Today’s blog is written by Mark F. Bernstein ’83, author of Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession (2001).
Today’s post is written by Rev. Frederick Borsch ’57, former Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel 1981-1988.
Or, since lore had it that alumnus and plutocrat Harvey Firestone had donated a goodly part of the over two million dollars for building the Chapel, it was also “Firestone’s Folly.” We heard that this sobriquet had been given by earlier critics who would have preferred that the money be used for laboratories, libraries and faculty salaries. At the time, however, President Hibben had acclaimed the Chapel as Princeton’s two million dollar witness against materialism!
Ernest Gordon became the Chapel’s Dean in 1955. He was “earnest” all right (a little joke of ours), but what a change he brought to the worship with his Scot’s burr, his energetic faith and dramatic story of conversion to Christianity during his four years in a miserable Japanese concentration camp. A handsome man with a certain winsomeness about him (still seen in the film), he invited Billy Graham to campus for what was in affect a mission to undergraduates.
Later Gordon would twice invite (over a number of protests) Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Chapel’s pulpit and preside over the Chapel during the civil rights movement, then a memorial service for Dr. King, turmoil and protests over the Vietnam War–some of these gatherings taking place in the Chapel. As part of all that, a measure of interest in religion grew, but not necessarily in formal church-going. By 1964 all Chapel requirements had finally been dropped as the University became still more secular in outlook and at the same time more diverse in terms of religions. I had to wonder if Dean Gordon did not wince to himself when, at the end of the film, he commented on how important the Chapel was for undergraduates although far fewer were coming to his Sunday morning services than in earlier years.
Truth in blogging: in 1981 I succeeded Ernest Gordon as Dean, and one can read something more about his ministry, the Chapel and the times in my forthcoming Keeping Faith at Princeton: A Brief History of Religious Pluralism at Princeton and Other Universities (Princeton University Press, 2011).
–Frederick Borsch ‘57
The Class of 1986 was a ‘historic’ class, so the freshmen were told: they were the first to begin their Princeton years in the new social system of the residential colleges. According to their Class History in the Nassau Herald, however, the students carried on as the generations before them. “We worked hard and we partied hard. This blend of continuity and change, of tradition and transition, would characterize our four year stay at Old Nassau.” The ‘video yearbook’ featured here, in itself a reminder of the “class films” of the 1920s and 1930s, is an expression of that experience. A fast-paced arrangement of videotaped snippets capturing campus events and student life, the 26 minute film is a celebration of both old and new.
The video yearbook, produced by “Ground Floor Video,” a group of students under the direction of Glenn Picher ’86, was filmed during the class’ junior and senior year. Meant as a complement to the print yearbook, according to the Prince, the film contains selections from some thirty to forty hours of videotape, accompanied by original music composed by Peter Curtiss ’86 (other music credits can be found at 25:55). The film is divided into seven chapters: Student Life (1:03), Academics (5:33), Sports (7:08), Holidays (10:39), Campus issues (15:09), Spring (17:15), and Graduation weekend (20:50).
The sports and spring scenes, along with the Graduation weekend events were already traditional elements in the class films of the 1920s. Incoming freshmen were introduced to other Princeton traditions in the Special Class of 1986 issue of the Daily Princetonian. Some of those traditions are captured in the “video yearbook” featured here. They include the bonfire on Cannon Green after a major sports victory–in this case the football team’s “Big Three Title,” the first since 1967 (9:44, compare with the bonfire of the Class of 1923); House Parties (19:29; compare with the class film of the Class of 1939); and “Arch Sing” (12:48), reminiscent of the tradition of “Senior Singing” as seen in the Class of 1928 footage. The footage in the “Graduation Weekend” (20:50), capturing the P-rade, the breaking of the pipes on Cannon Green, and the commencement ceremonies is very similar to the films from six decades previous depicting the graduation of the Classes of 1921 and 1928.
Additionally, more recent traditions featured here include the “Nude Olympics (12:00), and the party activities of “blow pong” (3:35 and 4:47), and what is assumed to be the “Trees and Trolls,” the annual rumble between the over 6 ft tall and the shorter members of the then still all-male eating club, the Tiger Inn (4:23). Both activities were accompanied by copious amounts of beer. During 1986’s freshmen year the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, making senior year the first year that most students could legally drink alcohol.
