A Campus Divided: The Iraq Wars and Princeton University

This post is part of a series on education and war related to our current exhibition, “Learning to Fight, Fighting to Learn: Education in Times of War,” on display through June 2018. Please stop by to learn more. We will be hosting a panel discussion on February 28, 2018 at 1:00PM featuring Robert Rivers ’53, Bob Durkee ’69, and the Princeton University ROTC’s Lt. Col. Kevin McKiernan to discuss the impact of war on Princeton from the World War II era to the present. This event is free and open to the public.

We’ve also recently added a small case with materials about America’s two wars with Iraq in 1991 and 2003-present in our lobby which will be on display along with the rest of the exhibition through June 2018.

As the Persian Gulf Crisis worsened toward the end of 1990, the opinions expressed on Princeton’s campus revealed stark contrasts between those in favor of war and those opposed to it. Teach Peace, a student-faculty organization formed in late November 1990 to promote dialogue on the Gulf Crisis, organized a variety of protest activities, including peace vigils, public demonstrations, teach-ins, and guest lectures. Many of the professors who lectured at teach-ins had been active in anti-war protests during the Vietnam War. Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for February 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Thurgood Marshall begins a lecture series, faculty and students gather for a teach-in about a pending war, and more.

February 19, 1964—Thurgood Marshall begins a series of lectures on “The Constitutional Rights of the Negro.”

February 20, 1991—As escalating hostilities suggest the United States is on the brink of war with Iraq, members of the Princeton University community gather for a day-long teach-in about the Persian Gulf crisis at the Woodrow Wilson School.

Teach Peace organized many events during the Persian Gulf Crisis in 1990 and 1991. This flyer advertises another teach-in held November 29-30, 1990. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 204, Folder 12. For more on the impact of war on education at Princeton, please join us for a panel discussion on February 28.

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Training for Love and Family: Princeton University’s Marriage Course

In 1927, Ernest R. Groves developed a groundbreaking new course at the University of North Carolina focused on comprehensive preparation for marriage and family life. By the mid-1930s, scattered colleges throughout the United States were offering similar classes to undergraduates, but Princeton joined the group a bit late. The first serious discussions of the possibility of having such a course here occurred in the late 1940s. Students were pushing for a course to address sociology, psychology, religion, economics, law, and medicine as they related to marriage and family life. A 1949 editorial in the Daily Princetonian lamented the lack of such a class as “an astonishing fact.” The first marriage lecture at Princeton was given on February 15, 1950.

Due to its high demand, “A Course on Marriage and Family Life” was open only to Princeton seniors after the first couple of years, even though it was non-curricular (i.e., could not be taken for credit). One needed tickets to attend lectures, for which a fee was charged. Princeton faculty led smaller discussion groups, similar to precepts, following the lectures. The institution was not yet co-educational, so the focus was on how to be a good husband and father; wives- and mothers-in-training were presumably taking courses elsewhere. Some students found it difficult to discuss sensitive topics openly, but most reports indicate that they felt it had been a good experience for them.

Marriage course ticket sales. Photo from 1957 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, debates over fallout shelters are taking place, Henry Fairfax makes his last deliveries, and more.

February 12, 1962—The Fallout Shelter Committee presents its recommendations to Princeton University president Robert Goheen, provoking debate over the school’s responsibilities to local residents and visitors in the event of a nuclear attack.

Map of fallout shelters at Princeton University, ca. 1962. (Click to enlarge.) Office of Physical Planning Records (AC154), Box 32.

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What Archival Silence Conceals—and Reveals: Recovering Princeton University’s 19th-Century African American Graduate Alumni

Archival silences distort the past, shaping our current and future self-understanding, so preserving Princeton’s history sometimes means attempting to correct the work of our predecessors. My struggle to bring 19th and early 20th-century African American graduate alumni to light illustrates one way white supremacy of that era continues to influence us today. It also supports the argument that archives are not neutral, so researchers and archival staff must pay close attention to the ways archival work reflects the values of those who did the preserving and discarding.

