On May 10, 1991, President George H.W. Bush came to Princeton’s campus to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and dedicate the University’s Social Science Complex. This $20 million dollar project included the newly constructed Bendheim and Fisher Halls, as well as a renovation of Corwin Hall. This Reel Mudd blog post includes video of both of these events, along with other scenes related to the President’s visit.
Princeton’s reunions are almost as old as Princeton University itself, going back to the days when the university was still known as the “College of New Jersey.” In today’s blog, posted during the Reunions weekend of 2011, we are showing you the oldest reunion footage in the University Archives: an annotated film of the Class of 1895’s 20th and 30th Reunions in 1915 and 1925, followed by footage of the Class of 1915’s 40th Reunion in 1955, and the Class of 1944’s 65th Reunion in 2009, the most recent reunion footage in the University Archives. The films may be compared with reunion footage featured in previous blogs, including the Reunion of the Class of 1921 in 1923 and 1926, and the Reunions and P-rade of 1928, of 1960 and 1961, and of 1986. A compilation of this footage to welcome returning alumni in 2011 can be found here.
The Class of 1895’s 20th reunion footage is the first of its kind, and would well have been the very oldest film in the University Archives, if not for the newsreel footage of the inauguration of President John Grier Hibben in 1912. The film was made by the Connecticut Film Company, which had two men follow the class around campus on Reunions Saturday, then return the following Monday to show the film at the Class Dinner. As Class Secretary Andrew Imbrie put it in a letter to classmates in advance of Reunions, this would be “a stunt never before attempted at any Princeton reunion.”
Back at headquarters at the Bachelor’s Club, we see a crowd of men and children gathered around class member Howard Colby’s “‘sarsaparilla automobile,’ built, decorated and provisioned with thoughtful consideration for the small army of sons and daughters” of class members (2:23). As the film winds down, the camera pans over the 136 class members who returned for 1895’s 20th along with their sons (3:53). The D.Q. Brown Long Distance Cup is presented by Dickinson Brown to his classmate Henry “Spider” McNulty, who traveled the farthest, from China, to attend the reunion.
From the start of the Depression until the end of World War II, construction activity at Princeton, like at other universities, was at a near standstill. The first buildings to be erected here as part of the post-war building boom on American campuses were the Dillon Gym and the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library. The four silent films discussed on this post, which are all in color, capture the beginning of the construction of Firestone Library, the dedication of the Dillon Gym in June 1947, and other activities at the close of the bicentennial celebrations of 1946–1947 and the immediate years thereafter.
As can be seen on this campus map, the space between Washington Road and the then library (what is now Chancellor Green and Pyne Hall) was quite open. During most of the film the camera is facing the Engineering Building on Washington Road (now Burr and Green Hall), and moves between the Joseph Henry House, home of the Dean of the College (the white house seen on the left) and the ’77 Laboratory (the square brick building with the crescent shaped windows on the right). This biology laboratory, donated by the Class of 1877 at its tenth reunion, was demolished in the summer of 1946, which is captured starting at 9:15. The ’77 Lab appears as a pile of rubble at 9:21, when the Bracket Dynamo Laboratory behind it becomes visible. This second lab is gradually broken down in the footage that follows.
Only the last few minutes of the film (10:39–14.15), capture the beginning of the construction of the Firestone Library itself, starting with the lowest floor. The snow at 11.31, surrounding the concrete columns, indicates that a year has passed since the time lapse filming began. On January 15, 1947 the Prince wrote that most of the underground structure had been completed. The footage at 11.53, which includes a view on Nassau Street, must have been filmed during or shortly after February 1947, when the library, according to the Prince had risen above the ground. The film ends with footage of the building of the steel structure of the library’s three floors (13:11), the last shots of which indicating that it is springtime now (13:32).
In the 1946–1947 academic year, Princeton celebrated its 200th anniversary with a series of convocations and events, ending with a concluding ceremony, captured in a newsreel, which included a convocation address by US President Harry Truman. Today’s blog features another newsreel about the University’s bicentennial year that focuses on “Charter Day,” October 19, 1946. In addition to Princeton’s almost 200-year old charter and the “largest procession in Princeton history” at the time (which included 23 honorary degrees recipients), the newsreel addresses the beginning of intercollegiate football, depicting a re-enactment of the first football game between Princeton and Rutgers from November 6, 1869 during halftime of the 1946 Princeton-Rutgers game.
