Ask Mr. Mudd: “Levee Song” and Princeton’s Minstrel Shows

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Is it true that the University of Texas school song, “The Eyes of Texas,” has a Princeton University connection? Where did the song come from, and why don’t Princeton students sing it anymore?

A. “The Eyes of Texas” is set to a tune best known today as “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Both use a melody first published as “Levee Song” in the College of New Jersey (Princeton)’s songbook, Carmina Princetonia, in 1894. With the new lyrics as “The Eyes of Texas,” the song was first published in The University of Texas Community Songbook in 1918.

carminia_princetoniana_1894_cover_ac056_box_2_folder_5

Carmina Princetonia, 1894. Princeton Music Collection (AC056), Box 2.

Continue reading

Bob Dylan’s Honorary Princeton University Degree

When news of Bob Dylan being honored with a Nobel Prize in Literature broke a few months ago, the Swedish Academy responsible for the award acknowledged that it might appear to be an inappropriate choice. Dylan, as a musician, might not be thought of as an author so much as a composer. “If you look back,” permanent secretary Sara Danius told the press, “you discover Homer and Sappho, and they wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to … But we still read Homer and Sappho…and we enjoy it, and same thing with Bob Dylan. He can be read, and should be read.”

ac106_box_6_dylan_bob

Bob Dylan at Princeton University, June 9, 1970. Honorary Degree Records (AC106), Box 6.

Continue reading

Howard Edwards Gansworth and the “Indian Problem” at Princeton

For people of European descent carving out space for themselves in the present borders of the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a major barrier: people already lived there. The nation did not regard this as an insurmountable hurdle, however. America tried a variety of things as it expanded westward: driving Native Americans across continually shifting borders, attempting to assimilate them into a dominant white culture, and employing a variety of approaches in between. As the United States consumed more and more territory occupied by American Indians who attempted to maintain ownership, conflicts worsened. In the late 19th century, a crisis point had been reached. In 1890 and 1891, the Lakota Sioux fought a losing battle over treaty violations and land use with the United States Army. The Ghost Dance War resulted in the deaths of dozens of combatants on both sides and hundreds of Lakota Sioux civilians during its best-known battle, the Wounded Knee Massacre. During this period, Native Americans came under particular scrutiny.

At the College of New Jersey (Princeton), opinions were mixed about this so-called “Indian Problem.” A few weeks after the Ghost Dance War ended, students debated what should be done. One claimed “that though the good Indian was not the dead Indian, yet the good Indian had not yet been found.” Samuel Semple of the Class of 1891, who was selected as the winner of the debate’s $1,000 prize, argued that the only thing to do was to adopt Richard Pratt’s program of forced assimilation, removing Native American children from their homes and sending them to boarding schools. Pratt later famously summed up his program’s rationale in this way: “All the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”

Prize_debate_program_AC016_Box_84_Folder_31

Cliosophic Society Archives (AC016), Box 84, Folder 31.

Continue reading

“This Is More Than a School”: James M. Stewart ’32’s Princeton

When we launched our Tumblr page in January 2015, we filled it with a variety of content on the history of Princeton University, but it didn’t take long for us to discover that one alumnus in particular consistently received a lot of attention on the platform: James Maitland Stewart ’32. In honor of this, we currently have an exhibit case in our lobby dedicated to Stewart’s long-term connection to Princeton: “‘This Is More Than a School’: James M. Stewart 32’s Princeton.”

Jimmy Stewart, the son of Alexander “Eck” Stewart of the Class of 1898, wrote on his 1928 application to Princeton that he chose it due to family connections and his belief that Princeton “is by far the best equipped to give me a broad, profitable education, provided that I apply myself diligently to the work.” His dreams of becoming a civil engineer, however, were short-lived. Diligent work proved a challenge in the face of tempting recreational activities. He later told Princeton Living, “College algebra was like a death blow to me.” He did especially poorly in a Shakespeare course and “did not survive Spanish.” Unable to keep up in his classes, Stewart was forced to attend summer school to avoid flunking out. At the end of Stewart’s freshman year, his math professor told him, “You’d better think very seriously about being something else [other than a civil engineer], or you’ll be in deep trouble.”

