Ask Mr. Mudd: “Levee Song” and Princeton’s Minstrel Shows

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Is it true that the University of Texas school song, “The Eyes of Texas,” has a Princeton University connection? Where did the song come from, and why don’t Princeton students sing it anymore?

A. “The Eyes of Texas” is set to a tune best known today as “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Both use a melody first published as “Levee Song” in the College of New Jersey (Princeton)’s songbook, Carmina Princetonia, in 1894. With the new lyrics as “The Eyes of Texas,” the song was first published in The University of Texas Community Songbook in 1918.

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Carmina Princetonia, 1894. Princeton Music Collection (AC056), Box 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 16-22

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a riot paralyzes the campus, a senior performs for the U.S. president, and more.

January 18, 1893—The faculty approve a resolution ending supervision of exams, provided that students sign a pledge stating that they have “neither given nor received aid” during the test.

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First exam given at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) under the Honor Code, January 26, 1893. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 5, Folder 20.

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New Year’s Greetings

By Xinxian Cynthia Zheng GS

In the first post in this two-part series about a file of 72 “Chinese New Year cards” I found in the Princeton University Library Records (AC 123), I wrote about the Christmas and New Year’s greetings sent by sent by missionaries and non-profit organizations to Dr. Nancy Lee Swann (1881–1966), one of the first female scholars of Chinese history who served as the curator of Princeton’s East Asian Library between 1931 and 1948. In this post, I will examine how scholars who sent cards to Swann appealed to shared literacy in Chinese historical anecdotes between senders and recipients to strengthen ties among colleagues.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 9-15

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Dod Hall opens, Albert Einstein attends the first Jewish services on campus, and more.

January 9, 1891—The Daily Princetonian reports that Dod Hall has opened.

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Dod Hall, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP38, Image No. 1103.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 2-8

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the nation mourns Claiborne Pell, the Triangle Club loses their rehearsal space, and more.

January 2, 1884—Physics professor Cyrus Brackett testifies as an expert witness in a lawsuit between American Bell Telephone Company and the Peoples Telephone Company, one in a series known as the “telephone cases” in which the Supreme Court will rule on who should own the inventor’s patent to the telephone.

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Cyrus Brackett, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photograph Series (AC059), Box FAC12.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 26-January 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Christmas holiday is extended to 9:45AM, a graduate eulogizes George Washington, and more.

December 26, 1944—The President of Princeton University generously allows for an extension of the Christmas holiday, dismissing students from classes that meet at 7:45 and 8:45AM. Classes resume at 9:45AM.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus gets its first bathtubs, an undergraduate spends a contented Christmas Eve alone, and more.

December 21, 1889—Two stained glass windows later to be installed in Princeton’s Marquand Chapel are on display in artist Francis Lathrop’s studio in New York.

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These stained glass windows, depicting the biblical figures Jonathan and David, were the ones on display in New York. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box SP02, Image No. 439. To see the subdued colors Lathrop chose, visit the Princeton University Art Museum’s website.

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Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Day in the “Chinese” Way

By Xinxian Cynthia Zheng GS

Recently, I found a file of 72 “Chinese New Year cards” in the Princeton University Library Records (AC 123). Looking through them, I saw that they were a syncretic fusion of Chinese and Western elements, rather than the kind of Chinese New Year cards I usually receive from friends now. Dated between 1935 and 1942, many of these “Chinese” cards came from non-Chinese Westerners—some were book collectors and art connoisseurs, while others were individuals with non-profit organizations. They were sent to Dr. Nancy Lee Swann (1881–1966), one of the first female scholars of Chinese history who served as the curator of what became Princeton’s East Asian Library between 1931 and 1948.

Intriguingly, the existence of these “Chinese” cards suggests Chinese elements became part of the consumption culture of celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Day for some in the Americas. Beginning in the nineteenth century, people increasingly romanticized the two religious festivals and made them the rites of selling and buying, as Leigh Schmidt has detailed in Consumer Rites. Just as individual tastes varied in Christmas shopping, these “Chinese” cards also show significant diversity. They came in various sizes, ranging from a greeting on letter size paper to a small card of 5 × 2.75 inches. The cards employed metaphors from Chinese arts and classics in the personalized envelopes, cover illustrations, and greeting messages. Depending on the social context and the sender’s relationship with the recipient, individual authors used elements of Chinese culture as tools to socialize with colleagues, pay respect to friends, convey messages of religious teaching, send off encouragement and good wishes, and reinforce the effect of fundraising. This blog post is the first in a two-part series about these cards. Here, the focus is on cards blending Eastern and Western themes in cards from religious groups and non-profit organizations. Next month, I will highlight the imagery Chinese scholars used in corresponding with Princeton’s librarian.

Because many senders were corresponding overseas from China, their envelopes often presented combinations of Chinese and English, which may appear exotic to our audience today. As the envelope below shows on the front, the staff of the National Committee of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Shanghai used a five-sent stamp issued by the Chinese Post Office in memory of Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China. On the back of the envelope, the sender rendered the return address in Shanghai in both Chinese and English.

Because many senders were corresponding overseas from China, their envelopes often presented combinations of Chinese and English. As the envelope above shows on the front, the staff of the National Committee of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Shanghai used a five-sent stamp issued by the Chinese Post Office in memory of Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China. On the back of the envelope, the sender rendered the return address in Shanghai in both Chinese and English.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the debate team wins its argument over football with Harvard, a yearbook cover change draws complaint, and more.

December 12, 1896—First Lady Frances Fulsom Cleveland draws student notice as she shops for a house in Princeton for her family to move into after Grover Cleveland finishes his presidency.

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Frances Fulsom Cleveland. Grover Cleveland Collection (AC348), Box 1.

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Bob Dylan’s Honorary Princeton University Degree

When news of Bob Dylan being honored with a Nobel Prize in Literature broke a few months ago, the Swedish Academy responsible for the award acknowledged that it might appear to be an inappropriate choice. Dylan, as a musician, might not be thought of as an author so much as a composer. “If you look back,” permanent secretary Sara Danius told the press, “you discover Homer and Sappho, and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to … But we still read Homer and Sappho…and we enjoy it, and same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read, and should be read.”

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Bob Dylan at Princeton University, June 9, 1970. Honorary Degree Records (AC106), Box 6.

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