By linking alumni with the University, The Princeton Alumni Weekly aimed to serve both constituencies, as the first editors wrote:
“The only way for colleges to test their work is to raise their heads occasionally from academic introspection, and look about in the world of men. Perhaps they have been doing well by their sons; if so, it is good to know it. Peradventure wrongly; it is better to know that.”
The content that interested alumni then is not altogether different from what interests PAW’s readers today. One of the magazine’s top priorities was to report on endowments and finances, including rates of return for the last 20 years — details that previously had not been made public. The first issue highlighted campus events, including a pair of lectures by former U.S. President Grover Cleveland, then a Princeton resident.
Class news and obituaries held a prominent place in the second half of the magazine. One example, from the Class of 1896 column: “Gordon Johnston, formerly of the Rough Riders, is now a lieutenant of the 43rd Regiment, serving in the Philippines. … Lieut. Johnston distinguished himself for bravery by putting to rout with a small band over a thousand armed Filipinos after a hard day’s work in saving a town from a fire started by the enemy.”
The first PAW previewed spring sports, and Tiger fans were no doubt happy to read that Princeton’s “heavy hitting” baseball team had beaten Manhattan College 26-2. In the field, William Steinwender ’02 had been “playing second base in a very satisfactory manner” that spring.
Advertisements in the April 7, 1900, issue included two for banks, one for a bond broker, and one for a life-insurance company. There also was a quarter page proclaiming the perks of the Princeton Inn, “a charming resort situated a wooded park of seven acres, in the midst of the beautiful university town” — or, as today’s undergraduates know it, Forbes College.
PAW’s readership has grown and changed in the last 110 years. In 1900, there were 6,000 living alumni, all men. Today, PAW’s circulation tops 65,000, and women have been a part of the alumni community for four decades. But the first editors’ vision of the magazine as a “common meeting ground” and “a live connection” between alumni and their alma mater continues to shape each issue.
For the record, today’s edition is issue number 3,160.