Dear Mr. Mudd: Have Orange and Black Always Been Princeton’s Colors?

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Have orange and black always been Princeton’s colors?

There were no official school colors at the College of New Jersey (better known simply as “Princeton” as early as 1756) until it assumed the name Princeton University in 1896. Students complained about this in the June 1867 Nassau Literary Magazine, then the baseball team wore orange badges with black lettering in a baseball game that month. George Ward, Class of 1869, had suggested orange in honor of William of Orange and of Nassau, for whom Nassau Hall is named.

As can be seen in this 1889 menu for the Class of 1879’s tenth reunion dinner, the cannon was a longstanding symbol of Princeton and one that predates other symbols. In part, the cannon contributed the black in the orange and black color scheme eventually adopted (more information below). Woodrow Wilson Collection (MC168), Box 44, Folder 4.

The colors of William of Orange were orange and blue, and orange and black came about largely through repetition more than intent. In fact, the 1874 baseball uniforms had orange trimming against a “greyish blue,” perhaps reflective of the original orange and blue color scheme for the House of Nassau. Yet it seems unlikely that with blue’s already-close association with Yale that it would have achieved much popularity for Princetonians, who hoped to show their school pride by bearing their team colors at sporting events. A sea of blue on both sides would have been counterproductive.

Poster advertising the Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving Day football game, November 26, 1891. Office of Athletic Communication Records.

Faculty approved the wearing of orange ribbons with “Princeton” printed on them in black ink to represent the College of New Jersey on October 12, 1868. Students in the regatta at Saratoga, New York in 1874 wore orange and black ribbons on their hats, which had been purchased by William Libbey of the Class of 1877. Libbey popularized the wearing of the orange and black on campus.

Sample of orange and black ribbon purchased by William Libbey in 1873 (note the orange has faded somewhat over time). Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 391, Folder 1.

Rumors circulated at Rutgers that they should not choose orange and black as their colors because those colors belonged to Princeton, though this had not officially been set. In 1876, Princeton’s football team wore black jerseys with an orange “P” on the chest in their game against Yale. By the end of the 1870s, orange and black were understood to be Princeton’s colors, but this was not official until 1896, when the Board of Trustees adopted orange and black as the colors of the gowns for Princeton University as they changed the name of the institution. At the time, some were advocating that the colors be changed to orange and blue to reflect the historical significance of the pairing as the original colors of House of Nassau, but this did not win the day. By that time, Princeton was closely associated with three symbols–the tiger, the cannon, and the tiger lily–all of which had black in their color schemes.

Example of the tiger lily as a symbol of Princeton from the program for the Yale-Princeton polo game, June 18, 1892. Scrapbook Collection (AC026), Box 194. Another, late 20th-century example can be seen on our Tumblr page.

Though the tiger gradually edged out the tiger lily and the cannon as the most popular mascot, Princeton’s orange also drifted away from what one would normally see in the coloring of a large cat. In 1960, the Trustees adopted an official shade of orange, to be known as “Princeton Orange, a far brighter one than an actual tiger’s fur.

Sources:

Board of Trustees Records (AC120)

Historical Subject Files (AC109)

Papers of Princeton

For further reading:

Armstrong, April C. “When Did the College of New Jersey Change to Princeton University?

Cleeton, Christa. “Which Came First? The Tiger or His Stripes?

Linke, Dan. “When Did People Start Referring to the College of New Jersey as Princeton?

Dear Mr. Mudd: Did Thich Nhat Hanh Attend or Teach at Princeton University?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

I’ve read that Thich Nhat Hanh was a Princeton student, and also that he taught there. Do you have records associated with this?

In Fragrant Palm Leaves, set for re-release in 2020, prominent Buddist peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh wrote about his time in Princeton, New Jersey in the 1960s. The way he wrote, and subsequently spoke, about this time has raised questions about what he was doing in town, such as whether he taught, studied, or both, and whether that was at Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) or Princeton University. These are separate institutions and always have been, but their names and close relationship have often caused confusion.

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Alexander Hall, ca. 1843. Image courtesy Princeton Theological Seminary Archives.

We have located no records associated with him ever having been a student or faculty member at Princeton University. However, he is listed as a student at PTS in their 1961-1963 Handbook. At that time, he was using the name Nguyen Xuan Bao. You can find the Handbook online in two parts:

You can also find a photograph of him with other PTS students in this magazine article.