Of particular interest for the topic of “traditions” is the address of Sally Frank ’80 at the Woodrow Wilson School on November 20, 1985 (16:28). Earlier that year, Sally Frank had won her lawsuit against the all-male eating clubs of Cottage, Ivy, and Tiger Inn, which she had filed in 1979 after they refused her a chance to bicker due to her gender. Additional issues addressed in the section ‘Campus protests’ include the blockade of the entrance to Nassau Hall on May 23, 1985 to protest Princeton’s investments policies with respect to South Africa (15:09) and the Women’s Center sit-in of May 1, 1986 (16:52).
Within the video a few other faces have been identified as the following.
- English professor John Fleming is shown lecturing (5:39)
- The late art historian John R. Martin (5:56)
- President Bill Bowen (6:32, appears again 19:05).
- The late art professor Jerry Buchanan critiques a student’s work (5:42).
- Harold Medina ’09 is seen riding in a golf cart (21:20)
- Dr. Ruth Westheimer makes a brief appearance (22:41)
This VHS tape is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1324).
Princeton’s season opened on December 2nd with an 83-74 victory over Lafayette College. Crowds filled Dillon Gymnasium to watch the team, and as the end of December approached, Princeton was 6-2. Then at New York City’s Madison Square Garden (2:34), where the annual Holiday Festival tournament was played, Princeton opened with a victory over Syracuse. But the match-up everyone was anxious to watch pitted Princeton against the University of Michigan — then the number one ranked team in the country. Michigan’s star player was Cazzie Russell, a versatile 6’ 6” all court player.
Robertson Hall, the building that currently houses the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (WWSPIA) has been featured in two newsreels: the “Princeton newsreel” of 1961, announcing the, at the time anonymous, $35 million gift of Charles S. Robertson ’26 and his wife, Marie; and the 1966 newsreel about President Lyndon Johnson’s visit to dedicate the building. This post features the building that originally housed the Woodrow Wilson School: Corwin Hall, erected in 1951 and originally known as “Wilson Hall,” which had to be moved 100 feet to make way for the new WWSPIA facility.
The spectacular move of the building to its present site between Wallace and Robertson Hall was recorded via time lapse filming on an 8mm camera by Lawrence l. Rauch *49, who donated the footage to the Princeton University Archives. The engineering feat was accomplished by the New York firm of Spencer, White, and Prentiss, using hydraulic jacks to push the building along twelve steel tracks. The actual moving took only twelve hours but two months were needed to prepare for it and another three months to secure the building to its new foundation.
When Robertson Hall was completed in 1965, Wilson Hall was re-assigned to one of WWSPIA’s chief allies, the Department of Politics, and to the Center of International Studies. Its name was changed to Corwin Hall, in honor of Edward S. Corwin, the first chairman of the Department of Politics and the long-time holder of the McCormick Professorship of Jurisprudence, the professorship originally held by Woodrow Wilson.
This 8mm film, a gift from Lawrence L. Rauch *49, is part of the Princeton University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 1980). Adapted from the post by John DeLooper in Mudd Manuscript Library’s Blog with excerpts from Alexander Leitch A Princeton Companion (Princeton University Press, 1978).
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.
The film featured here, shot around 1928, contains three distinct sections. The first contains images of the Princeton Polo Team playing on W. B. Devereux Jr. ’04 Field (0:00-5:52). The second section opens with a woman and a small boy after the polo tournament (5:53-5:58), followed by scenes of Prospect Avenue and the various eating clubs located on this street (5:59-6:45). The third section documents the annual inspection of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Field Artillery Unit, performed by representatives of the United States War Department. The origins of the film, which does not appear on the list of films that were kept by the Graduate Council in 1931, are unclear.
Polo at Princeton
Although polo has been around for millennia, the first documented games on Princeton’s campus occurred in 1902, when Walter Bourchier Devereux Jr. ’04 and a few classmates organized a group of polo matches. The popularity of the sport grew quickly among the students, and by the spring of 1903, Princeton was the first college to officially adopt polo as a collegiate sport. Harvard and Yale soon followed suit. As rapidly as the sport emerged on campus, it soon diminished, due to a number of factors including the cost to secure and maintain horses and lack of interest from later classes.
It was not until 1919, with the creation of the ROTC Field Artillery Battalion, that polo would once again be played at Princeton under the leadership of Major J. E. McMahon, 1st Commandant of the Princeton Unit. He introduced the sport to the unit in order for its members to develop fundamental combat skills. Most of the polo players were members of the ROTC unit and were provided auxiliary horses and equipment by the Unites States War Department; those players, however, who were not members of the unit had to provide their own horses.
