This Week in Princeton History for May 3-9

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a “Wild West” show is in town, a junior asks his father to send news about riots at home, and more.

May 4, 1807—Trenton’s True American prints a letter from “A Collegian” from Princeton responding to a recent statement by the Board of Trustees about student rebellion, “With respect to this publication of the trustees, it is necessary further to observe, that their relation of the matter is by far too indefinite; they merely skim over in a superficial manner the most material cause of the insurrection, in order to suit their own purpose, and to conceal their injustice under the base disguise of prevarication.”

May 7, 1895—The “Wyoming Historical Wild West” show is in town, led by Buck Taylor. Students can attend for an admission fee of 25 cents.

This ad appeared in the Princetonian on April 26, 1895. Wild West shows like these were popular in Princeton and elsewhere in the United States in this era. They tended to be characterized by fictionalized reenactments of historical events on the American frontier. Typical shows would have sensationalized portrayals of Native Americans.

May 8, 1844—Charles Godfrey Leland, Class of 1845, writes to his father asking for him to send newspaper accounts from home in Philadelphia about the city’s anti-Catholic Nativist Riots.

May 9, 1872—A group of students annoys the campus with a bonfire on Cannon Green. “They evidently like hard work better than we do, for it must have been no small amount of labor to have lugged such heavy stuff so great a distance, and all for the insignificant reward of seeing it burn up.”

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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Princeton’s East College: Horses, Cannons, and Ghosts

By Iliyah Coles ’22

East College, built in 1833, was Princeton’s first building solely used to house students. It stood across from West College (now Morrison Hall) and Cannon Green, and the Bulletin Elm once stretched from East College to the Old Chapel. Before its demolition in 1897, East College had been the site of many interesting occurrences. 

East College, 1874. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box SP03, Image No. 605.

In February of 1871, after some considerable snowfall, a few students thought it would be fun to steal a sleigh that was standing alone in front of the Methodist Church and drive it around town for a while. They ended up back at East College, and then decided to stable the horses right there in the lower entry. The owner came by the next morning and was enraged to see his horses standing in the entryway.

Horses weren’t the only unusual thing found at East College. For years, the largest post-Revolutionary War cannon in the town stood on its grounds. It was first removed in 1812, but in 1836, a group of Princetonians (townspeople) went on a trip to retrieve the cannon from New Brunswick. After the cannon malfunctioned on the way back to Princeton, it never fired again. Two years later, the University claimed ownership and placed it right outside East College Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for April 26-May 2

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, late frosts mean no butter, employees bring their daughters to work with them for the first time, and more.

April 26, 1790—In a letter to the New York Daily Advertiser, a writer describes unpleasant circumstances in Princeton: “Never was a more truly disagreeable and untoward spring than the present—scarcely a blade of grass to be yet seen in the fields; and nothing but storm upon strum till the earth is glutted. What most afflicts us is the approaching return of the Students from their late vacation. In consequence of the severe frosts, &c. we shall have no butter to give them, so that the college will be under the necessity of recurring in earnest to dry husks of philosophy and stale scraps of logic. God’s will be done.”

April 28, 1993—Princeton celebrates its first “Take Our Daughters to Work Day.”

Schedule for Take Our Daughters to Work Day, April 28, 1993. Clipping from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 19-25

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an excavation for new construction finds evidence of the original indigenous inhabitants of the area, a sophomore sees the inauguration of George Washington, and more.

April 21, 1802—A letter to the editor of Baltimore’s Democratic Republican attempts to reign in rumors that a student expelled from Princeton subsequently went on to incite an “insurrection” at the College of William and Mary, saying that student was suspended, not expelled, and is still in New Jersey, and therefore cannot have stirred up any rebellions in Virginia.

April 22, 1881—The Prince reports that an indigenous hatchet and stone pestle have been found in the excavation of Brown Hall.

Princeton University’s Brown Hall, ca. 1900. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP07, Image No. 0147.

