This Week in Princeton History for September 13-19

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a student experiences culture shock, the campus mourns the death of William McKinley, and more.

September 15, 1813—Philadelphia’s Tickler reports on the college life of Nathaniel B. Boileau (Class of 1789):

At the age of about fourteen he got the notion of going to college to get a liberal education, and then to study divinity and take on holy orders. His father consulted a clergyman in the neighborhood on the subject, who, after examining the boy, advised him against it, telling him that his son had not sufficient capacity to enable him to shine in the pulpit or anywhere else, and therefore he had better abandon the idea of sending him to college. Being his father’s only son, however, and therefore in the true sense of the word a pet, the old man at length agreed to his earnest request, and sent him to Princeton college, where by dint of close application he made out to graduate.

September 16, 1850—Charles Colcock Jones, Jr., Class of 1852, writes to his parents about seeing the Negro Sons of Temperance have a parade and picnic in town. “It was a strange sight to those of us who were from the slave states.”

September 18, 1786—James Gibson, Class of 1787, confesses in his diary, “Our examination begins today, my heart already palpitates.”

September 19, 1901—All of the regular business of Princeton University is suspended so the community can mourn the death of U.S. President William McKinley, who was assassinated on September 14. Four memorial services are held throughout the day in Alexander Hall and in local churches. Former U.S. President Grover Cleveland addresses the mourners in Alexander Hall, urging them to reflect on what they can learn about the fragility of American democracy from the events of the week. Woodrow Wilson also spoke, saying, “This pestiferous thing that has grown in our soil must have had some air to feed upon and we may well ask ourselves if we supplied any of the air that fed this foul plant of anarchy in America.”

An excerpt of Grover Cleveland’s address at the memorial service for William McKinley in Alexander Hall, September 19, 1901, taken from the 1903 Bric-a-Brac(Click to enlarge.)

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This Week in Princeton History for September 6-12

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the alum who chose Princeton’s colors passes away, a local quarantine is in place, and more.

September 6, 1927—William Libbey, Class of 1877, who was responsible for choosing orange and black as Princeton’s colors, was the first person to earn a doctorate from Princeton (in 1879), and taught geography at Princeton for 41 years, dies at the age of 72 after a long and surprisingly diverse career. In the world at large, he will also be remembered for winning a silver medal in the 1912 Olympics, serving in the Army during World War I, and serving a term as president of the National Rifle Association.

William Libbey, ca. 1880s. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067).

September 7, 1900—Due to a local outbreak of diphtheria, some residents of Princeton are in quarantine.

September 8, 1830—At the meeting of the Nassau Hall Temperance Society, a professor in the process of compiling an alumni directory said that “he had been astounded, and most deeply pained to find the ravages which intemperance had in a few years made among the graduates of the institution. In some instances, as many as one-fourth of large classes had fallen sacrifices to the devouring monster, and some of them under the most afflictive and heart-rending circumstances.”

September 10, 1792—Four students found to have played cards on the Sabbath are disciplined. They must confess their actions to the whole student body, return property won during the game, and “solemnly promise never to do the like again while at College.”

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This Week in Princeton History for August 30-September 5

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a professor finds a forgotten treasure trove of microfilm, a member of the Class of 1895 gives the Princeton University Library a collection of significant signatures, and more.

August 30, 1867—The Princeton Standard reports that the College now has 252 students, which is the highest enrollment has been since 1861.

August 31, 1989—Richard Challener, a history professor, finds 188 forgotten microfilm reels in a vault. The reels were deposited for safekeeping by the Secret Service in the early 1960s and contain materials related to John Foster Dulles’s tenure as Secretary of State. The reels will have to be reviewed to determine if they can be declassified, a process that will ultimately take a decade to complete.

September 1, 1943—The Princeton Bulletin announces that John W. Garrett (Class of 1895) has bequeathed his collection of autographs from 36 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence to the Princeton University Library.

Signature of Thomas Lynch, Jr. Signers of the Declaration of Independence Collection (C0197), Box 1, Folder 19.