Princeton’s charter, granted to the University on October 22, 1746 (then still known as the “College of New Jersey”) is shown fleetingly in the newsreel (0:38). Readers of our regular blog already know that the charter, on intermittent display during the celebration of Mudd Manuscript Library’s 50th anniversary, is actually not the original (which was lost) but the second charter, drawn up in 1748. (An explanation can be found in our Frequently Asked Questions.) The famous early picture of Nassau Hall that follows at 0:48 is the copper engraving by Philadelphia artist Henry Dawkins (copied from a drawing by Princeton student William Tennent, Class of 1758), which was printed in Samuel Blair’s Account of the College of New Jersey (1764). For more information about the engraver, who was also a counterfeiter of paper money, see Julie Mellby’s Graphic Arts blog.
Over 500 people comprised the academic procession that opened and closed the morning’s convocation, according to the Prince, including faculty, trustees, representatives of all alumni classes and members of the Undergraduate Council. The procession included an official delegation from the United Nations, headed by Secretary General Trygve Lie, and members from the State Bicentennial Commission, including Walter E. Edge, Governor of New Jersey. Lie (1:42) and Edge (2:11) were among the 23 honorary degree recipients, as were the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, the Spanish writer Salvador De Madariaga, and the French philosopher Jacques Maritain (2:21–not all recipients are clearly visible).
The last eight minutes of the newsreel are occupied by the 38th Rutgers-Princeton football game in the afternoon (2:47), with a humorous reenactment of the first Rutgers-Princeton game of November 6, 1869 (5:51), considered the ‘birth’ of intercollegiate football. A description of the football game and the reenactment by Theatre Intime and members of the Rutgers soccer team can be found in the Prince. A copy of the program notes about the 1869 football game, with an explanation of the rules, may be downloaded at Twenty-four Stalwart Men.pdf. A second article from the program, summarizing the history of the Princeton-Rutgers football rivalry, can be viewed at 77 Years Princeton-Rutgers.pdf. More information about early football can be found in Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession by Mark Bernstein ’83, who wrote our previous blog entry.
The footage on this 16mm film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (part of item no. 0092).
In a recent blog we shared our oldest film depicting President Hibben’s inauguration in 1912 and some unexpected footage of Woodrow Wilson. In today’s post we show you more surprise footage from that reel: commencement activities and P-rade scenes, most of which we had already found in a puzzling “film mosaic” on another reel. We now have identified the mystery footage as scenes from the class films of the Class of 1928. The footage from both reels is featured here, along with two reunion films that helped date the materials. Together the four films capture the commencement and reunion weekend of 1928, which included a particularly spectacular P-rade, when many classes were, according to the Prince, “decked in gaudy and grotesque costumes.”
As a bonus there is footage of the Class of 1928’s freshmen ‘flour picture’ from 1924–the first in many years in which only water and flour were used, which apparently made this hazing tradition too tame to survive–it was abolished in 1926.
According to the list of class films in the records of the Graduate Council, the Class of 1928 had three film reels capturing their commencement, with some of the footage similar to the graduation film of the Class of 1921. The footage featured here contains only a few scenes, without the titles that originally accompanied them. The film, which is not in chronological order, opens at the end of the class exercises on Monday, June 18 with the breaking of the pipes on Cannon Green, which symbolized the breaking of ties with undergraduate life. The footage is followed at 0:22 by the commencement exercises on Tuesday, June 19, ending with the singing of “Old Nassau” (0:44).
The film continues on Saturday, June 16 in front of Nassau Hall (0:54), where all alumni were waiting for the Class of 1928 to lead the P-rade. After the arrival of the 466 graduating seniors, carrying white umbrellas (1:04, left), the other classes would join in, beginning with the youngest. The footage at 1:16 shows various classes coming through the Arch at Prospect Avenue, from where the procession proceeded to University field.
From 1:30 the procession is seen marching around the baseball field, prior to the traditional game against Yale. The cameraman zoomed in on classes with particularly interesting costumes. These include what is thought to be the Class of 1918 with feather hats (1:39), and an unknown class (possibly the Class of 1912) acting out a fox hunt (1:59, right). The film ends with footage of presumably the Class of 1928’s last Senior Singing on the steps of Nassau Hall (2:19), with the seniors traditionally dressed in white.
