Dear Mr. Mudd:
What is the origin of the stars on Princeton University buildings? Is there any database listing the location of each star?
The bronze stars on window sills of Princeton University dormitories commemorate the University’s students and alumni who died in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and in the Vietnam War. An additional 13 bronze stars honoring those who died on September 11, 2001 are located in a memorial garden between East Pyne and Chancellor Green.
Letter from the Society of the Claw to members seeking funding for the initial stars.
The original 140 stars, honoring students who lost their lives in World War I, were placed in 1920. These stars were donated by members of the Society of the Claw, an organization of members of the Class of 1894 who, as a sign-on condition, promised to either attend the next five reunions or every reunion throughout their lives. The Society also inducted honorary members who had done an “unusual service” or “brought exceptional honor” to Princeton, such as Woodrow Wilson ’1879. The Society of the Claw raised $431.65 for these stars, which were then placed on the window sill of each dorm room last occupied by a Princeton student who lost his life in the war.
After World War I, the tradition of memorializing fallen students and alumni with bronze stars continued, though funding for the stars has shifted from the Society of the Claw to donors such as the family and friends of each fallen alum. As such, stars now grace the final dorm rooms for those who died in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. The most recent set of stars was installed in 2003, dedicated to the 13 Princeton alumni who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks. These stars, however, were placed in a memorial garden, not on dormitories.
Several years ago, the University’s Office of Development created listings for all the stars commemorating veterans of World War I, Vietnam, and Korea. A listing of fallen World War II veterans exists in a Memorial Book housed at Mudd Manuscript Library, but it does not contain any information about each student’s final dormitories. See http://infoshare1.princeton.edu/libraries/firestone/rbsc/mudd/online_ex/warbook/index.shtml for more details.
Since the compilation of these lists, the location of some stars has changed, with each placard located in the demolished dorms Upper Pyne and Reunion Hall now relocated to West College. (See https://paw.princeton.edu/article/editor-20).
As a final note, the campus stars have been covered extensively in various campus publications. To learn more about the bronze memorials stars, you may wish to examine the following sources:
“History of Reunions wear on display through Jan. 30.” News at Princeton, May 30, 2006. https://www.princeton.edu/news/2006/05/30/history-reunions-wear-display-through-jan-30
“Mark last rooms of men who died in war.” The Daily Princetonian. Princeton, NJ, October 31, 1919. http://theprince.princeton.edu/princetonperiodicals/?a=d&d=Princetonian19191031-01.2.6&srpos=1&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN-Mark+last+rooms+of+men+who+died+in+war.——
Marks, Marilyn. “From the Editor.” Princeton Alumni Weekly, November 4, 2009. https://paw.princeton.edu/article/editor-20
“Memorial garden honors alumni killed on Sept. 11.” Princeton Weekly Bulletin. Princeton, NJ, September 7, 2003, sec. Nassau Notes. http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pwb/03/0907/8n.shtml.
Mevs, Catherine. “Fallen alumni immortalized in stars.” The Daily Princetonian. Princeton, NJ, October 10, 2007. http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2007/10/10/18924/print/
Patel, Ushma. “Evergreen beauty of campus gardens thrives year round.” News at Princeton, February 4, 2010. https://www.princeton.edu/news/2010/02/04/evergreen-beauty-campus-gardens-thrives-year-round
Primer, Ben. “Society of the Claw Records, 1912-1940: Finding Aid.” Princeton University Archives. https://findingaids.princeton.edu/collections/AC036
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. “Department of Grounds and Buildings Subject Files.” Box 15, Folder 6. Princeton University Archives. https://findingaids.princeton.edu/collections/AC110/c0395
———. “Historical Subject Files Collection, 1746-2010.” Box 400, Folder 1. Princeton University Archives. https://findingaids.princeton.edu/collections/AC109/c05373
“The Gold Stars.” The Daily Princetonian. Princeton, NJ, May 12, 1941. http://theprince.princeton.edu/princetonperiodicals/?a=d&d=Princetonian19410512-01.2.14&srpos=1&e=——194-en-20–1–txt-txIN-%22The+Gold+Stars%22——
“World War II Memorial Book.” https://rbsc.princeton.edu/databases/world-war-ii-memorial-book
Special thanks to Amanda Hawk and Dan Brennan, who compiled much of the information reported in this article.
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