September 4, 1854—At the meeting of Princeton’s Common Council, J. C. Burke announces that a new lamp has been installed at the corner of Nassau and Witherspoon Streets, but several of the town lamps have the glass broken out of them and need to be repaired.

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West Meets East: Japanese Themes in Princeton’s Graphic Arts of the Late 19th Century

If you spend as much time immersed in the University Archives as I do, at times you will see intriguing patterns emerge. I have seen repeated examples of an unusual theme in the graphic arts associated with the College of New Jersey (as Princeton University was named until 1896) in the late 19th century and early 20th: a variety of seemingly out-of-place Asian imagery. For example, a menu for what is clearly Western-style food, written partly in French, features a drawing of potted bamboo and a person in a kimono. One finds drawings of Asians in the Bric-a-Brac’s section headings, though not in settings where any logic would imagine they would truly appear at this time, such as working as clerks in the Registrar’s office. The appearance of the “Mikado” eating club in the 1896 Bric-a-Brac, however, should clear up any confusion about the origins of these themes.

Class of 1870 reunion dinner menu, June 20, 1881. (Click to enlarge.) Princeton University Class Records (AC130), Box 7.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 23-29

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, dog-powered butter churns are available locally, Princeton University celebrates an alum’s achievement in a new way, and more.

August 23, 2011—Princeton University’s website announces a ban on freshman rush for Greek organizations.

August 27, 1835—James Petrie and Donald McCay invite interested residents of Princeton to order dog-powered butter churns from them.

August 28, 1861—A group of students and local residents gather to pay their respects to Major-General David Hunter, who is on his way to Illinois and still recovering from injuries sustained at the First Battle of Bull Run. The crowd sings the national anthem to him.

August 29, 1965—The flag of Princeton University is raised atop Nassau Hall at 10:00AM in honor of Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr.’s safe return to the planet after the Gemini 5 mission. Princeton’s flag is rarely flown. Other occasions when one might see a flag atop Nassau Hall are Commencement, or at half-staff upon the death of a faculty member and the annual memorial of deceased alumni.

When Charles “Pete” Conrad ’53 made it to the moon, he had this Princeton flag with him. Memorabilia Collection (AC053).

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This Week in Princeton History for August 16-22

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Class of 1845 is suspended, students are treating sick classmates during an epidemic, and more.

August 16, 1955—Professor Erik Sjoqvist of the Department of Art and Archaeology lucks out when the first trench made at his archaeological dig in Sicily uncovers the agora of the ancient town of Morgantina.

August 17, 1842—Charles Godfrey Leland writes to his father, “It becomes my painful duty to inform you that our class is all dismissed to a man.”

This section of the faculty’s minutes for August 17, 1842 explains that the Class of 1845 were sent home “for combining in one attempt to obstruct, and, if possible, prevent, the recitations of the day, either by refusing to attend upon them, or when some of them did so attend, by refusing to recite.” (Click to enlarge.) Office of the Dean of the Faculty Records (AC118), Vol. 4.

August 20, 1807—An influenza epidemic is spreading throughout Princeton. Students are giving sick classmates antimonial wine, which is believed to be the most effective treatment, though diaphoretics, emetics, bloodletting, laxatives, and barley water are all being tried by local physicians. Doctors are not sure if the disease is contagious.

August 22, 1894—Princeton’s Geological Expedition arrives at Fort Custer, Michigan, on the same day the railroad is finished to that point. From there, they will take a construction train to Sheridan, Wyoming, bedded down on flat cars.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 9-15

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an earthquake hits campus without negative consequences, the region anticipates a new transportation option shortening trips to and from New York, and more.

August 9, 1932—While on a scientific expedition in Wyoming, William Zachary Taylor ’32 discovers a new fossil, named the “Tubulon Taylori” in his honor. It is the first ancient ancestor of the anteater to be uncovered.

August 11, 1884—Professor Charles Augustus Young writes of the earthquake the day before that has confused the residents of the American northeast: “Taking it altogether it was certainly an excellent earthquake, vigorous enough to be instructive and interesting, but not so cruel and ferocious like those which have desolated other lands and almost ruined nations.”

