Bicycles are seemingly ubiquitous at and around Princeton University in our time. The ever-present sight of bicycles parked near campus buildings or cyclists making their way across campus or along the D & R Canal raises no eyebrows; their absence, as with the absence of other forms of traffic, was one of the most noteworthy aspects of local life during the COVID-19 shutdown of 2020. Yet there was once a Princeton where bicycles were unknown, and their appearance presented a concerning novelty.
By Justin Feil
In honor of the first men’s basketball home game tonight, we pay homage to one of the Tiger court’s greatest. It was big news when Brian Taylor ‘84 (originally Class of 1973) chose to play basketball for Princeton University. It was bigger news when he became the first Princeton player, and one of the first college players ever, to leave early for the pros three years later.
Criticized heavily for the move, the 6-foot-3 guard went on to play 10 years in the American Basketball Association and National Basketball Association before returning to Princeton to finish his degree. He then started working in business before moving into education as a teacher and administrator. Continue reading
By Cailin Hong ’17
With the women’s softball season underway, Mudd reflects on the team’s not-so-humble origins with a retrospective on Margaret Niemann Rost ’85, former co-captain and one of the team’s first members after the fledgling sport was promoted to varsity status. Rost was a religion major from Ridgewood, New Jersey, who played on both the varsity women’s basketball and softball teams before choosing to focus on softball her senior year. Rost played second base and during her time at Princeton led the team to incredible success, scoring wins against some of the top teams in the NCAA at Temple and University of Massachusetts, despite being a relatively new team and limited in practice dates by Ivy League regulations. As a multi-sport athlete on Princeton’s need-based scholarship, Rost was an example of the University’s commitment to supporting the nation’s brightest minds while promoting “education through athletics”. When asked about the challenges of being a varsity athlete and completing the academic capstone of the Princeton undergraduate experience, the senior thesis, Rost shrugged, “my roommate and I, who’s co-captain of the team, finished it [a 124-page analysis of the writings of Jewish author Chaim Potok] six weeks early so we could fully commit to enjoying the season.”
This recently digitized video highlights Rost’s timeless reflections on the challenges of senior year, balancing “going Independent” with a campus job, and the uncertainty of post-graduation plans. It was filmed just after Rost led the team to their third consecutive Ivy League Championship.
Broadcast Center Recordings (AC362)
Niemann, Margaret Ruth. “Varieties of Identities in the Writing of Chaim Potok.” 1985. Senior Thesis Collection (AC102).
In 1969, after several years of experiments integrating women into the classroom, Princeton University announced that it would become fully coeducational, admitting women to all of its degree programs. Female undergraduates brought many changes to Princeton traditions with them, but not all of these are present on the 21st-century campus. One new tradition from the 1970s and early 1980s lost to time was a new mascot: The Tigress.
Princeton University’s intense football rivalry with Yale is a longstanding tradition. The tiger has been challenging the bulldog on the gridiron for well over a century. The mascots have done figurative battle with one another about as much as the students have, a fight commemorated in song, line drawings, and magazine covers. In 1979, a group of four Princeton students took this rivalry a bit farther when they kidnapped Handsome Dan XII, Yale’s first female mascot.
Dan, also known as Bingo Osterweis, lived with Yale emeritus history professor Rolin Osterweis. It was common for the Yale cheerleaders to ask to borrow the dog for photographs, which the Princetonians—Mark Hallam ’80, Jamie Herbert ’81, Rod Shepard ’80, and Scott Thompson ’81—knew. Wanting to boost the morale of Princeton’s football team, they came up with a plan to take Dan. They posed as Yale cheerleaders and approached Osterweis to ask if they could take her for an hour to pose for pictures in a football program. Osterweis later described the students as “ingenious.” Fully convinced that he was dealing with Yale cheerleaders, Osterweis handed Dan over to her kidnappers, along with a leash and some dog biscuits.
Rather than returning Dan when the hour was up, the students instead called Osterweis from a payphone, telling the professor the dog was going to be out of town for a few days. Osterweis then thought to himself that it was most likely he was talking to Princeton students and warned them that they were “about to take stolen property over a state line” and he would have to report them to the police.
The kidnappers did not take Dan to Princeton right away, but instead holed up with her in a New York apartment in an effort to avoid both Connecticut and New Jersey police, finally bringing her to Princeton the following Friday. Osterweis did not report them to the local police, but only Yale authorities, explaining, “I was certain Princeton undergraduates would be kind to her. Most undergraduates, I suspect, are likely to be kinder to dogs than to their fellow undergraduates.”
