This Week in Princeton History for August 15-21

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a dean dreams of pretty postcards, the natural history museum receives a significant donation of specimens, and more.

August 15, 1923—Andrew Fleming West, Dean of the Graduate School, writes to a friend about his hopes to get attractive postcards printed showing scenes around campus: “They have such cards at Oxford and Cambridge—really artistic souvenirs—some from photographs, some from pen-and-ink drawings. Why, O why can’t we do it?”

This postcard booklet contained 16 images from Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary’s campuses, with Nassau Hall on the cover (shown here) and the Graduate College on the reverse. It appears to date from the 1930s or 1940s. Historical Postcard Collection (AC045).

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This Week in Princeton History for August 8-14

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the College treasurer defends himself against rumors of embezzlement, a new graduate meets an untimely end, and more.

August 9, 1844—With a high of 91 degrees, this is the hottest day of the year. It is “rather warmer” overall this year than in 1843.

August 10, 1881—Rumors are circulating in local publications that William Harris, the college treasurer, is embezzling from funds meant to supply fuel to heat students’ rooms and is keeping money parents have sent for their children rather than giving it to the students. Harris vows to demand that the Board of Trustees investigate. The Trustees will find no wrongdoing.

August 11, 1956—Philip E. Capicotto ’56 dies of cancer that has spread from his hip to his brain. He has kept his diagnosis largely under wraps among his classmates. “Phil had a very short life,” his mother will say, “but Princeton made up four very fruitful, beautiful years for him. He loved it. I’m so grateful he went there.”

Though Philip Capicotto ’56 struggled through his final semester, as can be seen in this document in his academic file, he nonetheless graduated with honors. (Click to enlarge.) Undergraduate Academic Records (AC198).

August 13, 1818—A writer for New York’s National Advocate notes in his travel log for the area:

Trenton–noble bridge–good supper, bad beds–fine roads, spirited horses–Princeton–students great bucks–segars [sic], rattans, and pretty women–good auxiliaries to study–Brunswick–old inns–paved streets and gothic mansions…

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Princeton 275: Samuel Atkins ’31’s Application for Admission, 1927

This post is part of a series about items currently on exhibition at Mudd Library as part of “Princeton 275.” In this series, we go in-depth about selected items on display to let you know more about the story behind them and why we chose to include them.

First page of Samuel DeCoster Atkins ’31 *35’s application to Princeton University, 1927. (Click to enlarge.) Undergraduate Academic Records (AC198).

Living graduates of Princeton University had a much more complex admissions process than others before them, but it was important to us to show how Princeton’s restrictive admissions represented, in many respects, an paradoxical expansion of opportunities for an education for some people. Before the 1920s, students seeking admission to Princeton would simply sit for an entrance exam. Those who passed were admitted. In the 1880s, for example, the exams included English grammar and composition, world and U.S. history, geography, Latin grammar and literature, Greek grammar and literature, and mathematics. These exams effectively barred most public high school graduates from Princeton. One reason the admissions policy changed was that prep schools tended to prepare students to pass these exams, but not as much for college itself.  Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for August 1-7

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, an alum encourages political revolution, a newspaper speculates on the reasons 32 Princeton students have flunked, and more.

August 2, 1781—Preaching to “a large assembly,” James Power (Class of 1766) urges support for the American Revolution. “Think of ye cruel acts of ye British parliament,” he says, “by which we and our children ar[e] to be made slaves forever, and the money which we had earned by the sweat of our brows taken from us without a reason rendered for so doing.”

August 3, 1901—The Trenton Evening Times speculates that the failure of 32 students at Princeton on their recent exams—meaning they will all drop back one year—is the fault of an overemphasis on athletics.

“Athletics” section header from 1901 Bric-a-Brac. The largely forgotten rallying cry on the fireplace in the illustration, “Oranje Boven,” is Dutch for “Orange on Top.” It was once a popular cheer for fans at Princeton sporting events, but today, you’ll be more likely to hear it from fans of soccer in the Netherlands.

August 4, 1942—To support the local Community Canning Kitchen, a group of undergraduates picks 13 bushels of apples from a local garden, which other volunteers will turn into applesauce.

August 5, 2010—The U.S. Senate votes 63-37 to confirm Elena Kagan ’81 as a Supreme Court justice.

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 July 25-31

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a student vows to eat no more lobsters, an athlete wins a significant award, and more.

July 25, 1956—Joseph Levy *58 is traveling with his new wife via the Andrea Doria from Genoa after their wedding in Paris when the ship collides with the Stockholm off Nantucket Island. The ship sinks, but the Levys survive along with the 1,632 others from the Andrea Doria’s crew and passengers who climbed down precarious rope ladders to waiting lifeboats sent from the Stockholm. They will welcome the birth of their son, Andrea D. Levy, exactly one year later.

July 26, 1893—The Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner reports on John Bull, America’s first train, being run to celebrate the anniversary of train travel on its original route from Jersey City to Philadelphia: “At Princeton about 300 students took possession of the train for about 15 minutes, making the old cars ring with their college cry.”

July 27, 1837—James W. Albert writes to his mother, Ellen W. Albert, “Tell Thayer that we have had chickens three or four times, we used to have them every Monday. Last Monday we had lobsters. I ate some which made me a little sick and I determined not to eat any during my stay here; I think veal is as good if not better.”

First page of a letter from James W. Albert, Class of 1838, to Ellen W. Albert, July 27, 1837. (Click to enlarge.) Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC104), Box 88.

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This Week in Princeton History for July 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a material shortage forever alters a Princeton tradition, an alum is forced to take charge, and more.

