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).
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
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.
William McKinley campaign badge, ca. 1896. Princeton University Library Records (AC123), Box 406.
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 ’17 in AC109, Historical Subject Files.
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.
Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 38
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.
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.
On May 10, 1991, President George H.W. Bush came to Princeton’s campus to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and dedicate the University’s Social Science Complex. This $20 million dollar project included the newly constructed Bendheim and Fisher Halls, as well as a renovation of Corwin Hall. This Reel Mudd blog post includes video of both of these events, along with other scenes related to the President’s visit.
President Bush’s visit was notable for several reasons. This ceremony was Bush’s first appearance outside of Washington DC after suffering atrial fibrillation while jogging at Camp David. In addition, Bush’s speech (beginning at 00:50:26
) was expected to be a major policy speech, though a report indicates that the president rewrote the address en route to Princeton in order to tone down direct attacks on Congress
, Volume 115, Number 65, 13 May 1991). While still peppered with criticism of Congress, the President’s talk was mainly a discussion of the Executive Branch’s policy making role compared to that of the Legislative, and Bush’s personal opposition to creating new bureaucracies. The speech is also peppered with humor about the Princeton/Yale rivalry and the President’s place within it (51:42
), as well as Bush’s health(50:39
), the Nude Olympics (51:22
), John F. Kennedy (52:02
), and the Princeton allegiances of Secretaries of State George Shultz ’42 and James Baker ‘52 (52:28
Bush Receives his honorary degree from President Shapiro *64.
Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series, Box MP2
Primarily known as a Major League catcher and coach, Morris “Moe” Berg was also a spy for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II, as well as a lawyer, linguist, and Princeton graduate. As a member of the class of 1923, Berg excelled scholastically and athletically by graduating with honors in Modern Languages (he studied Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Sanskirt), and playing first base and shortstop for the Princeton Tigers. While his batting average was low- Berg inspired a Major League scout to utter the phrase, “Good field, no hit”- he was known at Princeton for his strong arm and sound baseball instincts.[i]
The exhibit highlights the varied roles of Berg in its presentation of Princeton memorabilia from the class of 1923, Berg baseball cards, and other material culled from Mudd’s two collections on Moe Berg: The Moe Berg Collection (1937-2007)
, and the newly acquired Dr. and Mrs. Arnold Breitbart Collection on Moe Berg (1934-1933).
Also on display is a 1959 baseball signed by Berg and other Major League players, on loan from Arnold Breitbart. The Moe Berg exhibit can be located in the lobby of the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, and will be on display until August 31.
Dasidoff, Nicholas. The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg
. New York: Pantheon, 1994.