Tracing Princeton’s Connections to Slavery through Intentional Serendipity

The Princeton and Slavery Symposium, a presentation of several years of “scholarly investigation of Princeton University’s historical engagement with the institution of slavery,” is scheduled for November 17-18, 2017. As we lead up to that date, we will be blogging about Mudd’s involvement in this larger project.

Last November, the University of Houston-Downtown Archives wrote about their staff’s annoyance at headlines about items “Found Buried in the Archives!” Articles like these often rub staff in archives the wrong way, because they render their ongoing efforts (necessary for scholars to uncover such material) invisible. Working day-to-day in the archives of a university, we often know a lot more about our institutions than we’re ever able to share in writing, leaving it to the researchers who visit us to record most of the stories that the materials we show them reveal. It is sometimes our jobs to tell the stories of our schools, but not always; even when it is, there will never be enough time for us to write them all down. My multi-page list of blogs-in-progress attests to this.

Even so, there are still discoveries made on a daily basis, “buried” materials or not. Not everything is easily found. My work at Mudd often highlights our collections from new angles and/or reveals forgotten stories about Princeton’s past. In order to do this, I keep records of what I discover in the course of my workday. Themes sometimes emerge and eventually become social media posts, blogs, or exhibit fodder as I transform the messy notes in my legal pads and Word documents and the connections in my head into more coherent pieces for public consumption. I also recruit my student assistants to help in this endeavor. Just as I do, they sometimes intentionally set out to tell a specific story, but we also write the stories that find us rather than vice versa. Our discoveries about Princeton’s connections to slavery reflect this kind of intentional serendipity (not quite the oxymoron it seems). The work of Mudd’s Public Services is both visible and invisible to the patrons who use our library. In today’s blog, I will reveal some of the invisible work that we do to support Princeton’s educational mission.

The first such item I want to highlight is one I uncovered in the course of collecting items for the weekly blog feature, “This Week in Princeton History.” The notice of a slave sale held on the Princeton campus in 1766 was worth including in this weekly roundup of events in mid-August 2015 in part because I had talked with students in the “Princeton and Slavery” course about their research and knew it was of interest to the public we serve. The professor for the course, Martha A. Sandweiss, referred to the slave sale in an article about her class that appeared in The Nation a few months later.

Clip from the Philadelphia Journal, August 14, 1766.

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“A Haven for Radicalism, Intolerance, and Lesbianism”: The Ongoing Struggle for an LGBTQ+-Inclusive Princeton

Mudd Library’s University Administrative Fellow for the fall 2016-2017 semester curated an online HistoryPin exhibit to document the history of minority sexualities at Princeton University. In this post, she provides broader context for the materials she chose to highlight.

By Ariana Natalie Myers GS

For much of its history, Princeton University students who experienced attraction toward their own gender kept it secret. Some alumni were later outed as homosexuals, such as Alan Turing ’38 (GS), famed World War II cryptographer who was the victim of brutal punishment by the British government once his sexuality was uncovered. Kirk LeMoyne Lem” Billings ’39, onetime roommate of President John F. Kennedy at Princeton and close associate of the Kennedy family, was outed by friends after his death in 1981.

Princeton University opened its doors to female undergraduates in 1969, and the first 130 women moved in for the fall semester. The decision-making process and its aftermath was fraught with controversy, with concerns ranging from the presumed “unproductivity” of female alumni to the costs of campus expansion to the anticipated loss of Princeton’s “unique charisma” and “manly dedication.” Many of those opposed to coeducation coalesced into the organization Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP). Proponents of coeducation argued that the proximity of women would decrease homosexuality. This latter position was tacitly supported by Dr. Louis E. Reik ‘33, University Director of Mental Health, and his associate Dr. Willard Dalrymple, Director of University Health Services, in an interview with the Daily Princetonian in 1966 in which Reik stated that a “tendency which was latent before might well be strengthened here” (on a single-gender campus). In a subsequent interview with Dr. Reik in 1969, he contradicted his prior statements and argued that coeducation would not have a notable effect on homosexuality, since he considered that it developed before the age students typically attended college.