Transcript

Grade card for James Maitland Stewart ’32, Undergraduate Academic Records 1920-2015 (AC198), Box 25. To better understand Stewart’s academic struggles, see our previous blog post explaining the 1-7 grading system used here. N.B.: Access to student academic records is governed by this policy.

Continue reading

Mother Loves Me

With Mother’s Day coming up, we thought now was a great time to highlight this theater poster from our General Princeton Theater Collection (AC385).

AC385_Box_3

Princeton General Theater Collection (AC385), Box 3.

“Mother Loves Me” was a 1958 one-act musical comedy written and produced for Theatre Intime by Clark Gesner ’60, a member of the Triangle Club who also contributed to a few of its productions, including “After a Fashion” and “For Heaven’s Sake.” To fund this enterprise, Gesner had support from the Producers Fund, a modest grant of $200 originally donated by D. Brooks Jones ’56 from his profits from his own 1956 production, “Three Folk Sing.” The fund supported student artistic endeavors in various forms of public entertainment, including plays, literature readings, and musical revues. It had first been used in 1957 to finance “Listen Here” by Theodore James, Jr. ’57, who returned the initial grant and added a percentage of his profits to keep the fund going in accordance with the award’s rules.

For “Mother Loves Me,” male parts were performed by Princeton students, but as the school was not yet coeducational, casting had to look elsewhere for female actors. They drew upon local talent: Janet Thornsen of the Westminster Choir School took the lead soprano part, while Marcy Carroll of Princeton High School appeared in a supporting role. The male cast included Peter Cook ’60, Clinton Jakeman ’60, Robert Tellander ’60, and Philip Weinstein ’61. Grenville Cuyler ’60 directed. Using amateurs fulfilled the terms of the grant from the Producers Fund, which stipulated that the production could not employ more than one professional in any capacity, on stage or off.

The satirical musical focused on the field of psychology’s outlook on love. One viewer wrote of “Mother Loves Me,” “it is hard not to point out a number of particular flaws, but it is a great deal more difficult to explain the sheer and wonderful delight felt by the audience throughout the performance.” The production was a success and nearly sold out, making it possible for Gesner to keep a share of $50.68 from the profits after putting the requisite $352.01 into the Producers Fund. Though this wasn’t the main catalyst for Gesner’s fame, he did ultimately become a highly successful composer. He is best known today for the Broadway play, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” which was nominated for a Grammy in 1968. He also wrote and composed for a handful of television programs, including Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, and The Electric Company.

 

Sources:

Clark Gesner Papers (C1163)

General Princeton Theater Collection (AC385)

Daily Princetonian

Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students Records (AC136)

Triangle Club Records (AC122)

Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC199)

“Climates of the Past”

These days, most Americans think of PBS when they think of educational television, but in the 1950s, viewers expected commercial networks to offer this sort of programming. In 1952, New York’s WNBT (NBC) offered Princeton University a grant for faculty to develop a variety of shows in their areas of expertise suitable for a mass audience. Yale, Brown, Rutgers, Columbia, NYU, and Georgetown were all already involved in similar endeavors. By 1954, 84 colleges and universities were involved in creating educational television. Some even offered college credit to viewers.

Princeton was ready to go on the air in 1954. The series, Princeton ’54, was only shown in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region, but the program was successful enough that NBC decided to show its successor, Princeton ’55, throughout the eastern United States, in a covetable Sunday afternoon time slot. The series was meant to appeal to diverse interests, opening with “Communists, and Who They Are” with Prof. Gabriel A. Almond (Woodrow Wilson School) on January 2, 1955, and drawing upon faculty in English, music, the Creative Arts Program, and geology, among others for its 13-episdode season.

Erling_Dorf_FAC28_photo_by_Orren_Jack_Turner

Erling Dorf, ca. 1950s. Photo by Orren Jack Turner. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC059), Box FAC28.

Today, we’re sharing the program that aired sixty years ago today, on February 6, 1955. Geology professor Erling Dorf presented “Climates of the Past,” asserting that the Earth was going through a period of warming within an epoch of cooling.

Princeton followed up with a third and final season, Princeton ’56, the following year.

“Princeton: A Search for Answers,” 1973

During a morning session of the President’s Conference in the early 1970s, a member of the student panel told the assembled alumni that she had come to Princeton “not to find a way of making a living, but instead to find a way of making a life.” Filmmakers Julian Krainin and DeWitt Sage used this statement in their proposal in 1972 for a new recruitment film for Princeton University. “It seems that it should be the responsibility of a great university not so much to answer the question of how to “make a life,” but to present the student with at least the tools and courage with which he or she might discover the answer.”