August 14, 1861—The New York Daily Tribune reports on the exodus of Southern students from Princeton: “Before they left they became excessively insolent, broke off intercourse with Northern students, and put on plantation airs to an extent that brod [sic] very distinct mutterings of coming thunder. They herded together, rejoiced over the fall of Sumter, and made themselves so especially offensive that the whole town was rejoiced to be rid of them. Ask any resident of Princeton and he will tell you that the place has not been so quiet and respectable for twenty years, as since those ruffians have cleared out.”

August 15, 1837—New Yorkers are celebrating the fact that “When the rail road is completed, we shall be able to reach Princeton from this city in less than three hours.”

A view of campus showing the train now commonly known as the “Dinky” with students playing baseball in the background, 1868. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP16, Image No. 383.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 2-8

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Morrison Hall is under construction, James Carnahan takes the helm as president, and more.

August 2, 1836–The Boston Traveler reports: “Princeton, N. J.—This is now one of the most flourishing places in our sister state, and various handsome buildings are being erected there with astonishing rapidity. Among these are the new college edifice, which is nearly finished; two halls for the use of public societies; a new Presbyterian church; a new African church, (built by the Methodists,) and a banking house.”

The “college edifice” in the Boston Traveler‘s report was then named West College (now Morrison Hall). It is shown above ca. 1860. Photograph by George Warren. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP87, Image No. 3580.

August 4, 1925—The Borough Council approves a plan to pave Witherspoon Street.

August 6, 1823—James Carnahan is installed as president of the College of New Jersey in Princeton. An observer writes, “At ten in the morning, the Collegians, and members of the Theological Seminary, assembled in the College Chapel, whence they marched in procession to the Church. The largeness of the assembly was only equalled [sic] by its highly respectable appearance. The fair part of the audience, in particular, fully confirmed our opinion of the modesty and beauty of the Princeton ladies.”

August 8, 1979—A member of the Class of 1980 files suit against Princeton for negligence related to his December 16, 1977 fall from the roof of Patton Hall. The institution maintains that its policies prohibiting students from going onto dormitory rooftops are clear.

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This Week in Princeton History for July 26-August 1

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the ADA takes effect, the Campus Center’s first birthday draws hundreds of guests, and more.

July 26, 1993—The Americans with Disabilities Act now protects Princeton employees from discrimination in the job application process and in the workplace.

July 27, 1833—An unnamed Princeton student is carrying the will of a man on death row, Joel Clough, to the prisoner’s mother.

July 28, 1986—The Daily Princetonian warns incoming students about the mandatory swim test, which requires all new Princetonians to prove they can stay afloat for 10 minutes.

July 31, 1944—The Campus Center celebrates its first anniversary in Murray-Dodge Hall with a birthday cake and about 700 guests. In its first year, it has served refreshments to an average of 10,000 students and servicemen per month.

People walk by Murray-Dodge Hall, ca. 1940s. Photograph by Elizabeth Menzies. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP38, Image No. 1126.

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Dear Mr. Mudd: Why Do You Have a Piece of a Railroad Track in the Library?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

Why do you have a “cross section of railroad” in your Memorabilia Collection (AC053)?

 

In 1855, for the second time in its near-century of existence, Nassau Hall suffered a devastating fire. At the time, Nassau Hall still served in part as one of Princeton’s dormitories. An undergraduate had gone to Maclean House and a burning log fell out of a stove in his room. As the structure ignited, flames lit up the sky for miles around. The interior of the building was almost entirely destroyed, with even the college bell, which had survived the 1802 fire, left in pieces among the ruins. Fortunately for those of us interested in documenting the institution’s history, faculty and students rushed papers, artwork, and other valuable property to safety before the flames fully engulfed the building. Aside from one student who fell and broke his leg, no one was hurt.

F. Childs lithograph of Nassau Hall, ca. 1860. Nassau Hall Iconography Collection (AC177), Box 1.

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