April 23, 1789—On spring vacation from Princeton, Jacob Burnet, Class of 1791, is in New York to witness the arrival of George Washington for his inauguration. “New-York bay was literally white with vessels and boats of all sizes, filled with admiring multitudes, both male and female, clad in their richest attire. Many of these vessels had bands of music on board, and all of them displayed flags painted for the occasion, each having an allusion to some interesting event in the life of this great man.”

April 25, 1935—Journalist Dorothy Thompson speaks to an audience of mostly local women in McCosh 50 on the significance of Germany’s National Socialist Party, warning that Adolf Hitler plans to take over all of Europe.

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 April 12-18

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, women’s tennis plays its first game, violence breaks out over fashion, and more.

April 12, 1971—Women’s tennis plays its first game, defeating Penn 5-to-1.

Photos of women playing tennis from Princeton University’s 1971 Bric-a-Brac.

April 14, 1947—As the New Jersey telephone workers strike enters its second week, picketers are seen in town with signs reading “Neither Ma Bell or Pa Driscoll can enslave us.” Although the University switchboard operators are not involved, because they are employees of Princeton University rather than the telephone company, this does mean that no calls can be made to anyone off campus except in cases of emergency.

April 16, 1931—The Undergraduate Council unanimously condemns some students who have been seen wearing denim overalls, because they look too much like beer suits. “Yesterday’s spectacle of a few Juniors and a few Freshmen wearing light blue and dark blue overalls respectively…constituted an attempt to break down a privileged tradition of many years standing which belonged exclusively to the Senior Class.” Some of the underclassmen have also bought matching denim jackets. The store that sold the clothes to the students has been threatened, but owners vow to sell overalls and jackets to whomever they like in spite of the threats. Violence has broken out on campus, with seniors attacking underclassmen wearing denim on Prospect Street. The juniors are calling their outfits “Applejackets.”

This ad, which appeared in the April 16, 1931 issue of the Daily Princetonian, suggests how seriously the owners of the store that sold denim overalls to underclassmen took the threats they’d received from members of the Class of 1931.

April 17, 2001—Princeton president Harold Shapiro urges Chinese president Jiang Zemin to release Shaomin Li *88. Li was detained by Chinese security forces on February 25 and has not yet been charged with a crime.

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 April 5-11

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Princetonians join NOW’s rally in Washington, the Board of Trustees urge parents not to send their children too much money, and more.

April 5, 1877—Marveling at the possibilities the intention of the telephone has brought, the Princetonian anticipates a future with remote learning and the ability to order meals on a whim: “Oh, when will this glorious activity among students appear, when from morning until night, from year in until year out, we need not leave our rooms, but can pursue our College course, and can at last graduate a la Telephone?

April 6, 2000—Graduate student Xiaohui Fan discovers a quasar.

April 9, 1989—More than 160 Princeton students and faculty members join hundreds of thousands of others in the National Organization for Women (NOW) rally for abortion rights in Washington, D.C.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian.

April 10, 1807—The Board of Trustees writes to parents urging them not to give more money to students than is strictly necessary. Students will need $188.32 for tuition, room, board, wood, servants, candles, laundry, and incidentals, and no more than $250-$280 per year for all other expenses, including the furnishings for their rooms. The Board has established a Bursar in order to manage students’ money. “The guardians of the college cannot too earnestly press upon parents the danger of much exceeding in their remittances…they may be assured they do it at the great hazard of both the virtue, and to the scholarship of their sons. More young men have been injured by money and credit in this institution than by all other causes.”

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.

Dear Mr. Mudd: Who Was Princeton’s First International Student?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

Can you tell me who Princeton’s first international student was? Were there international students in the first graduating class?

 

As with all questions about “firsts,” this one is too complicated to answer simply with someone’s name. We are aware that our records aren’t comprehensive, so we can only provide what we have found to be our earliest records, with the understanding that we may later discover earlier records. Even knowing what our earliest records tell us, however, doesn’t make the answer straightforward.