The resulting film Princeton: A Search for Answers won an Oscar  in 1974 for Documentary Short Subject. Film producer and director Joshua Logan ’31, who had started his stage writing and directing career in Princeton’s Triangle Club, was one of the first to see it. “I not only believe that it is a moving, funny, and stimulating account of a University I once knew but had almost forgotten,”  he wrote to his fellow members of the Academy. “It tells about the gleam that flits across the human mind and gives us all something to hope for, to live for. It makes the human race quite a bit more respectable then (sic) we have recently thought it to be.” The film which has recently been remastered (2013) is featured here.

In order to write the film treatment and script, Dewitt Sage spent several months on campus, attending classes and seminars, and talking with students, faculty and staff. Once the film treatment was approved, Julian Krainin took over to supervise the actual camera work. During 1972 and early 1973 fourteen and a half hours of 16mm color footage was shot for the thirty minute film. The outtakes are kept in the University Archives. To accompany the film, the Office of Communications produced a handsome brochure with quotes and information about the faculty featured (see SearchForAnswers.pdf).

As already suggested by the title, the film’s main emphasis is on education, scholarship, and student-instructor relations. The film includes footage of tutorials and lectures by physics professor and Dean of the Faculty Aaron Lemonick (1:50, 9:11), and professors Edward Cone (Music, 3:01, 29:48), John Wheeler (Physics 7:05), Daniel Seltzer (English, 12:39), and Ann Douglas Wood (English, 25:02). Wheeler is filmed during a lecture about the implications of black holes (he is credited with coining the phrase in 1967), while Dan Seltzer teaches a Shakespeare acting class and lectures about Henry IV (Part 2). Additional footage features Princeton president William Bowen during a question and answer session with alumni and undergraduates (9:55, 26:11, 27:49) and the work of two graduate students: Niall O’Murchadha (Physics, 5:10, 26:51) and Maury Wolfe (Architecture, 16:11).

Produced only a few years after the introduction of co-education in 1969, at a time when diversification of the student body was a priority for Princeton, women and African American students feature prominently in campus scenes (9:40, 20:56, 24:36) and in the class rooms. There is little emphasis in the film on extracurricular activities. In addition to footage of the Glee Club singing Bach in Alexander Hall (directed by Professor of Music Walter Nollner, 17:47), sport scenes are limited to marathon running and rowing (23:25). Additional footage includes students sharing their views of Princeton in a pub (19:45, the legal drinking age was still eighteen!) Some historical photographs and footage is shown at 22:27, including a fragment of a chemistry lecture by the famous Hubert Alyea (previously featured) and the Triangle Club.

Continue reading

Triangle’s “All in Favor”, 1948-1949

It is always difficult to watch silent films of early Triangle shows, which are as famous for their music and witty lyrics as for the all male kicklines (read our previous blog for an introduction). Even without sound, however, the films of All In Favor are still a visual treat. Footage of the performance, a dazzling display of virtuosity and color, is alternated with dressing rooms scenes, displaying the fun of stockings, wigs, and long flowing skirts.

All in Favor, is, in Triangle’s own words, a “fast-moving musical comedy satire on American politics, its methods and madness,” set in a little town in Indiana in the 1920s, where a mayor is running for reelection with the help of  his “non-too-honest” campaign manager. His opponent is the reform candidate widow Dawes, whose daughter dates a Princeton student  (a summary of the story, taken from the press release, can be found in the Daily Princetonian). The script was written by Triangle president Francis S. Hartley ’50 (pictured at 0:16), vice-president Thomas H. Middleton ’48, secretary Kennedy Williams ’48 and Edward H. Tuck ’49.

HenryFonda_JamesNeely.jpgThe first of the two films, which includes excerpts from Act I, opens with preparations prior to the show, including dressing room scenes and orchestra practice (0:18-2:10). Although some of the footage on the stage includes singing and acting, the two films merely capture the 16-man Triangle chorus, performing specialty dances and production numbers created by choreographer Morgan Lewis. In Act I this includes the Can-Can shown at 4:42. The photo at the right, which was found in the Triangle Club Records, shows film star Henry Fonda, adjusting the garter of chorus leader James C. Neely ’48. Although Fonda attended one of Triangle’s rehearsals, he is not included in the films featured here.