Though not a student at Princeton University, he could have taken courses here while a PTS student, as many PTS students have done throughout history and still do today. In 1961 the University hired a specialist in Buddhism to offer some new courses, Kenneth S. Chen, which expanded the department’s offerings in courses concerning Eastern religions, which might have made it more likely for Hanh to have been on campus. He could also, potentially, have worked as a preceptor. Aside from this, he may have interacted with Princeton University students socially. Fragrant Palm Leaves contains references to a Japanese student named Kenji. This may have been Princeton University graduate student Kenji Kobayashi *61.

Dear Mr. Mudd: What Information Do You Have about Michelle Obama’s Time at Princeton?

By Christa Cleeton with April C. Armstrong *14 and Dan Linke

Dear Mr. Mudd,

What do you have in your collections about Michelle Obama?
There is not that much information available, but we do have some material. Michelle Obama–then named Michelle LaVaughn Robinson–graduated from Princeton University with the Class of 1985.
Nassau Herald entry of Michelle Robinson

Nassau Herald (senior yearbook) entry for Michelle LaVaughn Robinson ’85.

The University Archives holds her thesis, Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community. When normal operations resume for Mudd Library, visitors can read this thesis in the reading room after submitting a request through the Princeton University Catalog using their research accounts. Anyone can also read it online via Politico.
The alumni records of undergraduates from Princeton during this time are broken into two categories, which we refer to in shorthand as “public” and “academic” files. The public files (Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC199)) consist of material compiled by the Bureau of Alumni Information on individual graduates. Material in each file varies greatly but most include the names of relatives, notable achievements at Princeton as well as post-graduation, news items, address updates, and obituaries. These files are generally open pending review. The academic files (Undergraduate Academic Records (AC198)) contain applications, transcripts, and other information relating to the subject’s academic career while at Princeton and therefore are closed–even to the students themselves–during their lifetimes. You can find a full description of the access policy for University Archives material on the Special Collections website.
Obama’s public file reveals that she was involved in the Center-Stage Production of The Wiz as a makeup designer. She was also involved in some fundraising fashion shows, including “A Parade of Fashion” and “Secret Fantasy.” A few related articles are in the Daily Princetonian and Princeton Weekly Bulletin, which have been digitized in the Papers of Princeton database.
fashionshowphotoObama1

Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

In the database, one can also find a few references to Obama’s role as a member-at-large of the Governance Board of the Third World Center (now the Carl Fields Center), to which she was elected in 1983, and to her membership on the Undergraduate Student Government’s Standing Committee on Race Relations.

The University Archives has two photos of Obama located in Princeton’s yearbooks: The Freshman Herald (below) and The Nassau Herald (top of this post).

Freshman Herald entry

Freshman Herald entry for Michelle L. Robinson ’85, 1981.

Last year, student employee Iliyah Coles ’22 found another photo that appears to be of Obama in the May 7, 1984 issue of The Vigil alongside Joey Harris ’85. The Vigil was the newsletter of Princeton University’s Third World Center (now the Carl Fields Center). The caption that accompanied the photograph congratulated Harris on his election as chair of the Center’s Governance Board.

Photo from The Vigil, May 7, 1984.

The Vigil is found in the Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364).

There are a few other photos of Obama you may have seen online that she has shared herself, one of her in front of Firestone Library on her Instagram page and another of her near a dorm publicized through various media outlets. These are not held within our collections.

Dear Mr. Mudd: War, Epidemics, and Suspended Classes at Princeton

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Has Princeton University ever had to close the campus before? Or have a lot of students been displaced and had to leave and/or study at home for some other reason in the past?

A. In 2020, Princeton University suspended residential instruction after Spring Break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was probably the first time anyone within the Princeton community could remember something much like this happening, but within the full history of Princeton, it was not unprecedented. Due to war or epidemic, Princeton has ceased normal operations several times.


1776-1777: Revolutionary War

The earliest records we have found related to students leaving campus because of a threat are from 1776. On November 29, 1776, John Witherspoon called the students of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) together to formally dismiss them so they could flee the rapidly approaching British army. Taking only what they could carry with them and leaving the rest to become spoils of war, the students said good-bye to one another and left campus.

