This Week in Princeton History for January 23-29

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, Princeton seeks to build housing for married students, locals consider the merits of slavery in the South, and more.

January 23, 1946—Princeton University requests an amendment to local zoning regulations in order to build a “garden-type housing project” to accommodate 150 to 170 families. The proposed housing will be primarily for returning married students who served in World War II.

The housing project would later be known as Butler Apartments, shown here in October 1947. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP166, Image No. 4088.

January 26, 1837—Students rush to join other local citizens at about 2:00AM to put out a fire at Stryker & Conover’s tailor shop.

January 27, 1860—A letter from Robert Field Stockton appears in the Princeton Press explaining why he refuses to attend Union meetings. After outlining his rationale for why northern states must support slavery in the southern states, he urges residents to unite with the South if there is a national division.

In this defensive attitude of the South I for one will stand by them as a friend, to the last gasp of my existence, and if a dissolution of the Union is inevitable, then I would have the lines of separation drawn along the Hudson and the Lakes, rather than the Potomac and the Ohio. I have no doubt that in such an event the Northwestern states would unite with New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the South. I will stand by them, because they are right…

January 29, 1987—A New York federal appeals court blocks the publication of a biography of J. D. Salinger on the grounds of unfair use of unpublished letters which the author accessed in Firestone Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room. Though “A Writing Life” will remain unpublished, future readers will still be able to access it at Princeton.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 16-22

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, students have a reputation for misbehavior, people claiming to be Nigerian royalty seek pen pals, and more.

January 17, 1882—The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports, The Princeton students seem to have recommenced the disgraceful rowdyism which brought the college into such disrepute some time since,” saying that just before their holiday vacation students had engaged in various acts of vandalism and greased the railroad tracks, but authorities have failed to discipline students appropriately. “In fact, discipline has become of the basest character, and it is asserted that in the case of influential students there is absolutely none enforced.”

This newspaper clipping shows common hazing tactics at Princeton ca. 1885. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 379, Folder 11.

January 19, 1982—Thomas H. Kean ’57 takes the oath of office and becomes New Jersey’s 48th governor. Kean, the first Republican governor since 1970, secured victory by a margin smaller than 2,000 votes.

January 20, 1752—In a letter to Benjamin Franklin, Governor Jonathan Belcher says that the president of the College of New Jersey (then in Newark), Aaron Burr, recently helped him attempt to treat a medical condition with electric shock using the College electrical apparatus. Unfortunately, the treatment has been unsuccessful so far.

January 22, 1949—A group of people claiming to be Nigerian royalty write to the editor of the Daily Princetonian seeking pen pals.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 9-15

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a student expresses concern about staff wages, faculty warn seniors that they have to attend classes, and more.

January 11, 1889—A student writes in a letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian about his concerns about dorm fees not being used to pay staff appropriately.

With such a sum as this for the payment of college servants it would at least seem that the servants might receive fair salaries. But they do not…the pay is entirely disproportionate to the labor involved. It is surely our right to demand that the work in our rooms (for instance) be done in a satisfactory manner, and as the only way of securing this end, that the servants be paid respectable wages.

College of New Jersey (Princeton) servant Dennis “Mickey” Boyle, ca. 1877. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box 1.

January 12, 1832—The faculty warn the Class of 1832 that they will all be “dismissed from the College” if they continue to refuse to attend recitations with Henry Vethake, professor of natural philosophy and mathematics, as they have been doing on the basis that Vethake had “no right” to reschedule to 9:00AM.

January 13, 1975—The Student Pie-Throwing Agency is making a reported profit from throwing pies on unsuspecting Princetonians. The identities of the clients who have paid for the pie-throwing are protected.

January 15, 1986—A new student magazine, Off Campus, aims to inform students of available activities away from Princeton.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 2-8

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, Princeton’s colors are on display at a party in New Orleans, a student is unimpressed with a future movie classic, and more.

January 4, 1891—The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that at a recent New Year’s Eve party thrown by Pearl Wright for her son, Ira, and his friends, the rooms were decorated in Yale colors and the party favors were adorned with blue and white ribbons, with the exception of “exquisite little yellow porcelain jugs tied with black ribbons, the Princeton colors, that were used in compliment to several of the Princeton students that were present.”

