This Week in Princeton History for December 6-12

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, an ad invites students to participate in an experiment, Princeton pledges all of its resources to government, and more.

December 6, 1875—As the United States approaches its Centennial year, former Senator and future Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz lectures to students on the positives and problems in American government, attributing a “decline in moral sentiment and political tone” to widespread corruption and loyalty to party over statesmanship.

December 8, 1961—A classified ad invites students to participate in a sensory deprivation experiment to determine how hallucinations might be induced, though they are not informed of the purpose of the study.

Classified ad from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 29-December 5

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, basketball tickets will get a new look, the press observes expansion of Princeton’s campus, and more.

November 29, 1965—Princeton University’s Director of Athletics announces that tickets to Princeton basketball games will no longer feature a picture of Bill Bradley ’65.

Some tickets for games in 1966 were printed before the decision to no longer feature Bill Bradley ’65, like this one from Yale v. Princeton, February 12, 1966. Memorabilia Collection (AC053), Box 45.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 22-28

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, new admissions requirements are approved, a new church building frees local residents from an obligation to rent pews in Nassau Hall, and more.

November 24, 1845—Two seniors are dismissed from Princeton “in consequence of a quarrel & from an apprehension that it might lead to a duel.” A junior is also “suspended for being afterwards involved, in some degree, in that quarrel.”

November 25, 1818—The Trustees approve new admissions requirements: Familiarity with Greek and Latin grammar and literature, arithmetic, English grammar, geography, and “the Catechism of the Church to which the candidate belongs.”

November 26, 1794—Following the death of John Witherspoon, a “Graduate” warns in Philadelphia’s Independent Gazetteer,

It is a fact of which the Trustees of Princeton College have perhaps never been apprized, that the authoritative language, the arrogant and despotic demeanor of the Professors, their insatiate desire, or rather ambition, of rendering themselves odious, and making Students tremble at the flash of their indignant eyes, will ever have a tendency to alienate the affections of Students, who will consequently leave no stone unturned, to degrade the Institution in the eyes of the world. Much has the reputation of Princeton College suffered by late unprecedented severity and irksome despotism, which have already brought down upon the Institution a sufficient share of obloquy and contempt.

November 28, 1766—Now that the church building is completed, local residents who are members of the First Church of Princeton (later renamed First Presbyterian Church, then Nassau Presbyterian Church) will no longer need to rent pews in the chapel of Nassau Hall, but John Witherspoon will continue to serve in the double role of minister to the congregation and president of the College, as have his predecessors.

First Presbyterian Church (as it was then named), ca. 1860. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD42, Image No. 9644.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 15-21

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, Blair Hall gets a new electric clock, Noah Webster gives a Princetonian credit for an idea, and more.

November 16, 1899—The Alumni Princetonian notes that a clock has been installed on the Blair Hall tower and will be powered by electricity.

Blair Hall (without a clock), ca. 1897. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP04, Image No. 69.

November 18, 1821—Noah Webster writes that he showed his first spelling book to Samuel Stanhope Smith at Princeton in 1782 while on his way to Philadelphia to seek his advice. Smith advised breaking up the syllables so people would understand how words are pronounced.

November 17, 1887—The Princeton Dramatic Association presentsWeak Woman” and “Larkins’ Love Letters.”

November 21, 1849—Seniors Joseph Hedges, Aldus J. Neff, Ibzan Jefferson Rice, and John J. Foreman are all suspended for “disorderly conduct in barring the entries of North College & ringing the Bell last night.” As Pennsylvania’s Washington Reporter will explain, “Some mischievous students embraced the opportunity when the Faculty and tutors were attending the inauguration of Dr. Alexander, to barricade the doors and windows and ring the bell. The Faculty were soon on the spot, and caught some of those engaged, four of whom were dismissed.”

For the previous 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 November 8-14

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, an alum resigns the U.S. Senate in anticipation of war, two undergraduates chase down a criminal suspect, and more.

November 9, 1903—Controversy has erupted locally over the town’s first Black postman, A. B. Davis, who secured his appointment in competition with several white applicants. Kansas’s Wichita Searchlight will later report on the issue.

November 10, 1860—James Chesnut, Jr., Class of 1835, is the first senator to resign his seat to declare his support for the Confederacy.

Senator James Chesnut, Jr. of South Carolina. Photo courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration.

November 11, 1997—Mike Himelfarb ’98 and Tim Maly ’99 chase down and tackle a man on the west side of Dod Hall after he exposes himself to a female student. The man will later be charged with lewdness.

November 13, 1953—Princeton and Yale debate whether the Kinsey Report “Is a Compliment to the American Woman.”

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

Secret Societies at Princeton in the 19th Century

by Iliyah Coles ’22

A couple of decades after The College of New Jersey (which became Princeton University in 1896) was first established, there were only two known social clubs in existence at the school. These were “the well-meaning club” and “the plain-dealing club,” which eventually evolved into the Whig and Cliosophic societies that we still recognize today. The two societies merged in 1928 and is now known as Whig-Clio. In the 1760s, these two clubs were the biggest part of social life at the college, and students usually joined one or the other. As time passed, though, more and more alternatives to these two clubs began to emerge. Many of them were well-known among students and faculty alike. Others, however, were more underground and became closely-kept secrets. These secret societies ultimately changed social life at Princeton, and sparked a debate about whether or not the school should discourage them.

The presence of secret societies was not fully made known until around 1852, with the rise of Greek life on campus. However, the Princeton University archives contain written letters from students to faculty, pledging to resign from secret societies that date back to 1832.