International students, then known as foreign students, slowly became more common at Princeton after the Civil War. This image is of a student we believe to be Rioge Koe, a Japanese student in the Class of 1874, pictured here in 1873. Historical Photograph Collection, Class Photographs Series (AC181), Box MP03

We must begin by defining what we mean by an “international student.” The College of New Jersey graduated its first class of students in 1748, decades before the United States declared its independence. We cannot consider anyone who was a subject of the British Empire to be an “international student,” whether or not they were from the current geographic boundaries of the United States, when New Jersey was a British colony. From this first class in 1748, two students may have crossed the Atlantic to attend the College of New Jersey (which was in Newark until its move to Princeton in 1756, and renamed Princeton University in 1896), but no national borders: Benjamin Chestnut and Hugh Henry. Chestnut was born in England. We don’t know when he came to New Jersey. Henry may have been born in Ireland.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 29-April 4

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a member of the Class of 1905 denounces racial exclusion, Elm Club opens, and more.

March 29, 1940—Socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas, Class of 1905, takes Princeton’s racial exclusion to task in the Princeton Alumni Weekly. “At the least, if generation after generation of Princetonians is to support a custom which would make Princeton hell for the best qualified Negro, let us speak more respectfully of Hitler’s barbarous pseudo science of race.”

April 1, 1871—Today’s issue of Princeton’s College World rails against women’s involvement in politics and advocacy for women’s suffrage. “It is generally advocated by women who have long since banished all the hopes which they once entertained of becoming faithful and loving wives, and who have for a long time been deprived of those charms of youth and comeliness which may have once marked them as attractive members of society. … the cause is utterly worthless, indeed, to a great measure pernicious, since it would overthrow the benefits arising from our present form of government which has been established after so much labor and bloodshed.” They urge women to take care of orphans instead.

April 2, 1999—The “Pequod Express” takes frazzled Politics majors facing a tight senior thesis deadline from the Pequod copy center directly to Corwin Hall to drop off their bound theses and fill out final paperwork.

April 3, 1895—Princeton’s Elm Club opens.   

Elm Club as it appeared in the 1897 Bric-a-Brac.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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Princeton Meets the Near East: John Van Antwerp MacMurray’s Ambassadorship in Turkey

By Diana Dayoub ’21

The connections between Princeton and the Near East are not self-evident. My tentative effort to uncover some link between the North American university I consider home now and the part of the Orient where I was born and raised seemed almost futile until I discovered the John Van Antwerp MacMurray Papers (MC094). John Van Antwerp MacMurray, a member of Princeton’s class of 1902 and a career diplomat, served as the United States’ ambassador to Turkey from 1936 to 1942. He was previously appointed minister to China from 1925 to 1929 and minister to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania from 1933 to 1936. The part of this collection that concerns Turkey includes MacMurray’s family correspondence (notably with his two sisters Edna and Ethel, with whom he was very close), photographs that capture the breathtaking scenery of mountainous Turkey, and negatives that are yet to be digitized.

John Van Antwerp MacMurray in Turkey. John Van Antwerp MacMurray Papers (MC094), Box 151.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 22-28

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the temperance movement finds support, A Beautiful Mind begins filming on campus, and more.

March 23, 1843—Princetonians are collecting data about the Great Comet passing by.

March 24, 1830—The Boston Recorder reports that a Temperance Society “on the plan of entire abstinence has been recently formed by the students of Nassau Hall, the majority of whom have attached themselves to it. One or two young gentlemen who had been in the habit of a pretty free use of ardent spirits, were among the first to attach their names to the constitution.”

March 25, 1986—The Korean Students Association meets with faculty in the East Asian Studies department to discuss a proposal to reinstate Korean language studies at Princeton. Korean classes have not been available to students since the 1960s.

March 27, 2001—A Beautiful Mind begins filming at Princeton University.

Russell Crowe and Ron Howard talk on the set of A Beautiful Mind, 2001. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 198.

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.