While at Princeton, sometimes wearing an orange and black t-shirt, Dan visited the eating clubs and football practice, where she was greeted with enthusiasm. She spent the night at the home of Howard Menard ’36, emeritus dean of the School of Engineering, then went to Palmer Stadium for Princeton’s football match with Yale. During the first half of the game, she was in the refreshment booth, but at halftime, made an appearance on the field in a golf cart to the cheers of the crowd. Finally, Princeton’s own mascot carried Dan, who wore an orange and black scarf around her neck, to the waiting Yale cheerleaders.
Yale got its revenge on the field, beating Princeton 35-10. Afterward, Dan returned home to New Haven “happy and looking fat as a pig.” Osterweis said he assumed that she must have been fed everywhere she went.
Though the caper made the news across the region, it was not the first time a rival had stolen Handsome Dan. In 1934, Harvard took Handsome Dan II to Cambridge, where with a bit of hamburger they coaxed him to lick the boots of a statue of John Harvard. Mostly, however, Yale’s bulldogs have historically avoided capture.
New York Times
With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, our thoughts have turned toward the history of American football. We’ve repeated the fact several times: On November 6, 1869, the first intercollegiate football match ever was played on College Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, between the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and Rutgers College. Yet some dispute this. The game Princeton and Rutgers played that day looked a lot more like soccer than what we now know as American football. The ball was perfectly round, not the oval we use now. The teams had about 25 players each on the field, rather than 11. But even if this wasn’t “football” as we know football, without that game to attract the attention of other colleges, American football would probably have never gotten off the ground. Thus, we’ll still continue to say that the first intercollegiate American football game happened on November 6, 1869.
Questions might still remain, however. How did Princeton go from playing with approximately 25 men on the field chasing a round ball to playing with 11 men on the field chasing an oval ball?
After the admission of women in 1969, many aspects of student life at Princeton were transformed, including sports activities. The first changes happened in the area of physical education. After response to a questionnaire given to female students revealed high demand for women’s physical education, the Department of Athletics designated a women’s locker room in Dillon Gym complete with hair dryers. Women’s participation in physical education courses, however, was voluntary and limited to swimming and tennis. The changes to physical education had mixed reviews, but most male students responded favorably. One student reportedly stated that it was pleasant not to see hairy legs all the time.
In the fall of 1970, the university appointed Meredith Lee Dean as director for women’s physical education. Dean expanded the Department of Athletics offerings to include field hockey, dancing, and sailing. These physical education courses were co-ed, and female students often showed as much promise as their male classmates. The Daily Princetonian mentions one incident where the students selected a female student as the star quarterback of a co-ed touch football team.
Furthermore, women also informally participated in other sports activities. Janice F. Hill ’73, for example, had convinced the new freshman crew coach, John A. Rathschmidt to let her be a barge coxswain during the freshman crew practices.
One of the most dramatic changes to women’s participation in sports occurred during the fall of 1970: the University broke tradition and allowed women to battle each other in events at the annual Cane Spree. Centered around an odd cane wrestling match, the Cane Spree had long been a show of brawn for freshmen and sophomore men. This changed in 1970 when the University allowed freshman and sophomore women to compete in the same athletic matches as men.
Another significant change was the formalization of women’s sports teams. In the fall of 1971, the University created a women’s varsity intercollegiate sports program that allowed intramural teams to compete formally with other schools. The 1971 varsity teams included field hockey, which had already been played extensively in other colleges, as well as tennis, squash, and crew. Princetonian women quickly demonstrated that they were willing and able to compete; several newspapers, including a feature in the New York Times, discussed the achievements of the women’s crew and tennis teams.
Although the women’s lacrosse team had been playing since 1971, the university did not incorporate the team into the varsity league until the 1972-1973 season. The women’s field hockey and women’s lacrosse team shared many things: their coach Penny Hinckley, practice fields, and even some teammates. The team played its first game on April 26, 1973 against Westchester and suffered a 21-2 defeat. Among the early stars of the team was Emily Goodfellow ’76, who would win 12 letters for a variety of sports, and Louise Meledin’ 74, also a multiple letter winner and field hockey player.
The women’s lacrosse team finally acquired a coach of their own in 1978, when Hinckley accepted a position at Haverford College. The new coach, Betty Logan, taught a more offensive approach and led the team to their best records, including beating long-time opponent Penn State. She also significantly increased the performance of the team by hiring Sandy Hoody, a 1986 World cup goalie and member of the US national team, as an assistant coach.