Although we associate Princeton with a much brighter shade of orange, several examples in our collections suggest that the orange of prior generations was considerably lighter–sometimes one could easily call it yellow–and references like this one from 1891 suggest it isn’t necessarily due to fading. Class of 1873 ribbon, Memorabilia Collection (MC053).

January 6, 1818—The faculty observe, “It appeared that during the last week, there had been an unusual number absent from prayers; yet it appeared to be owing, not to willful neglect or disregard of duty, but in part to the holiday season, and in part to such remissness and want of vigilance in the students as too frequently make advances on perfect order in this particular, in which it is extremely difficult to correct.”

January 7, 1972—Amy Richlin ’73 reviews Dirty Harry for the Daily Princetonian. “It stinks.”

January 8, 1923—Henry van Dyke, Class of 1873, resigns the Murray Professorship of English Literature, which he has held since its founding 1890. With his resignation, he includes a check for $2,000 (approximately $35,000 in 2022 dollars), half his annual salary, to defray costs associated with him leaving in the middle of the academic year.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 26-January 1

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, immigrants are required to be fingerprinted, faculty are investigating mysterious explosions, and more.

December 26, 1940—Under the recently passed federal law known as the Alien Registration Act, all local non-citizens must complete registration with the Princeton post office by this date. All will fill out five forms detailing age, place of birth, date of entry into the United States, local residency, and other matters related to their lives and character. They will also be fingerprinted.

December 27, 1813—Another in a series of explosions of gunpowder takes place in a room in the lower entry of Nassau Hall. Faculty commit to uncover the culprit, whom they will later identify as Gunning B. Read, Class of 1816.

Reprint of a sketch entitled “Taking the Measure of Nassau Hall” from the student notebook of Thomas Campbell, Class of 1818. Grounds and Buildings Historical Subject Files (AC110), Box 7, Folder 10.

December 29, 1849—The New Orleans Daily Crescent warns of a con man traveling around the South claiming to be a student at Princeton, and warns parents of Princeton students not to give him money to take to their sons.

December 30, 1912—George A. Armstrong, Class of 1909, issues a general invitation to all Princeton students to attend a reception at Christodora Settlement House in New York.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 19-25

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, alumni have the chance to see proposed dormitory plans, a student plot to make eggnog is foiled, and more.

December 22, 1890—The Charlotte News notes that “A large number of Princeton students passed the city yesterday en route south.”

December 23, 1908—Today’s issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly contains drawings of the proposed new dormitories to be built on the northwest corner of campus, thanks to a generous donation from Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage. Ultimately, none of the buildings in the group, later to be known as Rockefeller College, will bear her name, but one of the dining halls will be dubbed “Russell Sage Hall” in honor of her husband.

Though it is not that unusual to find references to “Sage Hall” or “Sage Tower” in archival records from the early 1910s, this tower is now much better known as Holder Tower, named for Christopher Holder, a 17th-century ancestor of Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage. Holder was an early Quaker who endured religious persecution in Massachusetts Bay Colony and returned to England to escape execution. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP51, Image No. 1788.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 12-18

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, controversies over abortion coverage on the student health plan are ongoing, Princeton’s president urges vaccination, and more.

December 12, 1979—According to Students for Conscientious Choice, about 800 students have signed a petition asking for a refund of the portion of their student health fees that fund abortion services. In the 1978-1979 academic year, 36 undergraduates and 8 graduate students used abortion services at a cost of less than $1 per student’s health fee.

Concerned Alumni of Princeton pamphlet, 1981. Office of the Executive Vice President Records (AC271), Box 25.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 5-11

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the junior class selects a speaker for a campus event, a concerned writer condemns political activity among students, and more.

December 5, 1860—The Chapel has a new organ “instead of the old one which has grated upon the feelings of all for the last long while.” Made by Ernest Hartwick of Newark, the new organ came at a price of about $1,000 (about $36,000 in 2022 dollars).

