospitalization of five students. The tradition, which evolved during the 1970s streaking fad and has been discouraged by the administration for years, consists of the sophomore class running laps in the nude around the Holder Courtyard after each year’s first snowfall. The Times article quotes Peter Dutton ’91: “Can’t undergraduates run naked in a restrained and dignified manner anymore?” (Ultimately, 1999’s Olympics will be the last naked frolic in the snow for Princeton’s undergraduates.)

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 1974 cartoon from the Daily Princetonian. Video of the 1986 Nude Olympics can be found here.

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

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for December 22-28

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a dorm thief is caught, a movie about an alum premieres in town, and more.

December 22, 1898—A granite monument in Arlington National Cemetery at the grave of Major General William W. Belknap, Class of 1848 and former Secretary of War under Ulysses S. Grant, is presented to the U.S. government.

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Photo taken in Washington, D.C. at what the caption describes as “a chance meeting of Bradley M. Thomas (Class of 1849), George Alexander Otis (Class of 1849), Alfred Alexander Woodhull (Class of 1856), Princeton President John Maclean (Class of 1816), and Gen. William Worth Belknap (Class of 1848).” Belknap is on the bottom left. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP1, Item No. 4599.

December 23, 1952—A young man recently expelled from Harvard University’s English Ph.D. program who had been going into Princeton dorms and stealing a variety of student possessions is apprehended by a University proctor. At the time, he was wearing shoes he had stolen from a dorm room. The Mercer County Court will later send him to the Menlo State Insane Asylum.

December 24, 1915—University president John Grier Hibben and his wife invite any students still on campus to have dinner in their home.

December 25, 2001—A Beautiful Mind opens at the Garden Theatre, four days before being shown nationwide. The movie, filmed on the Princeton University campus, is loosely based on Sylvia Nasar’s biography of John Nash *50 by the same name.

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Ron Howard directs Russell Crowe during filming of A Beautiful Mind, 2001. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 198.

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

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for December 15-21

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the University gets a radio station, a movie filmed on campus premieres in town, and more.

December 15, 1940—WPRB’s predecessor, WPRU, gets its start with daily broadcasts from 7:15 to 9:15 a.m. and from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. The campus radio station has humble beginnings; as the Daily Princetonian reports, “signals may possibly penetrate as far as the Graduate College.”

Frederick_Rhinestein_'49_interviews_local_shoe_shine_boy_1946_(WPRU)_AC112_Box_MP170_Item_4806

WPRU’s Frederick Rheinstein ’49 interviews his “Man in the Street” (Nassau Street) of the week for the “Roaming with Rhinestein” program, 1946. This particular episode features “a local shoe shine boy” talking about how his business is going, while students and townspeople look on. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP170, Item No. 4806.

December 16, 1966—The Princeton Township zoning board grants the University a variance to allow for the building of Fine Hall Tower.

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Two students sit and talk with Fine Hall under construction in the background. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP43, Item No. 1334.

December 17, 1884—Princeton students leave for a two-week break that the Daily Princetonian has editorialized will not be sufficient: “The great part of the student’s body will be worn out by the strain which preparation for examinations necessitate. And the vacation which begins at that time will not be taken as the fulfillment of a long established custom, but of physiological laws which require that nature should be allowed to rebuild what the examination system has destroyed.”

December 19, 1994—I.Q., a movie set in a highly fictionalized version of Albert Einstein’s Princeton and filmed on campus and around town, premieres at the Garden Theatre on Nassau Street. The movie tells the love story between Einstein’s (Walter Matthau) fictional niece, Catherine (Meg Ryan), a Princeton University Ph.D. candidate in mathematics, and Ed (Tim Robbins), a local mechanic. Catherine’s fiancé, James (Stephen Fry), a Princeton psychology professor, proves to be an obstacle to the union of Catherine and Ed, until Einstein and his friends help Ed win Catherine’s heart (scientists Nathan Liebknecht (Joseph Maher), Kurt Gödel (Lou Jacobi), and Boris Podolsky (Gene Saks)).I.Q._Premiere_Sign_AC168_Box_196

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Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and Joseph Maher at the premiere of I.Q. in Princeton’s Garden Theatre. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 196.