The team’s major winning streaks occurred in the mid-90s under the direction of Coach Chris Sailer, a Harvard graduate, and a rookie coach. Sailer, who has been with the team nearly 30 years, was inducted into the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame in 2008 and has received many Coach of the Year awards. In 1993, the team won its first Ivy League championship and became the first Princeton women’s team to reach an NCAA final.
The following year the Tigers finished the job by beating Maryland 10-7 and becoming the first Princeton women’s team to win an NCAA Championship. The team retained its place as the Ivy League Champions until 1997, then regained the Ivy title in 2001 and kept it until 2005. The impressive wins of the team include 10 semi-finals and three championship games.
The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has recently processed the Women’s Lacrosse Records acquired from the Department of Athletics. The collection covers games and practices from 1975-2010 and includes a variety of records including clippings, statistics, and video recordings. Other items in the collection are handwritten notes from the team’s coaches, game programs and reports and issues of various sports and lacrosse publications.
Today’s blog is written by Mark F. Bernstein ’83, author of Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession (2001). A previous entry from him about Princeton football can be found here.
On March 17, 1989, in the opening round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Princeton University, seeded #16, faced national powerhouse Georgetown University, seeded #1 in the East Region. It was a classic David versus Goliath matchup. Since the tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a #16 seed has never defeated a #1 seed. There have been some close calls, but none closer than Georgetown’s narrow one point victory over Princeton.
Princeton, led by their famously colorful coach Pete Carril (left), was 19-8 overall, and as Ivy League champions had earned an automatic bid to the national tournament. They were a young team, with only one junior, Matt Lapin, and one senior, Ivy League Player of the Year and captain Bob Scrabis, on the roster. But, this was also a Princeton team that led the nation in defense, allowing only 53 points per game.
In the 1946-1947 academic year, Princeton celebrated its 200th anniversary with a series of convocations and events, ending with a concluding ceremony, captured in a newsreel, which included a convocation address by US President Harry Truman. Today’s blog features another newsreel about the University’s bicentennial year that focuses on “Charter Day,” October 19, 1946. In addition to Princeton’s almost 200-year old charter and the “largest procession in Princeton history” at the time (which included 23 honorary degrees recipients), the newsreel addresses the beginning of intercollegiate football, depicting a re-enactment of the first football game between Princeton and Rutgers from November 6, 1869 during halftime of the 1946 Princeton-Rutgers game.
Princeton’s charter, granted to the University on October 22, 1746 (then still known as the “College of New Jersey”) is shown fleetingly in the newsreel (0:38). Readers of our regular blog already know that the charter, on intermittent display during the celebration of Mudd Manuscript Library’s 50th anniversary, is actually not the original (which was lost) but the second charter, drawn up in 1748. (An explanation can be found in our Frequently Asked Questions.) The famous early picture of Nassau Hall that follows at 0:48 is the copper engraving by Philadelphia artist Henry Dawkins (copied from a drawing by Princeton student William Tennent, Class of 1758), which was printed in Samuel Blair’s Account of the College of New Jersey (1764). For more information about the engraver, who was also a counterfeiter of paper money, see Julie Mellby’s Graphic Arts blog.
Over 500 people comprised the academic procession that opened and closed the morning’s convocation, according to the Prince, including faculty, trustees, representatives of all alumni classes and members of the Undergraduate Council. The procession included an official delegation from the United Nations, headed by Secretary General Trygve Lie, and members from the State Bicentennial Commission, including Walter E. Edge, Governor of New Jersey. Lie (1:42) and Edge (2:11) were among the 23 honorary degree recipients, as were the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, the Spanish writer Salvador De Madariaga, and the French philosopher Jacques Maritain (2:21–not all recipients are clearly visible).
The last eight minutes of the newsreel are occupied by the 38th Rutgers-Princeton football game in the afternoon (2:47), with a humorous reenactment of the first Rutgers-Princeton game of November 6, 1869 (5:51), considered the ‘birth’ of intercollegiate football. A description of the football game and the reenactment by Theatre Intime and members of the Rutgers soccer team can be found in the Prince. A copy of the program notes about the 1869 football game, with an explanation of the rules, may be downloaded at Twenty-four Stalwart Men.pdf. A second article from the program, summarizing the history of the Princeton-Rutgers football rivalry, can be viewed at 77 Years Princeton-Rutgers.pdf. More information about early football can be found in Football: the Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession by Mark Bernstein ’83, who wrote our previous blog entry.
The footage on this 16mm film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (part of item no. 0092).