December 6, 1887—The Class of 1889 selects W. James George as its orator for the 1888 Washington’s Birthday celebration. George will use the opportunity to denounce monopolies, socialism, and intemperance in an address entitled “National Dangers.”

College of New Jersey (Princeton) Washington’s Birthday celebration program, 1888. Washington’s Birthday Celebration Records (AC200).

December 7, 1772—A writer in the New York Gazette expresses concern that John Witherspoon’s leadership of the College of New Jersey will improperly influence the students in a manner “like those in Boston…a Disgrace to all Order and Government.” Students should not engage in politics, the writer feels.

The Students in their public Exhibitions have very often entered deeply into the Party Politics and Contentions of England, both in former and latter Times, and in such manner as to give the greatest Offence to many who were present.

December 8, 1935—A steer named Tippy flees his home at G. F. Updike’s barn and leads police on what will ultimately be a 10-day chase through Princeton’s town and college campus. Updike will later say, “He’s the fastest, nastiest animal I have ever seen on four legs—just a streak of well-oiled lightning.”

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This Week in Princeton History for November 28-December 4

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, tensions over the American flag are escalating on campus, Princeton’s president indicates the need to plan to educate women, and more.

November 29, 1824—Micah Hawkins’s The Saw Mill or a Yankee Trick, the first American opera on American themes, is performed for the first time in New York. Its opening act includes the lines, “But we, at sixteen, parted: you for college, at Princeton, I to Gates, in Genesee…”

November 30, 1989—More than 100 members of New Jersey’s American Ex-Prisoners of War and other veterans’ groups gather on Cannon Green to denounce flag-burning. The group engages in direct confrontation with students who have recently burned the American flag as part of protest activities. An organizer warns, “We cannot guarantee the safety of anyone who tries to burn the flag in the presence of war veterans.”

Flag-burning protests were staged in response to a federal law banning the burning of the American flag, which Congress had passed in October 1989. In United States v. Eichman (1990), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Flag Protection Act as a violation of the First Amendment. Emergency Committee to Stop the Flag Amendment and Laws pamphlet, 1989. American Civil Liberties Union Records (MC001), Box 2234.

December 2, 1790—Philadelphia’s Federal Gazette joins with other publications in urging the legislature of New Jersey to act to prevent the ongoing taxation of the funds of the College of New Jersey.

December 4, 1967—In a report released today, Robert Goheen reflects on his ten years as Princeton’s president and identifies “the far more fundamental and important issue of our facing up to the education of women” as a primary reason for the need to adjust financial priorities in spite of other major needs.

Jackie Johnson *70, Katie Marshall *69, and Mary Procter *71. Photo from the Princeton Alumni Weekly, May 13, 1969.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 21-27

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, an unusual Thanksgiving storm brings heavy snow to the area, a Scottish newspaper remarks on the racial composition of the town, and more.

November 22, 1967—Joshua Rifkin *70 is at work on two projects: a thesis on an early 16th-century Flemish manuscript, and arranging and conducting the album “Wildflowers” for singer Judy Collins, with whom he has recently also worked on the album “In My Life.”

November 24, 1938—An unusual early snowstorm brings nearly 9 inches of snow to Princeton—more than the entire annual snowfall during the previous winter—beginning around the time most locals are beginning to eat Thanksgiving dinner.

November 25, 1985—James Currier ’89 laments a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision that Princeton’s eating clubs are not legally permitted to bar women from admission.

Women at Princeton who might want to join the all-male eating clubs do so because they like them better than the other clubs—these clubs have something that the girls would consider special. But having girls in the clubs will change them; they will lose this ‘something special.’ The women can’t be a part of the clubs now, obviously, because they’re all-male; but by joining they would change the essence of the all-male clubs, and they…wouldn’t be a part of what is special. So why ruin [them] for the guys?

November 26, 1877—An article in The Scotsman describes Princeton: “The township is small, containing some 3000 inhabitants, a considerable proportion of whom are black, externally.”

Unidentified residents of Princeton photographed by William Roe Howell, 1869. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP75, Image No. 3005.

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