Nassau Hall, New American Magazine, 1760. Nassau Hall Iconography Collection (AC177), Box 1.

 


1832: Cholera

The first illness to have caused campus to close that we know of was a global cholera pandemic. Classes ended early and Commencement was called off. The Board of Trustees recorded this in their minutes for their September 25, 1832 meeting:

Excerpt from the Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), September 25, 1832. (See transcript below.) Board of Trustees Records (A120), Volume 3.

The Committee appointed to attend the examination of the Senior Class Reported, that by reason of the alarm occasioned by the threatened approach of Pestilence, it became impossible to keep any of the College Classes together, in consequence of which the examination was omitted.

The minutes of the Faculty for August 7, 1832 and September 12, 1832 give more details of what happened:

Excerpt from the Minutes of the Faculty of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), Summer Session 1832 (see transcript below). Office of the Dean of the Faculty Records (AC118), Volume 3.

[August 7]

Agreeably to a resolution of the Faculty a printed letter was sent to the parents & guardians of the students informing them that, in consequence of the dispersion of nearly all the students, the Exercises of College have been suspended, & that, whenever it shall be deemed to be safe & expedient for the students to return, due notice will be given.

 

[September 12]

By order of the Faculty, letters were sent to the parents & guardians of the students, giving them notice that the next session of College will commence on Thursday the 11th of October next.

Degrees were awarded to the Class of 1832 in absentia.


1861-1865: Civil War

We’ve previously told you about the significant number of students who left Princeton in 1861 after the outbreak of the Civil War. Although classes were still being offered on campus, some students, like Josias Hawkins of the Class of 1861, had to complete their degrees at home.


1871: Smallpox

Panic among parents after a student was diagnosed with smallpox in 1871 promoted James McCosh to end the school year two weeks early. The Nassau Literary Review observed

Everybody feared, or pretended to fear everybody else, and ‘vaccination’ and ‘small pox’ were the principal topics.


1880: Typhoid

In 1880, a typhoid (“enteric fever”) epidemic killed 10 (out of the total 473) students at Princeton, which among other things meant that the semester ended a few weeks early. From April through July, about 40 Princeton residents fell ill with what public health officials later deemed to have been typhoid. The cause was apparently a combination of contaminated well water and improper drainage of sewage from campus buildings and boarding houses.


1916: Polio

The start of classes was delayed until October 10 in 1916 in an effort to curb a particularly deadly polio epidemic. Five days after the late start of classes, a 17-year-old freshman who had entered that week as part of the class of 1920, Eric Brünnow, died of polio. This was the only case of polio among student body and among the families of faculty and staff. Although the infirmary’s physicians traced the point of infection to Brünnow’s travels that summer (including a trip to New York), rather than having been contracted locally, the campus naturally felt a strong sense of alarm.The Princeton Alumni Weekly attributed a drop in freshman enrollment, down 14% from the previous year, to widespread concerns about the polio epidemic.


1970: Vietnam War

In 1970, following the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, the University suspended final exams in May as part of an overall university protest strike, and students were allowed to complete their work the following October.

A large group of people, some holding flags. In the foreground, a man is wearing a t-shirt with "STRIKE" written over a closed fist on the back.

Strike Rally at Princeton, May 1970. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP095, Image. No. 1942.

 


Though wars and epidemics have shut Princeton down several times over the past centuries, Princeton weathered others by significantly adjusting operations. Classes went on during the flu pandemics of 1918 and 1957 and World War I and World War II, but daily life on campus was radically different for those who were here then. In an institution with a history as long as ours, it is perhaps more surprising that significant disruptions have been as uncommon as they have been.

Sources:

Board of Trustees Records (AC120)

Fourth Annual Report of the Board of Health of the State of New Jersey, 1880. Camden: Sinnickson Chew, 1881.

Office of the Dean of the Faculty Records (AC118)

Papers of Princeton

 

For further reading:

Armstrong, April. “1957 Epidemics at Princeton.”

Armstrong, April C. “‘The Present Unsettled State of Our Country’: Princeton and the Civil War.”

Armstrong, April C. “The Year Princeton University Delayed the Start of Classes until October 10.”

Armstrong, April C. and Allie Lichterman. “Princeton University During World War II.”