The film ends with the minstrel show at the mayor’s campaign rally (7:38), a particular novelty that received a lot of attention.

The second film, which captures Act II of the performance, opens with a member of the chorus (a “chorine”) pulling on stockings, which is followed by a prisoner escape (0:27) and chorines dancing the Charleston (1:24). A traditional ballet, preceded by another dress-up scene, is shown at 3:40. When the curtain falls, the casts sings the Princeton alma mater “Old Nassau” (7:17).

Existing photographs of the performance did not allow us to identify individual actors and chorus members. If anyone is able to add names to the faces on these films, please comment on this blog!

These 16mm films are part of the Triangle Club Records at the Princeton University Archives (box 177).  Mudd Library is thankful for the support that the Triangle Alumni Board provided for digitizing these films and unlocking their contents.

Princeton’s last class film: Freddie Fox’ Class of 1939

Although we have a fairly good idea about the class films of the 1920s, there is virtually no information about the class films of the 1930s. The exception is the film of the Class of 1939. That is probably not an accident: it was the class of previously featured Frederic Fox ’39, who was the first and only keeper of Princetoniana from 1976 until his untimely death in 1981. The 16mm film in the archives turned out not to be the two hour long film that was announced in the Daily Princetonian on May 1938, and it sadly also lacks the sound that was supposed to have been a major innovation. How much the ultimate film ‘shattered precedents’ by depicting ‘intimacies during campus years’ as the Prince announced in March 1938, we may never know. But one thing is clear: the Class of 1939 had a lot of fun that included women and beer.

 

The footage is in chronological order, starting with freshmen football practice during days, nights, and in the snow. After this, athletics (always emphasized in previous class films) get very little attention: only football and rowing are featured without any identifications, other than a Yale-Princeton game (6:49). The freshmen scenes continue with footage about the Veterans of Future Wars (VFW) (1:50), founded in March 1936 by members of the Class of 1936 and 1937, which became one of the most famous college pranks in the country. The footage is part of a newsreel of March of the Times, which can be viewed online (with sound!). The three “likely pieces of cannon fodder” (shown at 2:19 in the chairs), who came up with the idea, are  Lewis J. Gorin ’36, “National Commander” (middle), Urban Rushton ’36 (left), and probably Richard Waters ’36 (right). According to 1939’s class history in the Nassau Herald, it was the “main event” of the second term that year, and the movement received the freshmen’s “whole-hearted backing.” The records of the Veterans of Future Wars are kept in the University Archives.

FoxHayesx.jpgThe Triangle Club gets quite some attention in the class film, which is understandable: Fred Fox ’39, Mark Hayes ’39 and Sanders (“Sandy”) Maxwell ’39 were involved in three productions, the first two as actors (Hayes played Mandy Magnum in previously featured Take it Away) while Maxwell contributed music. The footage shows scenes from Fol-de-Rol, Triangle’s production for 1937-1938, including chorines dancing (7:20) and Mark Hayes singing with Fred Fox, who had a leading roll as King Charles II (8:33). It is not possible to determine if the party scene with whiskey and bear that follows is related (8:43). Triangle’s 50th anniversary production Once Over Lightly, in which Hayes and Fox both played leading roles (Sandy Maxwell, Triangle’s director, contributed most of the music), is featured at 16:18. It is not known who the man and woman are who are presented with a gift by Fred Fox at 16:32.
The footage following the first Triangle show is thought to capture the Junior Prom on March 18; 1938, with music by the swing band of trumpeter Larry Clinton (11:14). The prom was attended by 606 girls (all listed by name in the Daily Prince). promcrasherx.jpgFunnily enough, the one junior student who is shown alone among the dancing couples is Fred Fox (at 10:49 with bow tie and glasses), who was voted ‘most likely bachelor’ in his senior year. In an article in the Prince 35 years later, Fox explains that he probably got the vote because he never had a date until his senior year, when he shared one with his roommate. More scenes with girls are shown at 5:37 (presumably watching a rowing regatta), as well as at 11:52 and  at the senior house parties (21:51).
Remaining footage shown must have been shot at the ROTC training camp at Madison Barracks, NY, in the summer of 1938, at the end of the Junior year (13:10). SandyMaxwellx.jpgSimilar footage is featured in our previous blog, which may even have been shot on the same occasion. The footage at 11:59 shows J.C. Hurdman ’39 at the microphone and Sandy Maxwell at the piano during a WTNJ radio broadcast of “Princeton On The Air,” featured in the Prince. The film ends with brief footage of the Commencement.