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

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for December 8-14

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Triangle Show appears on national television, the Board of Trustees votes to establish the Graduate School, and more.

December 8, 1988—The Student Friends of the Art Museum get the first look at the renovated museum’s new wing.

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Renovations of the Princeton University Art Museum underway, 1985, Historical Photograph Collection (AC111), Grounds and Buildings Series, Box AD1, Folder 7.

December 9, 1947—Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, president of the World Jewish Congress and co-founder of the NAACP, speaks in McCosh 50 during Hanukkah, with celebratory words about the founding of the modern state of Israel.

December 10, 1950—After suspension and flagging interest in the 1940s due to World War II, Princeton’s Triangle Show revives itself with the first of what will be many annual appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show.

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Mark Lawrence ’42, Robert Jennings, Ed Sullivan, and Fred Kelley, 1950, Triangle Club Records, AC122, Box 74.

December 13, 1900—The Board of Trustees votes to establish a Graduate School, and appoints Andrew Fleming West, Class of 1874, its first dean.

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Andrew Fleming West, 1889, Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series, Box FAC103.

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

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

 

“The New Order”: How Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor (Briefly) Led to Women Enrolling in Classes at Princeton University

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan”: so began Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 8, in a speech asking the United States Congress for a declaration of war. Princeton University didn’t wait until Roosevelt’s speech; instead, the Princeton Senate declared war on Japan immediately following the attack. The Daily Princetonian reported on this story and others under the banner headline, “PRINCETON PRESENTS UNITED FRONT AS UNITED STATES FACES TOTAL WAR.”

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Army Specialized Training Program, ca. 1942-1945, Princeton University, Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4431.

It would be difficult to overstate the transformations that World War II brought to the United States at large and to Princeton University in particular in a nearly immediate and all-consuming way in the wake of the Japanese strikes on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A stunned administration under the leadership of University President Harold Willis Dodds (Graduate Class of 1914), who had only six weeks before asserted that the threat of war “will call for minor adjustments in the curriculum” (“Some Thoughts on Universities and National Defense,” October 31, 1941), suddenly and drastically revised its approach. Rather than minor adjustments, Princeton instead embraced major upheavals to nearly all of its traditions.

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British military class, Princeton University, ca. 1943, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4433.

On December 15, Dodds presented the rough outlines of a changed Princeton curriculum to a mass meeting of students in Alexander Hall. A Princeton A.B., typically a four-year degree, would have an accelerated option with year-round classes, so that it could be completed in three. Additional “emergency courses” would be added to teach skills deemed useful for war. Princeton would yield itself to the needs of the U.S. Army and Navy, whatever those needs happened to be. All of these anticipated changes quickly went into effect. Here, we highlight how the war effort brought one other dramatic change to the campus: for the first time, women enrolled in classes.

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“The New Order,” Princeton Tiger, December 1941.

Photogrammetry, or making maps from aerial photographs, was among many emergency courses added for the Summer 1942 term. Tuition was not charged for the class, taught by engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, but admission was competitive, as applications poured in from across the nation.

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Flyer advertising Princeton University Photogrammetry Course, 1942, Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), Box 421, Folder 3.

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Unidentified female student with engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, Princeton’s Photogrammetry class, 1942, Historical Photographs Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP212, Item No. 5577.

The class of 45 ultimately included 23 women, most from the East Coast region between New London and Philadelphia, and one from Royal Oak, Michigan. The Prince marveled, “One of the few remaining strongholds of the male, the classrooms of Princeton University, have been opened by the war to women students for the first time in the 196 years of its existence.” This was a bit of an exaggeration, however, as only a few classrooms were actually open to women, and the photogrammetry class was the only one taken by American women. Three female members of the British military also attended classes here during the war (Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 10, 1943), but afterward, coeducation at Princeton became nothing more than a memory until the 1960s. For more on the history of women at the University, see our previous blog post.

For further reading on World War II’s impact on Princeton University, see our previous blog posts about the bronze memorial stars that adorn some dormitory windows and the wartime love letters of alumnus Peter Page ’41.

Sources:

Board of Trustees Records (AC120)

Daily Princetonian

Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112)

Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109)

Office of the Dean of the College Records (AC149)

Princeton Alumni Weekly

The Princeton Tiger

Root, Robert K. The Princeton Campus in World War II. Princeton: Self-published, 1978.