It is always difficult to watch silent films of early Triangle shows, which are as famous for their music and witty lyrics as for the all male kicklines (read our previous blog for an introduction). Even without sound, however, the films of All In Favor are still a visual treat. Footage of the performance, a dazzling display of virtuosity and color, is alternated with dressing rooms scenes, displaying the fun of stockings, wigs, and long flowing skirts.
All in Favor, is, in Triangle’s own words, a “fast-moving musical comedy satire on American politics, its methods and madness,” set in a little town in Indiana in the 1920s, where a mayor is running for reelection with the help of his “non-too-honest” campaign manager. His opponent is the reform candidate widow Dawes, whose daughter dates a Princeton student (a summary of the story, taken from the press release, can be found in the Daily Princetonian). The script was written by Triangle president Francis S. Hartley ’50 (pictured at 0:16), vice-president Thomas H. Middleton ’48, secretary Kennedy Williams ’48 and Edward H. Tuck ’49.
The first of the two films, which includes excerpts from Act I, opens with preparations prior to the show, including dressing room scenes and orchestra practice (0:18-2:10). Although some of the footage on the stage includes singing and acting, the two films merely capture the 16-man Triangle chorus, performing specialty dances and production numbers created by choreographer Morgan Lewis. In Act I this includes the Can-Can shown at 4:42. The photo at the right, which was found in the Triangle Club Records, shows film star Henry Fonda, adjusting the garter of chorus leader James C. Neely ’48. Although Fonda attended one of Triangle’s rehearsals, he is not included in the films featured here.
The film ends with the minstrel show at the mayor’s campaign rally (7:38), a particular novelty that received a lot of attention.
The second film, which captures Act II of the performance, opens with a member of the chorus (a “chorine”) pulling on stockings, which is followed by a prisoner escape (0:27) and chorines dancing the Charleston (1:24). A traditional ballet, preceded by another dress-up scene, is shown at 3:40. When the curtain falls, the casts sings the Princeton alma mater “Old Nassau” (7:17).
Existing photographs of the performance did not allow us to identify individual actors and chorus members. If anyone is able to add names to the faces on these films, please comment on this blog!
These 16mm films are part of the Triangle Club Records at the Princeton University Archives (box 177). Mudd Library is thankful for the support that the Triangle Alumni Board provided for digitizing these films and unlocking their contents.
Although we have a fairly good idea about the class films of the 1920s, there is virtually no information about the class films of the 1930s. The exception is the film of the Class of 1939. That is probably not an accident: it was the class of previously featured Frederic Fox ’39, who was the first and only keeper of Princetoniana from 1976 until his untimely death in 1981. The 16mm film in the archives turned out not to be the two hour long film that was announced in the Daily Princetonian on May 1938, and it sadly also lacks the sound that was supposed to have been a major innovation. How much the ultimate film ‘shattered precedents’ by depicting ‘intimacies during campus years’ as the Prince announced in March 1938, we may never know. But one thing is clear: the Class of 1939 had a lot of fun that included women and beer.
The footage is in chronological order, starting with freshmen football practice during days, nights, and in the snow. After this, athletics (always emphasized in previous class films) get very little attention: only football and rowing are featured without any identifications, other than a Yale-Princeton game (6:49). The freshmen scenes continue with footage about the Veterans of Future Wars (VFW) (1:50), founded in March 1936 by members of the Class of 1936 and 1937, which became one of the most famous college pranks in the country. The footage is part of a newsreel of March of the Times, which can be viewed online (with sound!). The three “likely pieces of cannon fodder” (shown at 2:19 in the chairs), who came up with the idea, are Lewis J. Gorin ’36, “National Commander” (middle), Urban Rushton ’36 (left), and probably Richard Waters ’36 (right). According to 1939’s class history in the Nassau Herald, it was the “main event” of the second term that year, and the movement received the freshmen’s “whole-hearted backing.” The records of the Veterans of Future Wars are kept in the University Archives.
It is not known why the class film ended up in the University Archives without sound. The original idea to have a two-hour film with sound seems to have been too ambitious: on June 7, 1939 the Prince announced that the senior class film was delayed by audio editing. The final result, to be premiered at the Class’ first reunion, would only be 1000 feet long, due to the extensive costs of the sound track. The Prince‘s description of the final film, which would also include some added campus scenes in color, is very different than the footage that is featured here. What happened? Did the sound track get lost? Or could this be the footage that was excluded from in the final film? If anybody could explain the mystery, we would love to hear it!
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).