Photo from Daily Princetonian.

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New Year’s Greetings

By Xinxian Cynthia Zheng GS

In the first post in this two-part series about a file of 72 “Chinese New Year cards” I found in the Princeton University Library Records (AC 123), I wrote about the Christmas and New Year’s greetings sent by sent by missionaries and non-profit organizations to Dr. Nancy Lee Swann (1881–1966), one of the first female scholars of Chinese history who served as the curator of Princeton’s East Asian Library between 1931 and 1948. In this post, I will examine how scholars who sent cards to Swann appealed to shared literacy in Chinese historical anecdotes between senders and recipients to strengthen ties among colleagues.

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Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Day in the “Chinese” Way

By Xinxian Cynthia Zheng GS

Recently, I found a file of 72 “Chinese New Year cards” in the Princeton University Library Records (AC 123). Looking through them, I saw that they were a syncretic fusion of Chinese and Western elements, rather than the kind of Chinese New Year cards I usually receive from friends now. Dated between 1935 and 1942, many of these “Chinese” cards came from non-Chinese Westerners—some were book collectors and art connoisseurs, while others were individuals with non-profit organizations. They were sent to Dr. Nancy Lee Swann (1881–1966), one of the first female scholars of Chinese history who served as the curator of what became Princeton’s East Asian Library between 1931 and 1948.

Intriguingly, the existence of these “Chinese” cards suggests Chinese elements became part of the consumption culture of celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Day for some in the Americas. Beginning in the nineteenth century, people increasingly romanticized the two religious festivals and made them the rites of selling and buying, as Leigh Schmidt has detailed in Consumer Rites. Just as individual tastes varied in Christmas shopping, these “Chinese” cards also show significant diversity. They came in various sizes, ranging from a greeting on letter size paper to a small card of 5 × 2.75 inches. The cards employed metaphors from Chinese arts and classics in the personalized envelopes, cover illustrations, and greeting messages. Depending on the social context and the sender’s relationship with the recipient, individual authors used elements of Chinese culture as tools to socialize with colleagues, pay respect to friends, convey messages of religious teaching, send off encouragement and good wishes, and reinforce the effect of fundraising. This blog post is the first in a two-part series about these cards. Here, the focus is on cards blending Eastern and Western themes in cards from religious groups and non-profit organizations. Next month, I will highlight the imagery Chinese scholars used in corresponding with Princeton’s librarian.

Because many senders were corresponding overseas from China, their envelopes often presented combinations of Chinese and English, which may appear exotic to our audience today. As the envelope below shows on the front, the staff of the National Committee of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Shanghai used a five-sent stamp issued by the Chinese Post Office in memory of Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China. On the back of the envelope, the sender rendered the return address in Shanghai in both Chinese and English.

Because many senders were corresponding overseas from China, their envelopes often presented combinations of Chinese and English. As the envelope above shows on the front, the staff of the National Committee of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Shanghai used a five-sent stamp issued by the Chinese Post Office in memory of Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China. On the back of the envelope, the sender rendered the return address in Shanghai in both Chinese and English.

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A Lotta Kicks: 125 Years of the Triangle Club

By Jessica Serrao

Join us at the Mudd Library as we celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Princeton University’s Triangle Club with an exhibit featuring archival materials from the Triangle Club Records housed in the University Archives. The exhibit walks you through some highlights from the past century and a quarter bringing to light the extensive history of this Princeton standard. Playbills, photographs, sheet music, memorabilia, travel plans, costume sketches, and, of course, punny titles, can all be found in this exhibit, and to a much greater degree in the Triangle Club Records.