Bernstein, Mark F. “Why Princeton Was Spared.” Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 17, 2008.

Shen, Spencer. “Princeton University During World War I.”

van Rossum, Helene. “The Princeton Strike, 1970.”

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.

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Dear Mr. Mudd: Who Was Princeton’s First Jewish Student?

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Who was the first Jewish student at Princeton?

A. An exhibit at the Historical Society of Princeton speculated that Albert Mordecai of the Class of 1863 was “very likely the first” Jewish student at the College of New Jersey (now named Princeton University). Although Mordecai might well have been the first Jewish student at Princeton, our records cannot offer a definitive confirmation.

Mordecai,_Albert_Class_of_1863_AC058_Box_MP20

Albert Mordecai, Class of 1863. Historical Photograph Collection, Alumni Photographs Series (AC058), Box MP20.

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Who Founded Princeton University?

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Who founded Princeton University? 

A. The founding of Princeton University is nearly as complex as the courses that have been and continue to be taught within its hallowed lecture halls. The College of New Jersey (as Princeton University was known until 1896) was a child of the Great Awakening, an institution born in opposition to the religious tenets that had ruled the colonial era.

The principles on which Princeton University was founded may be traced to the Log College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, founded by William Tennent in 1726. Tennent was a Presbyterian minister who, along with fellow evangelists Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies, and George Whitefield of England, preached and taught an approach to religion and life that was the very essence of the Great Awakening period. The seven founders of the College of New Jersey were all Presbyterians. Ebenezer Pemberton, a minister and a graduate of Harvard, was the only one of the seven who did not graduate from Yale. The remaining six were Jonathan Dickinson, Aaron Burr Sr., and John Pierson, who were ministers; William Smith, a lawyer; Peter Van Brugh Livingston, a merchant; and William Peartree Smith.

Log_college_location_1914_AC111_Box_MP062_Image_2402

Original location of Pennsylvania’s Log College (photo taken in 1914). Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP62, Image No. 2402.

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Dear Mr. Mudd: Whose Cannon Is It?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

My friend goes to Rutgers and keeps saying that the cannon in Cannon Green isn’t really Princeton’s. Whose cannon is it?

Cannon_Song_AC_056_Box_10

Princeton students have revered the “big cannon” on Cannon Green for close to two centuries. This version of the Princeton “Cannon Song,” as well as others, may be found in the Princeton Music Collection (AC056), Box 10.

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Dear Mr. Mudd: Princeton Theological Seminary

By Spencer Shen ’16

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Is Princeton Theological Seminary part of Princeton University?

Alexander Hall ca 1843 (1)

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Alexander Hall, ca. 1843. Image courtesy Princeton Theological Seminary Archives.

A. In short, no. The two are separate institutions. However, they enjoy a cooperative relationship that began in 1811. In 1810, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church judged that the College of New Jersey (Princeton) had grown too secular to train ministers and decided to establish a theological seminary. The following year, the trustees of the College approached the General Assembly to propose Princeton as the seminary’s location, giving birth to agreements below:

  • The trustees engage not to interfere in any way with the Assembly and its directors in carrying out the plan of the seminary adopted in 1810.
  • The trustees permit the Assembly to erect buildings necessary for the seminary on the College grounds.
  • The trustees engage to grant accommodations to the Assembly in their present buildings when desirable.
  • The trustees engage to receive such students as are sent by the Assembly and to endeavor to reduce the College expense.
  • The trustees undertake to receive moneys for investment, subject to the Assembly’s order.
  • The trustees grant to the seminary the use of the College library, subject to certain rules.
  • The trustees agree to help the Assembly to establish a preparatory school.
  • The Assembly is at liberty to remove at any time the seminary elsewhere, and the trustees promise to establish no professorship of theology in the College while the seminary shall remain at Princeton.
  • The trustees engage to use certain moneys in their hands chiefly according to the recommendation of the Assembly.

Other than this agreement, there has never been an organic connection between the two institutions.

On May 30, 1812, 31 directors of the Seminary were elected, including the Reverend Dr. Archibald Alexander of Philadelphia, who was soon elected professor of didactic and polemic theology on June 2. The seminary officially opened on August 12 with the inauguration of Dr. Alexander and the matriculation of three students.

