This Week in Princeton History for September 24-30

In this week’s installment of our returning series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a sophomore explains the cause of her 15 minutes of fame, the Whig-Cliosophic Society takes a stand against pornographic films, and more.

September 24, 1998—In an editorial in the Daily Princetonian, Laura Vanderkam ’01 explains why conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh has dubbed her the “Viagra Expert.”

September 25, 1881—A memorial is held in the College Chapel for U.S. President James Garfield, who was recently assassinated.

September 26, 1985—The Whig-Cliosophic Society votes to ban pornographic movies from its film series. No other film group on campus has yet taken an anti-pornography position.

Cartoon from the Daily Princetonian.

September 29, 1836—The Alumni Association of Old Nassau has tea with William Henry Harrison, who is campaigning for U.S. president.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 17-23

In this week’s installment of our returning series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus remembers Aaron Burr, Nassau Hall celebrates its bicentennial, and more.

September 17, 1836—At Aaron Burr’s funeral in the College of New Jersey’s Chapel, College president James Carnahan is careful to avoid inflaming controversy. Burr’s connection to Princeton and his “honorable parentage” are both noted, but his public career is “delicately touched, with only such allusions to his duel with [Alexander] Hamilton as might be of service to the assembly without wounding the feelings of any.” After the closing prayers, the funeral procession buries Burr at the foot of his father’s grave in the cemetery on what will later be named Hamilton Avenue.

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Suicide, Princeton University, and Emotional Labor in Public Services

Though it may not be obvious to most of the people who use our library, work in special collections often includes playing a role in someone’s grieving process. Archivists have begun talking about the ways in which interacting with donors puts them in the position of providing comfort to the bereaved, but this is also work performed by those who interact with researchers. For those of us in public services, this usually means providing information about the deceased to those in mourning. One kind of loss, however, is distinct from the others, and the emotional labor for me working with these patrons is different, too.

We confront human mortality on a daily basis in the archives. Many records, after all, cannot be viewed during a person’s lifetime. Death comes into the picture in a variety of ways, but reference inquiries about suicides are usually phrased without the same clarity as other types of questions, as though speaking of suicide itself will injure the person making the inquiry. Though I have responded to several people who have called or emailed Mudd Library looking for information about someone who committed suicide, I have yet to speak to or read an email from anyone who disclosed the fact of a suicide up front. Instead, they tend to ask about “someone who died” or even just “someone I knew.”

My own emotions surface at unexpected news of a suicide in ways they do not when I am caught by surprise about the news of other kinds of unexpected deaths, a phenomenon psychologists label “transference.” Though I may remember the unusual circumstance of someone’s demise I uncover in my research if it is especially noteworthy—such as an alum who electrocuted himself trying to install a TV antenna—they are far less personally provocative. I cannot recall their names; a week or so passes and new questions push them away. This is not so with suicide. One example that particularly stands out in my mind came in almost two years ago, just after the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor (December 7, 2016), when an elderly alum wrote to ask a seemingly innocuous question: Did a Princeton student die in a train accident immediately after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor?

Frank Birney ’42’s entry in the 1942 Nassau Herald.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 10-16

In this week’s installment of our returning series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the president breaks with tradition at Opening Exercises, a member of the Class of 1922 expresses disapproval of the building of Palmer Square, and more.

September 10, 1873—The School of Science opens to candidates for the Bachelor of Science degree. Seven students are admitted.

The School of Science, 1876. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box SP6, Image No. 1510.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 3-9

In this week’s installment of our returning series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior’s work on racial justice nets results locally, another junior hitches a ride on the presidential plane, and more.

September 3, 1992—Partly in response to efforts by Yolanda N. Pierce ’94, student representative to the Borough Merchants of Princeton, 84 of 220 local businesses have signed a pledge “to treat all customers fairly and equally regardless of ethnic heritage or racial origins.”

Yolanda N. Pierce ’94. Photo from 1994 Nassau Herald.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part VI

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the sixth in a short series of such reflections.

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By Kimberly Monroe, Howard University

It has been said that archives are where memory is preserved and history is made. Archives have the ability to connect the past with the present and future, while still maintaining the character and originality it possesses. The Princeton University Archives, Research, and Collaborative History Program (ARCH) allowed students from HBCUs the opportunity to learn more about archiving as a profession and to explore the various collections at Princeton.

Kimberly Monroe, a PhD candidate from Howard University, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part V

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the fifth in a short series of such reflections.

Stepping Outside the STEM Box

By Genevieve Airyanne Antoine, Tuskegee University

From my awkward middle school days to my considerably less awkward years in college, one academic gospel has been preached to me. “STEM is the future. STEM is the new wave. Don’t want a job? Choose a major that ISN’T STEM.” Sound familiar? I am sure you can relate. Fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of my own ambitions drove me to accept this as fact. In my junior year of high school, I committed myself to take the path of a scientist. I present myself now as undergrad-level chemist and physicist. Of course, I am proud of my accomplishments. Two degrees later, however, I wonder why the current professional and academic climates have turned such a blind eye to the humanities?

Genevieve Airyanne Antoine (Tuskegee University), Kimberly Monroe (Howard University), and Adisa Vera Bradley (Howard University) [foreground] and Mudd’s Valencia Johnson, Michael Marie Thomas (Texas Southern University), and Dr. Jontyle Robinson (Tuskegee University) [background] at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part IV

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the fourth in a short series of such reflections.

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By Madison Washington, Lincoln University

The ARCH program provided an introductory glance into the field by archival professionals. We convened on a daily basis with staff from Mudd and Firestone Libraries, visited the Princeton University Art Museum, and spent our final day of the program at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. Throughout the week we touched on various aspects of the field and ruminated over intense discussions. One of the discussions that resonated with me was that of Dunbar Rowland and William C. Bolivar. While the stories of these two men are starkly different, their commonalities present an important narrative on the importance of agential community archiving.

Madison Washington, seated next to fellow Lincoln University student Alaze Moriah Clausell, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part III

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the third in a short series of such reflections.

Do You Remember? Untitled Individuals And Closeted Negro Persons

By Kaya Mosley, Lincoln University

Being surrounded by so many fiery individuals has definitely lit a spark within me… kinda like nitrate film. Before my involvement in this program I viewed archives as simply dusty, old, mildewy smelling papers from “way back when”. Now I know that what is considered to be archives extends all the way to vinegar-smelling film and pre-presidential post-it notes. Aside from distinguishing smells, I became privy to a few more things.

Kaya Mosley and Taylor Brookins, both students from Lincoln University, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part II

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the second in a short series of such reflections.

The Disappearing History of Xennials

By Michael Marie Thomas, Texas Southern University

I grew up a latchkey kid, meaning my parents worked and I came home to an empty house, but before you pull out the Kleenex, know that I was also the kid who enjoyed after school specials on television. I enjoyed Saturday morning cartoons, Saved by the Bell, cereal with real sugar, book fairs, and toys that could cause bodily harm. Basically, I enjoyed being a kid (R.I.P. Toys “R” Us). I also experienced the evolution of VCRs (R.I.P. Blockbuster), CDs (R.I.P. Borders Books and Music), cell phones (R.I.P. Motorola Razr Flip), and the internet (those who never experienced the sound of dial up internet: I really feel for you). Yet I am realizing that all these amazing things that I have grown up with are in danger of being lost to time.

Michael Marie Thomas, a student from Texas Southern University, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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