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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Princeton University During World War II

By April C. Armstrong *14 and Allie Lichterman ’16

In October 1939, as the Nazi war machine crushed Poland, Princeton University’s newly admitted freshman Class of 1943 voted Adolf Hitler the “greatest living being.” A year later, the next freshman class concurred with this decision. These votes reflect the widespread American apathy toward the Nazi threat prior to the United States entering the conflict.

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Margaret Dodds, diary entry for December 7, 1941 (presumably misdated here). Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 179, Folder 8.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 28-October 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a prominent feminist urges Princetonians to support women’s suffrage, dorm residents struggle to keep warm, and more.

September 29, 1915—On the same day as President Woodrow Wilson is in town but refusing to answer reporters’ questions about whether or not he supports female suffrage, Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale, author of What Women Want: An Interpretation of the Feminist Movement, gives an address in Alexander Hall calling for American women to be given the right to vote.

September 30, 1939—Ralph Wood, a modern languages instructor at Princeton, arrives at Jersey City after a harrowing 18-day journey across the Atlantic with 200 other people on board a boat that normally holds 12, having fled Germany during the outbreak of hostilities that will soon be known as World War II.

October 1, 1976—Although the heat would normally have been turned on in the dorms in accordance with New Jersey law at the beginning of October, instead students read an announcement letting them know that it will be delayed until October 11 due to a national energy crisis. As temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night, students begin bundling up to keep warm.

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A student bundled against the indoor chill at Princeton University, ca. Fall 1976. Photo from 1978 Bric-a-Brac.

October 4, 1997—At least 15 Princeton students join approximately 500,000 evangelical men at an all-male prayer rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the “Promise Keepers” organization.

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 August 17-23

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a prisoner of war says he deserves credit for independent study while held captive, the U-Store breaks ground on a new home, and more.

August 18, 1944—Lt. Nicholas Katzenbach ’43 writes to the War Service Bureau that he has been studying 8 hours per day in a German prison camp and feels he has completed the requirements for his A.B. despite missing the final three semesters with his class at Princeton. After submitting a thesis and passing a series of exams given by Princeton faculty the following year, he will be given given credit for ten courses and awarded his degree with honors in October 1945. Katzenbach will ultimately achieve his greatest fame as the U.S. Attorney General who will confront segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace in an incident that will be known as the “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.”

Katzenbach_Letter_1_AC198_Box_61 Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for August 10-16

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the school gives up sports, violence erupts at morning prayers, and more.

August 11, 1956—Philip E. Capicotto ’56’s death only months after graduation shakes the Princeton University community. Diagnosed with cancer the previous April, Capicotto kept his condition a secret.

August 12, 1944—Due to the pressures of war, University president Harold Dodds announces that Princeton will not participate in Ivy League sporting events during the academic year, including baseball, basketball, soccer, swimming, and tennis. Princeton has already ceased participation in Ivy League football, rowing, fencing, squash, polo, golf, hockey, and gymnastics.

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Princeton in wartime, ca. 1942. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Image No. 4431.

August 14, 1986—Shashi Ramakrishna ’86, who had disappeared from campus 7 months earlier, is found in Troy, New York.

August 15, 1805—An argument between two students during morning prayers results in one student stabbing the other. The freshman later confesses but says there were mitigating circumstances: the other student “wished to sit on his head” and “he did not intend to wound him so badly as he had done in the heat of passion.” He is later suspended, but ultimately completes his degree.

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.

Remembering the Atomic Bomb, 70 Years Later

In 2012, Hiroshima University gave Princeton University seven roof tiles that were damaged during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The details of the gift can be found here. Three years later, the tiles have been brought out into our lobby display case to mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb.

The roof tiles serve as a physical reminder of the devastation that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The roof tiles serve as a physical reminder of the devastation that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The scorched roof tiles are not the only items in the Mudd Manuscript Library that tell the story of the atomic bomb. Both the University Archives and the Public Policy Papers contain documents that detail the creation of the bomb and the attempts to reconcile the implications of its use. Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for July 20-26

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a beloved staff member dies, the opening of a new recreational center for military personnel on campus is announced, and more.

July 20, 1899—The Peary Relief Expedition arrives in the port of North Sydney, Nova Scotia with several Princeton professors on board. Their boat, the Diana, carries supplies for Robert Peary, who is exploring Greenland in his quest to reach the North Pole. The professors take the opportunity to conduct scientific research in the Arctic along the way.

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The Diana in port, July 20, 1899. Princeton Scientific Expeditions Collection (AC012), Box 9.

July 22, 1902—James Johnson, an escaped slave who became known as the “students’ friend” during his long sojourn working at Princeton, dies at the age of 87.

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James Johnson in the 1894 Bric-a-Brac.

July 23, 1797—In a letter to his ward and stepgrandson, George Washington Parke Custis, College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1799, George Washington observes that “no college has turned out better scholars or more estimable characters than Nassau.”

July 26, 1943—In cooperation with the USO, the University announces the opening of a new recreation center in Murray-Dodge Hall for military personnel assigned to Princeton.

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Soldiers walking by Murray-Dodge Hall, ca. 1943. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP208, Image No. 5495.

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.

African Americans and Princeton University

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Q. What information do you have about African Americans and Princeton University?

A. Until the twentieth century, Princeton’s history has mostly been dominated by white men, typically from prosperous backgrounds. Though decidedly pro-Union during the Civil War, the campus had strong Southern influences, and its reputation as the “northernmost university town of the [segregated] south” was not undeserved. Yet that is not to say that Princeton’s story can only be told in terms of its loudest voices. Here, we give a brief overview of some of the ways African Americans fit into Princeton’s past.

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Princeton University cheerleaders, 1995. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP9, Image No. 2484.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 26-February 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an Oscar winner dies, the University holds a winter Commencement to send students off to war more quickly, and more.

January 26, 1992—Jose Ferrer ’33 dies at the age of 80. Though best known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of the title character in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1949, he had already made an impression on Princeton. The Class of 1933 named him the “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” among them upon graduation. Like his friend James Stewart ’32, Ferrer was an architecture major who got his start in show business through involvement in Triangle Club.

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Jose Ferrer was named “Most Entertaining” and “Wittiest” by the Class of 1933 (photo from 1933 Nassau Herald).

January 27, 1934—An Ice Carnival held in Baker Rink raises $900 for charity, which is donated to the Princeton Nursery School.

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“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.