This Week in Princeton History for March 25-31

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian urges an alumni organization to hire editors with more “integrity”, a new program in electrical engineering is announced, and more.

March 25, 1965—Detectives find no explanation for the apparent suicide of lecturer Robert M. Hurt, 29, described by colleagues as “relaxed” and “cheerful” prior to his death.

Robert Hurt, ca. 1960s. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC059), Box FAC51.

Continue reading

Natural Philosophy in the 1830s

By Neha Anil Kumar ’21

Class planning as a Princeton undergraduate today can be difficult to say the least. With a huge variety of distribution requirements I have to take, alongside the major requirements of a STEM concentration, the life of an AB Physics student can get quite busy. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found lecture notes for a class on “Natural Philosophy” taught by Joseh Henry in 1830s that covered topics on modern day physics, mechanical engineering, epistemology, and philosophy along with material science, belonging to a time when students’ classes were definitively decided ahead of time because each entering class was small enough to take all of its courses together.

As I dived right in, not knowing the vast array of topics I was going to be reeled into, I was caught by surprise just across the first two lectures of the series. Contrary to what I expected of an introductory science class, that I considered closely related to physics, the first few lectures delve into much more epistemology than I expected; though the structure of introduction does make intuitional sense. The series begins with an explanation of what science really is and its categorization into the physical (modern day natural science) and the metaphysical (modern day philosophy). Interestingly, to introduce science as a mix of philosophy and quantitative and experimental analysis of phenomena, there does occur a strange attribution of nature’s laws to “tendency of the human mind” alongside a descriptions of various laws simply attributed to divinity. For example, the term “law of nature” is defined as the human “conception of the mode in which Divine wisdom operates in producing the changes of nature.” Moreover, the physical aspect of science is further split into Somatology, defined as “constitution and properties of bodies,” and Mechanics, which deals with the static and dynamic physical systems, creating a blurry line between the physical laws that govern movement of bodies and the hypotheses surrounding the constituents of matter and atoms.

Somatology, today considered a branch of anthropology, was then defined as the constituents and properties of bodies. (Click to enlarge.)

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for March 18-24

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 1877 takes a look at the Milky Way, a campus publication urges the institution to examine its own prejudices while continuing to fight bigotry beyond it, and more.

March 18, 1932—Campus proctors apprehend a bootlegger on campus and find 74 quarts of champagne and whiskey in his car hidden among golf bags, suitcases, and books.

March 20, 1877—The Class of 1877 has the opportunity to look at the Milky Way (the “Queen of Heaven”) through a telescope with the help of Prof. Stephen Alexander.

Stephen Alexander, ca. 1880. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC058), Box FAC03.

March 22, 1999—Over 200 people gather in Princeton University Chapel for an impromptu memorial service a few hours after Matthew Weiner ’02 died suddenly of cardiac arrest during a pickup basketball game.

March 23, 1944—In Princeton’s Roundtable News, John Kemeny ’46 editorializes, “Even one of the most enlightened of groups, the students of Princeton University, is hysterical at the thought of admitting negroes, and it makes them talk about forming lynching parties and copying the Nazi party in many other ways. … It is about time that we realized that a fascist is an enemy not only in Berlin and Rome, but also in Chicago and New York.”

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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

This Week in Princeton History for March 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Jacob Riis lectures on campus, four Princetonians are being held in the same German prison camp, and more.

March 12, 1925—The Jewish Student Congregation of Princeton University begins hosting a series of weekly lectures on aspects of Jewish history and religion. All are welcome to attend.

March 13, 1902—Jacob Riis, best known as the author of How the Other Half Lives, gives a lecture in Alexander Hall illustrated with stereopticon views of slums in New York.

March 15, 1871—The first issue of Princeton’s College World (precursor to the Princetonian) appears.

The first issue of Princeton’s College World, March 15, 1871.(Click to enlarge.) Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), Box 36. College World was short-lived. The Princetonian explained in 1885: “It was doomed to an early grave, however, as its managing editors, both Whigs, unfortunately touched on Hall matters in a way unsatisfactory to Clio and to avoid trouble the College World was discontinued. ”

Continue reading

Restrictions Reduced on Princeton University Administrative Records

By Dan Linke

The old architectural adage that sometimes “Less is more,” can also apply to archives in the right circumstances.  In this case, less, or more precisely, shorter, restrictions on records means more documents are accessible, and that is the case with the Princeton University trustees and administrative records.  After closely scrutinizing our current policies and practices, President Christopher L. Eisgruber decided recently to reduce the standard administrative restriction from the present 40 years down to 30 years. This means that most university records created in 1988 and earlier, including minutes of the meetings of the Board of Trustees, are now open for research.  A small subset of records with longer restriction periods, particularly student academic files, faculty personnel files, and other materials related to specific student or employee performance will continue to be protected for the lifetime of the individuals.