Today, the Princeton Theological Seminary is one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world. In 2014-2015, 523 students from 20 countries were enrolled at the seminary, receiving instruction from 61 faculty members. Its libraries contain nearly 1.3 million items, which are also open to Princeton University students and faculty. Despite their separate identities, the Seminary and the University cooperate to enrich their academic and civic communities through the sharing of certain resources.

For further information concerning the Princeton Theological Seminary, please contact Kenneth Henke, Curator of Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library, P.O. Box 821, Princeton, NJ, 08542-0111. He can also be reached by email.

This post was originally written by Rosemary Switzer (2003) as an FAQ page on our old website. It has been revised and expanded here by Spencer Shen ’16 as part of the launch of our new website.

Related Sources:

Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109)

Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978. Also available online.

Moorhead, James H. Princeton Seminary in American Culture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.

Selden, William K. Princeton Theological Seminary: A Narrative History, 1812-1992. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Dear Mr. Mudd: Is the Institute for Advanced Study Part of Princeton University?

By Spencer Shen ’16

Q: Dear Mr. Mudd,

I’ve heard that Albert Einstein taught at Princeton University. Is this true?

A: Einstein was actually appointed to the Institute of Advanced Study, or the IAS, which is a distinct organization, but its proximity to the university and their intertwined histories has led some to think they are one and the same, but they are not.

Einstein 70 birthday

Albert Einstein’s 70th birthday celebration at the Institute for Advanced Study. Left to right: H. P. Robertson, E. Wigner, H. Weyl, K. Goedel, I. I. Rabi, A. Einstein, R. Ladenburg, J. R. Oppenheimer, and G. M. Clemence. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box MP3, Image No. 153.

Q: Is the IAS a separate university then?

A: No, while the Institute adopts some characteristics of a university and a research institute, it differs in significant ways from both.

The IAS is unlike a university in many ways. Its academic membership at any one time numbers slightly over a hundred, but it has no students and no formal curriculum or scheduled courses of instruction. The IAS also has no commitment to represent all branches of learning. Unlike a research institute, the IAS supports many separate fields of study, maintains no laboratories, and welcomes temporary members. The intellectual development and growth of these members is one of its principal purposes. The IAS is devoted to the encouragement, support, and patronage of learning, attracting mostly postdoctoral scholars and scientists who desire further opportunities for research.

Mr. Louis Bamberger and his sister, Mrs. Felix Fuld, founded the Institute in 1930. The first director of the IAS was Abraham Flexner, who was succeeded in 1939 by Frank Aydelotte. The famous atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer served the longest tenure of any director so far, succeeding Aydelotte in 1947 and stepping down in 1966, shortly before his death. The current director is Dutch mathematical physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf, who took the position in 2012.

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The Institute for Advanced Study, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD04, Image No. 8146.

While awaiting the construction of its first building, the IAS was originally housed in Princeton University’s Fine Hall, until the completion of Fuld Hall in 1939. Einstein, one of the original IAS faculty, had an office in Fine Hall starting in 1933 and was often seen walking on campus; this connects him in the minds of many with the university. However, the IAS soon developed its own institutional center on a square mile of beautiful wooded land at the southern edge of the town of Princeton, and Einstein spent the remainder of his life with an office there.

Q: Was Einstein a professor of physics at IAS?

A: Actually, Einstein belonged to the original School of Mathematics, whose members are pure mathematicians and mathematical physicists. There are currently four schools at the IAS: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Social Science. The School of Historical Studies was established in 1949 by merging the School of Economics and Politics and the School of Humanistic Studies. It embraces the application of historical methods to a range of academic fields, including international relations, Greek and Roman civilization, and history of art. The School of Natural Sciences emerged in the 1950s, accepting theoretical physicists, astrophysicists, and biologists. Most recently, the School of Social Science was added in 1973 to encourage a multi-disciplinary approach to the analysis of contemporary societies and social change.

Related Sources:

Historical Subject Files Collection, 1746-2005

Institute for Advanced Study’s official website

Leitch, Alexander. A Princeton Companion. (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978). Also available online.

This post was originally written by Rosemary Switzer (2003) as an FAQ page on our old website. It has been revised and expanded here by Spencer Shen ’16 as part of the launch of our new website.