In our Graduate Alumni Records collection, I found files for Irwin William Langston Roundtree, George Shippen Stark, and Leonard Zechariah Johnson, African Americans previously known to have received masters degrees from Princeton. Contents were sparse. Stark’s and Johnson’s consisted primarily of the evidence that they had paid fees and earned course credit. Roundtree’s file had no information about the classes he took, but included an obituary that indicated he was a longtime resident of Trenton.

(Click to enlarge.) Academic record of Leonard Zachariah Johnson, graduate class of 1904. Graduate Alumni Records (AC105).

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This Week in Princeton History for February 5-11

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the library makes a significant change in how it catalogs books, the Board of Trustees is divided over a hiring decision, and more.

February 5, 1976—University Librarian Richard Boss announces that new materials will use the Library of Congress classification system rather than the Richardson system unique to Princeton, originally developed in the 1890s by Boss’s predecessor, Ernest Cushing Richardson. Richardson felt that the Dewey classification system was inappropriate for a research library. However, in the open stacks, books with Richardson numbers would not be completely phased out until 2011.

An employee shelves books in the Princeton University Library, ca. 1970s. The call numbers here are all Richardson numbers. (Click to enlarge.) Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP06, Image No. 132.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 29-February 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the death of a member of the Class of 1919 sparks national debate, the chess club organizes, and more.

January 29, 1975—Alum Henry Pitney van Dusen (Class of 1919) enters into a suicide pact with his wife. Their deaths will spark nationwide debate over euthanasia.

January 30, 1997—Sarina Sassoon ’00 appears on the Late Show with David Letterman, where she discusses Princeton’s mascot and her future plans, holds cue cards, and operates a camera.

Sarina Sassoon ’00. Photo from 2000 Nassau Herald.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 22-28

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Board of Trustees decides to move the institution from Newark to Princeton, a donor’s bequest causes controversy, and more.

January 22, 1773—Between 3:00 and 4:00AM, students wake up and help put out a house fire nearby. “The students upon this occasion behaved with a becoming boldness which does them honour,” the Pennsylvania Packet will report.

January 23, 1871—In a controversial lecture, College of New Jersey (Princeton) president James McCosh asserts that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is consistent with Christianity.

James McCosh, ca. 1870s. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box AD13.

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Princeton in Space

Several Princetonians have braved the final frontier, beginning with NASA’s Apollo missions. Here we present a brief overview of their contributions to space exploration.


Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53

Charles Conrad studied aeronautical engineering at Princeton, earning his B.S. in 1953. A little less than a decade later, NASA chose him alongside eight other men to train for the Gemini and Apollo projects. After his return to Earth as the pilot for Gemini 5 in 1965 set a record for the longest time humans had spent in space (eight days), Princeton took the unprecedented step of raising its flag above Nassau Hall to celebrate.

As commander of the Apollo 12 mission in 1969, Conrad was the third human to walk on the moon, quipping, “That might have been a short step for Neil [Armstrong] but it was a damn long one for me.” He took five Princeton flags with him on the trip, later presenting one to the University.

Princeton University flag taken to the moon by Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53. Memorabilia Collection (AC053).

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This Week in Princeton History for January 15-21

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, students and guests attend the first art lecture, the Board of Trustees ends gender-based admissions quotas, and more.

January 15, 1877—Professor Edward Delano Lindsey gives the first lecture of a course in Art in the newly established Department of Art and Archaeology. The Nassau Literary Magazine observes, “Even the ladies were represented and proved by their attention and expressive countenances their appreciation of both lecturer and subject.”

January 16, 1813—Students successfully petition the faculty “to be allowed this day as a holy day [sic], for the purpose of spending it in the amusement of sleighing.”

January 19, 1974—The Board of Trustees votes to end an admissions policy that enforces quotas on the number of women who may be admitted to Princeton University, a policy originally intended to prevent a decline in the number of men admitted after the advent of coeducation.

This photo of a Princeton University classroom ca. 1975 was labeled “Coed classroom.” If you look closely, you will find a woman in this class (out of focus toward the left). Though Princeton began admitting women to all degree programs in 1969, it was some time before it felt fully coeducational to students, in part due to quotas that kept the ratio of men to women high. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP150, Image No. 4013.

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