Among the earliest silent films that were shot on the Princeton campus are those produced and financed by the classes of 1921 to 1939 (see our previous blog). The first true ‘class film’ was titled “The Class of 1923–its deeds and its antics.” A compilation of footage from this film and of the film “Champions 1922,” with football highlights of the fall of 1922, survive in the archives. Be ready to watch the “football team that wouldn’t be beaten,” the building of a championship bonfire, a dirty flour fight, Triangle chorines and more Princeton lore.
The two 16mm film reels on which this footage was found contain almost all scenes (though in different order) of the original nitrate base films that were kept by the Graduate Council. According to the Graduate Council’s lists of captions or “titles” of the films, the original “Champions 1922,” which was rented out to alumni groups, took up one reel, and the film with the class’ “deeds and antics” took up six. Portions of six of the seven original reels were used, with only the class’ commencement scenes omitted.
Princeton’s three football victories that clinched the championship in the fall of 1922 are found at separate places: the Yale game (November 18) at 0:00, the Harvard game (November 11) at 3:18, and the Chicago match (October 28, 1922) at 11.42. The film features a live tiger cub (2:33) that, according to the note found with the film reel, was donated by the father of one of the players “since Princeton won (the) Harvard game.” An article in the Prince identifies the donor as J.F. Howard from Haverhill, MA, father of Albert “Red” F. Howard ’25, who had caught the cub while hunting in the jungles of India. The note indicates that the tiger was given to Philadelphia Zoo after graduation.
To our surprise, we had already seen the bonfire footage at 4:22. It was featured in Gerardo Puglia’s 250th anniversary documentary and was thought to be the championship bonfire of 1926 when it was put online by the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Now we know that it was actually the championship bonfire of November 21, 1922. Given the caption on 1923’s Class film, it is easy to understand the mistake: it was traditionally the task of the freshmen (in this case the Class of 1926) to find wood for the celebratory bonfires. That this involved quite a bit more than gathering brushwood is demonstrated in the film. A photo montage of the events can be found in the Daily Princetonian of November 25, 1922.
Another Princeton tradition depicted on the film is the annual “flour picture,” the first photograph of the freshmen class on the steps of Whig or Clio Hall, which was taken after the sophomores dumped flour on the freshmen. The seniors of 1923 were merely bystanders when the Class of 1926’s flour picture was filmed on October 30, 1922 (5:40). The footage must have ended up here because the Class of 1923 had taken the initiative for the combined Motion Picture Committee that would coordinate the class films for all four classes, including the filming of the freshmen’s flour picture. (See our previous blog.)
The title that accompanied the original footage apparently was removed: “Flour (?) picture: 1926 undergoes its baptismal rites.” The question mark indicates that more than flour was dumped during this hazing ritual, and a year later, the Class of 1926, now sophomores, added their own special ingredient to the mix: acid! Not surprisingly, the flour picture was abolished immediately. The Prince wrote solemnly: “This action was necessitated by the degeneration of the Flour Picture in recent years until this fall it was a distinctly non-Princeton affair.” A later article detailed what may have been mixed with the flour on this footage: eggs, tar, paint, molasses “and whatnot.” The flour picture was reinstated in 1924 with water and flour only, but the interest of the sophomores waned, and the practice stopped after 1925.
The photographer of the flour picture is probably Orren Jack Turner, who appears at 6:28, followed a bit later by B.F. Bunn ’07 (6:36), manager of the University store and financial adviser to many campus organizations, who advanced the money for the camera purchased by the Motion Picture Committee. The footage of Bunn is followed by scenes from the Triangle show “The Man from Earth” (6:46), the annual show for 1922–1923, with Wally Smith ’24 in the title row, singing “That’s why I left the world behind” (7:36). This is the earliest Triangle footage in the University archives, preceding even the footage of “The Golden Dog” of 1929 that was featured in a previous blog.
The remainder of the footage includes athletic teams and training sessions, as well as class officers and members of the boards. Sports featured include soccer (1:21, 5:28), cross country (2:15), baseball (7:49. 14:31), rowing (8:25. 17:33) and golf (16:12), while footage of construction of the Hobart Baker ice hockey rink can be found at 6:42. The footage includes members of Theatre Intime (14:00) and the board of the Daily Princetonian. The latter footage captures another Princeton’s tradition: the privilege, exclusive to seniors, to sit on the steps of the Mather Sundial, in the center of McCosh Courtyard (16:44).