 

This Week in Princeton History for December 1-7

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Daily Princetonian elects its first female chairperson, Andrew Carnegie gives Princeton a lake, and more.

December 2, 1978—The 102-year-old Daily Princetonian elects Anne C. Mackay-Smith ’80 its first female chairperson. In June 1980, she will be elected to the Princeton University Board of Trustees.

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Anne C. Mackay-Smith, 1980, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 125.

December 3, 1846—Natural philosophy (physics) professor Joseph Henry begins a new job as the first Secretary of the newly created Smithsonian Institution after 14 years at Princeton.

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“Sketch of the Life of Professor Joseph Henry,” Faculty Files, AC059, Box 229.

December 4, 1798—William Richardson Davie, a member of the College of New Jersey Class of 1776 and the 1787 “Tiger Nine,” is elected governor of North Carolina.

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William Richardson Davie, 1800, Undergraduate Alumni Records 1748-1920 (AC104), Box 33.

December 5, 1906—There is standing room only in Alexander Hall as steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie formally presents documents conveying legal title for Lake Carnegie to Princeton University.

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Washington Road bridge over Lake Carnegie, Princeton, New Jersey, 1907, Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 1.

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

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

A Princeton Thanksgiving

Last year, Princeton University extended its Thanksgiving break, after lengthy discussions on the merits of canceling Wednesday classes before the holiday. Now, students have the equivalent of a five day weekend to observe Thanksgiving. Most will probably leave campus for feasts involving turkey and cranberry sauce, but that hasn’t always been the Princeton way.

Thanksgiving has meant football and fun in the city rather than turkey and time with family to many students in the University’s past. As the Tiger explained in 1892, “The day of days of the football season is, of course, Thanksgiving. The customs of the day have changed somewhat … Empty chairs are plentiful at the erst-while all important dinner.” The dedication to football is further revealed in a 1920 proposal to shorten the Thanksgiving break to allow time off from classes at other times in the semester to accommodate other football games. Princeton typically played Yale in New York on Thanksgiving day, a tradition so revered that in 1892, Princeton rebuffed Harvard’s offer of a Thanksgiving game. (Harvard responded by refusing to play Princeton at all.) (“Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving Day 1893,” Athletic Programs Collection (AC042), Box 1, Folder 1) “Thoughts of the quiet home-scenes and the usual Thanksgiving turkey fade before the highly-wrought enthusiasm incident to the game with Yale.” (Tiger November 26, 1891, p. 32)

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Yale-Princeton Football Program, November 28, 1889, Athletic Programs Collection (AC042), Box 1, Folder 1.

The Princeton-Yale Thanksgiving game was so popular that it became a source of revenue for New York’s merchants, who decorated their shops with Princeton orange and black, as well as Yale blue. In 1893, Harper’s Weekly referred to the Princeton-Yale game as “the greatest sporting event and spectacle combined that this country has to show. … No one who does not live in New York can understand how completely it colors and lays its hold upon that city, how it upsets and overturns its thoroughfares, and disturbs its rapid routine of existence, and very few even of those who do live in New York can explain just why this is so; they can only accept it as the fact.” New Yorkers, too, were more inclined to view Thanksgiving as the day Princeton played Yale, rather than as a day for feasting: “The significance of that day, which once centered in New England around a grateful family … now centers in Harlem about 22 very dirty and very earnest young men who are trying to force a leather ball over a whitewashed line.” New York “surrenders herself to the students and their game as she never welcomes any other event, except a presidential election.”

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Poster from Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving weekend game, 1894, Princeton Artwork Collection (AC376), Box 2.

Charles V. Kidd ’35 wrote in his diary about seeing a football game on Thanksgiving in 1930: “It wasn’t such hot football, but we had fun yelling.” Football wasn’t the only non-traditional diversion students sought, however. After the game, Kidd went for a drive with friends. “Margaret,” he noted, “is a crazy driver.” (Diary, November 27, 1930, Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334), Box 5) Leonard Bleecker ’19 dispensed with football and New York altogether in 1916, and went to an arcade in Trenton, where he wrote that he had “a good time.” (Diary, December 8, 1916, Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334), Box 1)

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Clothing Store ad pasted in the scrapbook of Charles Howard McIlwain (Class of 1894), 1890, Scrapbook Collection (AC026) Box 172.