July 20, 1943—Due to shortages of the material needed, all members of the Class of 1945 who want beer jackets must have registered their requests already. No unregistered student will be eligible. University Store officials say that the material shortage will mean that the Class of 1945 will have to dispense with the overalls, and just have a jacket. This change will ultimately be permanent.

The Class of 1945’s beer jacket graphic was designed by John M. Kauffman ’45. The “Toll Tiger” (a take on the mascot popularized by Henry Toll ’42) holds a rifle and wears a medal to symbolize the class’s military service. The tiger looks puzzled as a symbol of the uncertainty the class felt about the future. The tiger’s shadow is the shadow of the self, whose straw hat, club tie, cane, bottle, and book reflect expectations of college life that were not fully realized. The numbers for the class year are written in broken lines to symbolize that class unity was shattered by World War II, with the cross line of the numeral “4” remaining solid to reflect the war’s intervention in separating students from one another. For his work, Kauffman was given a free jacket. Beer Jacket Designs Collection (AC313), Box 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for July 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a baseball player turns pro, a former instructor laments the loss of the gymnasium, and more.

July 11, 1818—London’s Literary Gazette overviews the state of American college education, singling out Princeton as the only institution with “any systematic lectures on moral philosophy.” The writer goes on,

The Americans have no standard for pronunciation; their English is nevertheless tolerably incorrupt, yet they read Latin and Greek in the Scottish manner, owing to the dead languages having been taught by persons belonging to that country.

July 14, 2003—Thomas Pauly ’04 signs a contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

July 16, 1979—The Department of Health, Education and Welfare announces a grant of $250,000 to Firestone Library to index and catalog collections of Chinese materials, English and American literary manuscripts, and the American Civil Liberties Union records. The grant will also support microfilming of a file of Arabic manuscripts.

July 17, 1944—In a letter to Dean Kenneth H. Condit that is printed in this date’s issue of the Princeton Bulletin, former graphics instructor Harry M. McCully writes from New Guinea, where he is serving in the Army, “Mother sent me a clipping about the fire in the Gym…I know it was a sad day at Princeton.”

Trophy room of Princeton’s University Gymnasium after fire, 1943. Department of Facilities Records (AC041), Box 34.

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

This Week in Princeton History for July 4-10

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, Jesse Owens runs in Palmer Stadium, local authorities ban rogue swine, and more.

July 4, 1936—Jesse Owens competes in the Amateur Athletic Union’s track meet in Palmer Stadium, an event with additional attention paid to it due to the upcoming 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

Jesse Owens in the lead at the Olympic Games in Berlin, 1936. Joseph Edward Raycroft Papers (AC146), Box 7.

July 7, 1813—Large swine are now prohibited from running wild on the streets of Princeton, New Jersey.

July 9, 1791—Students hold a debate on the question of whether hereditary nobility is “consistent with liberty.”

July 10, 1846—Princeton is offering courses in French and German in addition to the standard curriculum. There is no extra charge for tuition for students who wish to study either language.

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

This Week in Princeton History for June 27-July 3

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, New Jersey’s governor worries that the colonists won’t support a college, a court rules in favor of an alum, and more.

June 27, 1748—Governor Jonathan Belcher writes to the Committee of the West Jersey Society,

But as I find upon the Best inquiry hardly Sixty thousand Souls in the whole Province of New Jersey and most of them People that live by their day Labour, I am At Present much discouraged about a College Not Seeing where Money will be found to Build the House and to Support the Necessary Officers for the Assembly (Many of them Quakers) will do Nothing towards it…

June 28, 1920—In a letter to the editor of the Washington Bee, Marianna G. Brubaker writes, “If Wilson ‘battled for democracy’ at Princeton, it must have been white democracy, the only part of which he has the remotest conception.”

July 1, 1883—The Atlanta Constitution reports that U.S. President Chester Arthur’s son, Chester Alan Arthur II, Class of 1885, is known around Princeton’s campus as the “lion dude” and “the precious thing.”

July 3, 1973—The New York Supreme Court sides with William J. Thom ’63 in approving his application for the incorporation of Lambda Legal, overturning a lower court ruling that the gay rights organization was “neither benevolent nor charitable in ostensible purpose.”

Leaflet describing the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, ca. 1973. (Click to enlarge.) American Civil Liberties Union Records (MC001), Box 2997.

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

This Week in Princeton History for June 20-26

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a rainstorm disrupts Class Day, a London newspaper points to Princeton as a positive example to follow, and more.

June 22, 1926—A silent film about the experiences of the Class of 1926 is screened at the Garden Theatre. Admission is free.

June 24, 1872—When a sudden rainstorm disrupts Class Day, attendees make a mad dash for the Presbyterian church nearby. The Nassau Literary Review will report, “After one or two fainting fits, and a good deal of excitement and unnecessary haste on the part of the ladies, the church was packed…”

Invitation to Class Day, 1872. Princeton University Commencement Records (AC115), Box 2.

June 25, 1959—In a London Times article urging greater appreciation for tigers as a species, the unnamed author suggests readers should model their veneration for tigers on Princeton’s: “We seem to remember that the war cry of one great American University—perhaps Princeton—begins ‘Ra, Ra, Ra, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger.’ That is the sentiment.”

June 26, 1805—A letter to the editor of Trenton’s Miscellany lampoons a type of Princeton student the writer calls “Dashing Student”:

He must not know a single word of Latin or Greek. That would be too much like a scholar: it would not suit the dignity of his character. And as to attending prayers regularly in the morning, it is entirely out of the question. Why, rising too early would absolutely kill him: his constitution is too delicate: he could not possibly bear it. … Above all things, let him remember, that he who spends the most money, will have the most companions. Let the money flow from his purse, like water, in a constant stream from the spring: Let him always suppose that his purse, like it, will be inexhaustible.

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.