These materials from the presidency of William G. Bowen, which were restricted under the old policy, are now open to researchers.

“I recognize that making records accessible to historians and other researchers serves the mission of the University,” Eisgruber said. “I believe that the 30-year restriction will suffice to protect the University’s other interests.”

One benefit of this change is that now the records of the presidency of William G. Bowen are open, allowing researchers to study the range of issues from his administration: the creation of the college system, both the physical and intellectual campus expansions, and dealing with the challenges of the 1970s and 1980s relating to the national economy and broader political questions that were often voiced on campus such as divestment in South Africa.

Mudd Library is open from 9:00AM-4:45PM Monday-Friday during the academic year. For more information about conducting research in our reading rooms, please see our previous blog post.

This Week in Princeton History for March 4-10

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, competing protests take place on Nassau Street, dormitory phones get voicemail, and more.

March 4, 1965—Competing groups of students, faculty, families, and other locals march in Palmer Square, one group to protest escalation of America’s military intervention in Vietnam and the other to support it. The group supporting military intervention ends their demonstration by laying down their protest signs and singing “Old Nassau,” while opponents gather signatures for a petition asking for an end to the bombing.

Image from the Daily Princetonian.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for February 25-March 3

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Graduate College remains in control of the U.S. Navy following the end of World War I, the local pastors association prays for their colleagues involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and more.

February 27, 1981—Three students who won election to Undergraduate Student Government as members of the joke group “Antarctica Liberation Front” on a platform of “jihad” against the Hun School of Princeton resign after only one USG meeting.

Princeton University’s Antarctica Liberation Front, ca. 1981. Image from the Daily Princetonian.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for February 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, hazing makes national headlines, McCarter Theater opens, and more.

February 18, 1878—During a particularly severe outbreak of hazing, a gunfight breaks out on Nassau Street between freshmen and sophomores, with one student being shot in the thigh. Coverage in the national Police Gazette will follow.

Full-page ad from the Daily Princetonian.

Continue reading

Caroline Le Count’s Visit to Princeton

By April C. Armstrong *14 and Iliyah Coles ’22

Caroline Le Count, though not so well known today, was a prominent African American activist and educator in Philadelphia in the 19th century. The Philadelphia Citizen recently referred to her as “Philly’s Rosa Parks” because she worked to dismantle streetcar segregation in the city, a goal accomplished in 1867 with a new Pennsylvania law.

Flyer advertising Caroline Le Count’s February 5, 1877 appearance at Princeton’s Witherspoon St. Presbyterian Church.  Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 337, Folder 4. (Click to enlarge.)

After the Civil War, many African Americans, especially women, began refusing to comply with the segregation of public transit in Philadelphia, knowing they’d often be handled roughly when conductors ejected them. Theirs was a movement of civil disobedience that pushed for expanded civil rights for African Americans and built on the momentum of the Union’s victory over the Confederacy. When a conductor did not comply with the new law three days after its passage and would not allow Le Count to ride, yelling a racial slur as he drove past without stopping, she reported it to a police officer. After Le Count showed the officer a copy of the law, he then arrested the conductor, who had to pay a $100 fine. The law mandated not only that African Americans must be permitted to ride streetcars, but that any distinction made on the basis of race on streetcars—in seating or service—was prohibited.

After becoming the first black woman to pass the city’s teacher’s examination, Le Count began teaching at Philadelphia’s Ohio Street School in 1865. Later, sources say she became the second African American female to become principal of a public school, stepping in to serve in that post at Ohio Street School by 1868. She worked continuously to advocate for African American students, teachers, and principals. One newspaper editor said she was “a match for all the officers and members of the Board of Education combined.” After her fiancé, fellow activist Octavius V. Catto who had helped to draft the streetcar bill, was murdered on election day on October 10, 1871, the school was renamed in his honor. Le Count never married.

Le Count was a noted author and speaker. Some sources mention her entertaining her audiences with a perfect imitation of an Irish accent. Often, she spoke or recited poetry at fundraisers for African American churches. The above notice, found in our Historical Subject Files (AC109), shows that she was raising money for the African American community in Princeton as well. Though we don’t know whether any students at Princeton would have attended her 1877 performance, it is plausible that some of Princeton’s African American staff would have. Unfortunately, we have found no further information about Le Count’s visit to Princeton.

This Week in Princeton History for February 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, African American women express their views of campus, police are on the lookout for stolen silverware, and more.

February 11, 1994—A group of students responds to an editorial cartoon with pleas for greater thoughtfulness about the use of imagery and language on campus, saying the cartoon’s portrayal of Cornel West *80 played to a variety of offensive stereotypes. Discussions continue throughout the week.

A follow up set of editorial cartoons from the Daily Princetonian.

Continue reading