Student pledge to withdraw from all secret societies except the American Whig and Cliosophic Societies and not to join any other secret society while students at Princeton, November 17, 1832. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 212, Folder 18.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 1-7

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, some alumni are not pleased that students are cross-dressing for the theater, Abraham Lincoln is the most popular candidate for president on campus, and more.

November 1, 1798—Using the “ride and tie” method and sharing one horse, Jacob Lindley and James Carnahan arrive in Princeton to begin their studies, having covered 35-40 miles per day alternately walking and riding five to ten miles each through the mountains from southwestern Pennsylvania.

November 3, 1980—Peter Chin ’81, Jacques Duranceau ’81, and Brett Hudelson ’83 take first place in team kumite at the National Karate Championships.

November 4, 1908—The Princeton Alumni Weekly writes disapprovingly of male students in Triangle Club cross-dressing to play female parts: “Certainly it does not leave with the audience an impression of that manly quality they like to ascribe to our students, a quality developed by sound minds and sound bodies.”

Richard Sanders Barbee ’07 as “Vivian Dasher” in Triangle Club’s “The Mummy Monarch,” ca. 1907. Photo from 1909 Bric-a-Brac.

November 6, 1860—Students hold their own mock election for president in Nassau Hall, although most cannot vote legally due to age and residency requirements. Abraham Lincoln of the generally antislavery Republican party receives the plurality of the votes, but not a majority. The results are as follows:

  • Abraham Lincoln (Republican)—90
  • John Bell (Constitutional Union)—75
  • John Breckinridge (Southern Democratic)—75
  • Stephen A. Douglas (Northern Democratic)—9

For the previous 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 October 25-31

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a visitor is shocked by students expressing political views, faculty deny a petition to begin a college newspaper, and more.

October 25, 1797—In Newark’s Centinel of Freedom, an anonymous writer expresses shock and dismay at observed behavior of students in Princeton. “From students at college we expect a knowledge of the arts and sciences, and we do not expect to see school-boys mount the tribune, and declaim upon political topics. In attending such an exhibition, one does not know whether most to condemn the puerility of the composition, or ranting tone with which they are delivered.”

October 26, 1859—A member of the Class of 1802 reflects on his first classroom experience in college, saying that after it was over one of his classmates immediately “declared he could not get through that in a week, and home he would go although he knew his father would flog him,” took his trunk to the stagecoach office, and was never seen again.

October 28, 1873—Faculty deny students’ petition to start a new campus paper, “in view of the evils that have heretofore arisen in connection with the publication of a College newspaper…”

Princeton’s short-lived College World, begun in March 1871, was one of several controversial campus newspapers that preceded the Princetonian. There were ultimately only 10 issues ever published. Faculty were probably referring to the conflicts that arose between Whig and Clio Hall memberships over the paper in refusing to grant students’ petition to start a new publication.

October 29, 1979—Eleven students are arrested at the New York Stock Exchange with other protesters. The demonstrators chose the 50th anniversary of the Great Crash of 1929 to protest corporate investments in the nuclear industry.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

Early LGBTQIA+ Publishing and Civil Liberties During America’s “Lavender Scare”

Documentation of LGBTQIA+ communities prior to the Stonewall riots of 1969 can be sparse. During the immediate post-World War II period, all manifestations of non-heterosexuality were under deliberate government attack within the era’s overall attempt to find and root out all “un-American activities.” Through a series of measures—the U.S. State Department purging employees with “homosexual proclivities,” the FBI maintaining lists of known or suspected homosexuals, and Dwight D. Eisenhower issuing an order barring non-heterosexual people from federal employment—those who fell outside the established norms were driven underground as perceived threats to national security.

The U.S. Post Office participated in the “Lavender Scare” by keeping track of addresses where any material related to homosexuality was mailed. They frequently seized items said to be “obscene.” In many cases, any reference to homosexuality whatsoever rendered a publication “obscene.” Trying to run a magazine for LGBTQIA+ people in the mid-20th century was thus a significant challenge, and preserving the record of the existence of such magazines was sometimes difficult.

Legal challenges to this oppression quickly mounted. In One, Inc. v. Oleson, the first Supreme Court case to deal with homosexuality, the justices examined lower court rulings that had supported Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Oleson in his claims that the October 1954 issue of ONE: The Homosexual Magazine could not be mailed under the Comstock Act’s prohibition on the postal service delivering obscene material. Oleson’s rationale was as follows: the magazine contained a story about a lesbian’s feelings for another woman that might be “lustfully stimulating to the homosexual reader,” a poem about gay cruising that used “filthy language,” and an advertisement for another magazine that might lead readers to other “obscene matter.” The justices’ unanimous ruling on January 13, 1958 reversed the decisions of two lower courts and eased—although it did not eliminate—the official suppression of LGBTQIA+ publications. In essence, it rejected the claim that any mention of homosexuality was automatically obscene. A series of other high court rulings on obscenity cases gradually chipped away at restrictions on similar materials.

ONE Magazine, June 1955. Arthur C. Warner Papers (MC219), Box 29.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, students are taking a new kind of exam, a play written by a member of the Class of 1883 debuts on Broadway, and more.

October 19, 1859—The Princeton Standard reports on a new innovation at Princeton College: Closed-note, written exams.

October 21, 1896—As part of the Sequicentennial celebration at the institution formerly known as the College of New Jersey, Princeton University’s Class of 1861 meets for their 35th anniversary reunion.

The cover of the Princeton Class of 1861′s menu for the Sesquicentennial celebration in 1896. During this celebration of Princeton’s 150th year, the College of New Jersey, colloquially known as Princeton College, officially took the name “Princeton University.” Many classes returned to campus for the festivities. The entire menu can be viewed on our Tumblr page. Princeton University Class Records (AC130), Box 5.

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