It is not known why the class film ended up in the University Archives without sound. The original idea to have a two-hour film with sound seems to have been too ambitious: on June 7, 1939 the Prince announced that the senior class film was delayed by audio editing. The final result, to be premiered at the Class’ first reunion, would only be 1000 feet long, due to the extensive costs of the sound track. The Prince‘s description of the final film, which would also include some added campus scenes in color, is very different than the footage that is featured here. What happened? Did the sound track get lost? Or could this be the footage that was excluded from in the final film? If anybody could explain the mystery, we would love to hear it!

This 16mm silent film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 0199)

What happened to Princeton’s silent movies?

ArthurPenrose.jpg Filming of the comedy “Arthur Penrose” (1923)  (Photo The Princeton Bric-a-Brac,1925)

It started at Yale
On February 19, 1920 the Daily Princetonian announced Yale’s decision to record important campus events on film, to be kept by the classes and used for reunions. By the end of that year, according to the Prince, Princeton’s Class of 1921 had established a “fund by which a class motion picture could be taken, including scenes which might prove to be of interest to the Class in later years.” The film of its graduation weekend in June 1921, featured in our first post, must have been the result. Following the example, the Class of 1922 appointed a Motion Picture Committee at the beginning of its senior year to coordinate its own class and football films, thus starting a tradition  that lasted through the 1930s. Only a few class films have survived in the University Archives. What happened to the others? Do we know what was lost? A recently discovered box of records of the Graduate Council, part of the yet unprocessed Records of the Alumni Organizations provides some answers.
Champions1922y.jpgRenting a film from the Graduate Council

The box contains correspondence (1921-1950) about Princeton’s class and football films, which were the property of the classes. They were kept by the Graduate Council on their behalf, which rented the football films to alumni groups around the country. The records include detailed handwritten and typescript lists, drawn up in 1931, of seventy silent movies, usually one to three reels long. The summaries and lists of the film captions or “titles” that were used give a good idea of the contents of Princeton’s films of the 1920s (lists of the class films of the 1930s are lacking). A few films were listed as property of the Graduate Council itself: some unidentified (presumably early) football games, the short lived Arthur Penrose (1923), a comedy produced by film enthusiast Stas Azoy ’14, who seems to have been in charge of the films at the time, and the University’s very first promotion film Princeton (1921). This five-reel film (85 minutes), which was revised three times and renamed Just Princeton and Princeton: a ‘National University,‘ was rented to high schools and other interested groups until 1926, when it was considered outdated (most of the footage was apparently seven years old). The silent movie, which was initially meant to be accompanied by Princeton songs and music, has not survived, but the list of captions in the film provides a detailed account of the scenes (see Princeton film.pdf).

The class films of the 1920s

After the Class of 1922’s appointment of a Motion Picture Committee  to ensure a memento of its senior year, all classes followed suit. On November 3, 1922 the Prince announced the merger of the four class committees into one central body with representatives from all four classes. It would film campus events of interest to all, so that each class would have a complete four-year record, ending with its commencement. The first films taken under the new management were shown in the Garden Theater on December 7, 1922. They included the Class of 1926’s “Flour Picture” (a hazing ritual in which sophomores dumped flour and water on freshmen prior to their first class picture) and the football victory over Yale and championship celebration in November.

inventoryPYgame1926.jpgThe annual flour picture would only be filmed a few more years, as the tradition was discontinued after 1925. But the major football games continued to be filmed in the fall. The football films, which were most popular among alumni groups, took up half of the collection of the Graduate Council. They were the property of the class in whose senior year they were taken. The football films for 1926, for instance, were the property of the Class of 1927 (left). The majority of the remaining class films were shot during spring and Commencement. The spring films usually featured committees and groups, campus scenes and sports. Sometimes the footage included small skits. In addition to these films, the Graduate Council’s lists include a few films of rowing, baseball, and other sports, as well as some early reunion films.

Continue reading