That is not to say that students never went the traditional route, nor that Princetonians were universally in favor of the typical revelry of a Princeton Thanksgiving. In 1930, the Daily Princetonian editorialized, “economic misery and the likelihood of a hard winter for the victims of the depression and the possible necessity of a bread line to stave off starvation” should give students pause. Instead of the usual frolicking in the city, the Prince suggested finding other ways to spend the holiday on campus. Some also chose to spend time with family. Christopher Donner ’35 went to his aunt’s farm in nearby Skippack, Pennsylvania, “where we had a pleasant day with everything good to eat,” but still, he missed Princeton—as “It is quite a long time since I last used an outhouse—especially with a northwest wind blowing.” (Diary, November 30, 1933, Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334), Box 4)

Motivations for choosing to spend Thanksgiving weekend near Princeton varied, but a major factor was the length of the break. In 1943 and 1944, there was no break at all; for most other years, only Thursday was granted. Students were also penalized for skipping classes, and missing a class just before or just after Thanksgiving was counted against them as “double,” or as if they’d missed two rather than one. Travel costs and penalties for missing class were Bleecker’s reasons for the Thanksgiving arcade visit mentioned above. The breaks were occasionally lengthened to accommodate the Princeton-Yale football game if it fell on a day other than Thanksgiving itself, but the standard break remained only one day—and students were expected to attend classes on both the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving. In 1939, they may not have wanted to plan an out-of-town trip for other reasons. Not knowing whether Princeton’s observation of Thanksgiving would fall on the same day as the one at home complicated matters. After President Franklin Roosevelt asked governors across the United States to move Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November, non-compliant New Englanders kept their celebration on November 30, rather than November 23, as it was in New Jersey and elsewhere in the country.

After World War II, widespread absences made Princeton a much quieter campus on Thanksgiving and the following weekend. In 1957, the faculty decided to extend the break from Wednesday afternoon until Monday morning, noting that most students were leaving campus anyway. Yet those who find themselves on the largely-deserted campus this Thursday may find comfort in the idea that being here for Thanksgiving has been, by choice or necessity, something thousands of other Princetonians have experienced, too.

Sources:

Athletic Programs Collection (AC042)

The Daily Princetonian

Princeton Artwork Collection (AC376)

The Princeton Tiger

Scrapbook Collection (AC026)

Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334)

For more on the history of Princeton football, see our previous blog post.

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.

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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.

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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.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for November 17-23

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an alum takes the school flag to the moon, Ella Fitzgerald performs, and more.

November 17, 1983—Diplomats from the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Great Britain are in Alexander Hall to commemorate the bicentennial of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended America’s Revolutionary War. Princeton is chosen because the Continental Congress resided here in 1783.

November 19, 1969—Astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. ’53, third man to walk on the moon and Commander of the Apollo XII mission, brings a Princeton flag to the moon’s Ocean of Storms. Princeton President Robert F. Goheen observes that this is “a noble summit for the Orange and Black,” and Dean of the Faculty J. Douglas Brown orders Princeton’s rarely-flown flag to be raised atop Nassau Hall in honor of the occasion. The flag is typically flown only for Commencement exercises, or at half-staff upon the death of a faculty member.

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Princeton University’s flag, back from the moon and signed by Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53, Commander of NASA’s Apollo XII. Memorabilia Collection (AC053).

November 20, 1936—A teenager from  Harlem performs at Princeton for the first time as the featured vocalist at a dance in the old gymnasium. At the 1990 Commencement exercises nearly 54 years later, Princeton will award the woman—Ella Fitzgerald—an honorary Doctorate of Music.

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Ella Fitzgerald with University president Harold Shapiro at Princeton’s 1990 Commencement. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 170.

November 21, 1933—A self-described “most desirable, good-looking northern girl, unfortunately stranded in the South” writes to the Daily Princetonian asking for a “most desirable, good-looking northern Princetonian” with whom to correspond. “Hurry up before I weaken,” she says. “I am in demand here.”

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

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.