This post contains the oldest newsreels present in the Princeton University Archives. As discussed in our previous blog, Princeton University started making films in 1919, using the footage for its first promotional film in 1921. For earlier years, however, it was dependent on newsreel companies like Pathé, which filmed newsworthy stories and items of topical interest for movie theaters. The first film documents the inauguration of John Grier Hibben, fourteenth president of Princeton University (1912–1932). The newsreels that follow show US President Woodrow Wilson, Hibben’s predecessor, when he returned to Princeton to vote in 1913 or 1915 and in 1916.
The footage of Woodrow Wilson that follows Hibben’s inauguration (2:26) seems to have been taken from two different newsreels. Although the title and credits of both newsreels were almost completely removed, a remaining single frame of the first title survived–oddly enough in mirror image and shown corrected at the right. This footage may have been from Wilson’s visit on September 28, 1915, when he traveled to Princeton to vote in the Democratic primaries at the polling station on Chambers Street. (See the New York Times at NYTImes 28_Sep_1915.pdf.) Alternatively, it may depict him in the Democratic primaries of September 23, 1913, when he voted for James Fielder for Governor of New Jersey. (See NYTimes_23_Sep_1913.pdf.)
Filming of the comedy “Arthur Penrose” (1923) (Photo The Princeton Bric-a-Brac,1925)
The class films of the 1920s
After the Class of 1922’s appointment of a Motion Picture Committee to ensure a memento of its senior year, all classes followed suit. On November 3, 1922 the Prince announced the merger of the four class committees into one central body with representatives from all four classes. It would film campus events of interest to all, so that each class would have a complete four-year record, ending with its commencement. The first films taken under the new management were shown in the Garden Theater on December 7, 1922. They included the Class of 1926’s “Flour Picture” (a hazing ritual in which sophomores dumped flour and water on freshmen prior to their first class picture) and the football victory over Yale and championship celebration in November.
The annual flour picture would only be filmed a few more years, as the tradition was discontinued after 1925. But the major football games continued to be filmed in the fall. The football films, which were most popular among alumni groups, took up half of the collection of the Graduate Council. They were the property of the class in whose senior year they were taken. The football films for 1926, for instance, were the property of the Class of 1927 (left). The majority of the remaining class films were shot during spring and Commencement. The spring films usually featured committees and groups, campus scenes and sports. Sometimes the footage included small skits. In addition to these films, the Graduate Council’s lists include a few films of rowing, baseball, and other sports, as well as some early reunion films.
In September 1969, more than two years after President Goheen asked former Woodrow Wilson director Gardner Patterson to investigate the introduction of coeducation, Princeton welcomed its first undergraduate women to campus. Within the Ivy League Princeton was relatively late: while Yale made the move at the same time, only Dartmouth (1972) and Columbia (1983) went coeducational later. It was not the first time, however, that women entered Princeton University for a degree. In 1961 Sabra Follett Meservey, an assistant professor of history at Douglass College in New Brunswick, became the first woman to be enrolled at the Graduate School as a full time degree candidate in Oriental Studies. Meservey provides a humorous account of her meeting with Goheen to arrange the ‘test case’ during the celebration of coeducation at the Graduate School on June 3, 1989 (14:45).
President Lyndon B. Johnson visited Princeton University on May 11, 1966 to dedicate the new Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs building and receive an honorary degree. The new building had been made possible by a $35 million gift that was anonymous at the time, but later revealed to be from Charles S. Robertson ’26 and his wife Marie. (See the previous blog entry on the 1961 Princeton newsreel.) Securing the visit of the President, originally scheduled in October 1965 but canceled at the last minute, had been very difficult. When the President did come, close to 400 Vietnam War protesters were kept a block away from the ceremonies. In his speech, however, Johnson addressed his critics nonetheless.
The text of Johnson’s speech is not available in the University Archives. A summary and discussion of his speech, however, can be found in The Daily Princetonian. What the records in the University Archives do reveal is how difficult it was to arrange Johnson’s visit. Less than than two weeks before the dedication it was still not certain if he could attend. A press release issued on May 8, three days before the ceremony, announced Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John Gardner as the principal speaker, but according to the Prince, rumors circulated that the President would attend.