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.

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.

A Round Up of Princeton History for July 2-8 and Independence Day

The “Demystifying Mudd” series has been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. We hope we can bring it to you next week. In the meantime, here is a round up of tidbits we’ve collected over the past several years to highlight events in Princeton University history for July 2-8 and some more in-depth looks at the impact of the American War for Independence on the College of New Jersey (Princeton).

In 2015, we told you about the death of Jimmy Stewart ’32, students who returned after doing a good deed to find their rooms had been ransacked, and a professor who won an Olympic medal for shooting.

In 2016, we reported on the Princeton Blues beginning the “Cannon War” with Rutgers, George Whitefield’s visit to campus, and a program to train every student for war.

1910 postcard by Christie Whiteman. Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 4

In 2017, we showed you photos of the student who was the youngest person ever elected to a school board in the United States and a student who had a 20-game winning streak on Jeopardy.

If you’d like some in-depth stories appropriate to celebrate the American Independence Day, you might want to read about how Nassau Hall and the Rittenhouse Orrery were damaged in the Battle of Princeton. You might also be interested in learning more about how the cannons left behind have shaped Princeton’s traditions.

We look forward to demystifying ourselves soon. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday!

Princeton University’s 70 Books Project

By Rosalba Varallo Recchia

This post is part of a series on education and war related to our current exhibition, “Learning to Fight, Fighting to Learn: Education in Times of War,” on display through June 2018. Please stop by to learn more.

War can interrupt education as military training replaces traditional curricula. While away from campus, many soldiers, even those not pursuing a degree, turn to books for diversion or solace, as well as to increase their knowledge. By 1943, many Princeton students were leaving the University to join the U.S. military. Many of those serving were being stationed overseas.   Princeton University and its faculty members made an effort to send a Christmas packet to students abroad, hoping to provide intellectual stimulation along with recreation.

A special, personalized bookplate identified these pocket editions as gifts from Princeton University. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 415, Folder 6.

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What Archival Silence Conceals—and Reveals: Recovering Princeton University’s 19th-Century African American Graduate Alumni

Archival silences distort the past, shaping our current and future self-understanding, so preserving Princeton’s history sometimes means attempting to correct the work of our predecessors. My struggle to bring 19th and early 20th-century African American graduate alumni to light illustrates one way white supremacy of that era continues to influence us today. It also supports the argument that archives are not neutral, so researchers and archival staff must pay close attention to the ways archival work reflects the values of those who did the preserving and discarding.

In our Graduate Alumni Records collection, I found files for Irwin William Langston Roundtree, George Shippen Stark, and Leonard Zechariah Johnson, African Americans previously known to have received masters degrees from Princeton. Contents were sparse. Stark’s and Johnson’s consisted primarily of the evidence that they had paid fees and earned course credit. Roundtree’s file had no information about the classes he took, but included an obituary that indicated he was a longtime resident of Trenton.

(Click to enlarge.) Academic record of Leonard Zachariah Johnson, graduate class of 1904. Graduate Alumni Records (AC105).

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Nassau Lit Available Online

Founded in 1842, the Nassau Literary Review was the first student publication established at Princeton University. Thanks to a collaborative project between the Mudd Library and Princeton University Library Digital Initiatives, all issues of this publication through 2015 (nearly 50,000 pages) are now digitized and available to view online via the Papers of Princeton website.

Cover of the December 1946 issue of the Nassau Lit

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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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A Hope and A Hypothesis: The Curious Case of the Sonia Sotomayor ’76 Interview

Briana Christophers ‘17, a rising senior at Princeton University, made a discovery in the University Archives that solved a mystery we archivists didn’t know existed. In March, Briana visited us at the Mudd Manuscript Library, a visit arranged by Mudd’s Assistant University Archivist for Technical Services, Alexis Antracoli, in response to a petition Briana helped author and circulate through the Latinx Collective. Alexis coordinated the visit to respond directly to the petition’s section about the lack of Latinx presence and history at Princeton. In that section, the Collective stated the following needs, to:

1) Compile information on the contributions of students of color to this campus and beyond.

2) Organize the Mudd Manuscript Library resources related to students of color and the Third World Center/Carl A. Fields Center.

3) Collect information from alumni to create a permanent Students of Color at Princeton archive.

Thus, the purpose of Briana’s visit—which I attended as did my colleague, Lynn Durgin—was to affirm the truth behind the Collective’s observation, brainstorm about different ways for the Archives to do better, and allow Briana a chance to comb through the sparse records we do have pertaining to the history of Latinx students at Princeton. In the course of her perusing the Historical Subject Files, Briana stumbled upon something that few current undergraduate students have ever seen before: a 3.5’’ floppy disk.

3.5-inch floppy disk found by Briana Christophers '2017.

3.5-inch floppy disk found by Briana Christophers ’17 in AC109, Historical Subject Files.

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An Update on Archiving Student Activism at Princeton (ASAP)

The following is a guest post by Chase Hommeyer ’19, a first-year undergraduate student at Princeton working at the Mudd Manuscript Library this semester.

Hi everyone! My name’s Chase, I’m an undergraduate here at Princeton, and I’ll be working at the Mudd Manuscript Library in the Princeton University Archives this semester on the initiative Archiving Student Activism and Princeton (ASAP).

I arrived on campus with the perception that the legacy of Princeton was one of prestige, rigor, achievement…and rigid tradition. I didn’t perceive that there was, or ever had been, a great deal of room on Princeton’s campus for activism–which is why I was so shocked when I started talking to Princeton’s archivists and began learning about the incredible tradition of movement, contention, and action on our campus.

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Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 38

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Princeton Presidential

By Dan Linke

Since tomorrow is Presidents Day, we wanted to take the opportunity to share some of Princeton University’s many connections to the presidents of the United States. We note that of the 43 men who have served as America’s presidents, we have confirmed that at least 26 and possibly as many as 30 have visited Princeton at some point, with eight gracing campus while serving as the nation’s chief executive.

Presidential Chart

This chart is arranged in the order in which each held the office of President. The names in parentheses indicate those for whom we have some records asserting they visited, but have not been able to definitively verify the visit with contemporary accounts.

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