The history of the Triangle Club is long and involved, but it’s still kicking today. During the mid-nineteenth century, dramatics at Princeton began in fits and starts as it struggled to take hold within a college steeped in Presbyterian morals. By 1883, religious views softened and Triangle Club’s predecessor formed as the Princeton College Dramatic Association (PCDA). “David Garrick” was PCDA’s first production held May 10, 1883. By 1891, PCDA had joined forces with the University Glee Club to stage its first musical performance, “Po-ca-hon-tas.” It was so successful, it was performed again the next year with revisions.

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Some of the cast of “Po-ca-hon-tas,” 1891. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 93.

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Electing an American President

With the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections just around the corner, we’ve been having fun answering the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s #ElectionCollection challenges on Twitter. The timing also seemed right to put some of our elections-related memorabilia on display here at Mudd. Our lobby exhibit case now holds a variety of elections-related materials from diverse collections in the Princeton University Archives and the Public Policy Papers, with a date range spanning nearly a century from William McKinley’s 1896 campaign to Bill Clinton’s in 1992.

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William McKinley campaign badge, ca. 1896. Princeton University Library Records (AC123), Box 406.

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“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.”

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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.

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75th Anniversary Exhibition Celebrates Princeton’s Beloved WPRB Station

Princeton University’s radio station, WPRB, has for the most part been a frenetic hodgepodge where Beethoven plays alongside The Ramones and sports broadcasts back to back with national news. However, the radio station has also been the space where new bands get airplay, campus history is made, and revolutionary ideas are expressed without restraint. For 75 years, WPRB has facilitated creative and intellectual pursuits by serving as the delightful petri dish for the students that spin its turntables.

In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the exhibition “WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse” showcases the impact of the college radio station on the Princeton campus and the entire nation.

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Photo from 1947 Bric-a-Brac.

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Remembering the Atomic Bomb, 70 Years Later

In 2012, Hiroshima University gave Princeton University seven roof tiles that were damaged during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The details of the gift can be found here. Three years later, the tiles have been brought out into our lobby display case to mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb.

The roof tiles serve as a physical reminder of the devastation that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The roof tiles serve as a physical reminder of the devastation that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The scorched roof tiles are not the only items in the Mudd Manuscript Library that tell the story of the atomic bomb. Both the University Archives and the Public Policy Papers contain documents that detail the creation of the bomb and the attempts to reconcile the implications of its use. Continue reading

Vietnam War Exhibition Reveals Policy-making in Washington and in Princeton

Written by Rossy Mendez

The Vietnam War was one of America’s longest and most controversial wars.  Suits, Soldiers, and Hippies: The Vietnam War Abroad and at Princeton is a new exhibition at Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library that highlights the major events of the war such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tet Offensive, and the invasion of Cambodia, and focuses on how these events affected government policy and American society at large. More than a mere narrative of events, the exhibition reveals the perspectives of the individuals involved in the war including policy makers, soldiers, and every day citizens.

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Demonstration outside Nassau Hall, circa 1967. Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection, Box 26.

The documents and objects in the exhibition are drawn from the Public Policy Papers and the University Archives at the Mudd Manuscript Library and range from transcripts of the private conversations of presidents and policy-makers to widely-distributed magazine articles and pamphlets. At the national scale, the records demonstrate that the war affected not only those who were fighting in the jungles and swamplands of the Mekong Delta but also those living on the home front. The range of objects takes us from the Oval Office to lively protests on America’s campuses.

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President Johnson and George W. Ball in the Oval Office, undated. George W. Ball Papers, Box 200.

On the local scale, the exhibition, Suits, Soldiers, and Hippies provides insight into the reaction of the Princeton University community. Photographs and letters among other documents highlight campus events such as the SDS occupation of the IDA, the Princeton Strike, and the 1970 commencement ceremony, and reveal how the war sparked unrest but also fostered collaboration between the administration and the student body that induced change at both the institutional and national level.

Suits, Soldiers, and Hippies: The Vietnam War Abroad and at Princeton is free and open to the public in the Wiess Lounge at the Mudd Manuscript Library, 65 Olden Street, until June 5, 2015. The exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, call 609-258-6345 or email Mudd Library.