This Week in Princeton History for February 8-14

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, sophmores take over Quadrangle Club, the Suffrage Walking Pilgrims make their way through campus, and more.

February 8, 1991—Frustrated by their unsuccessful efforts to join other eating clubs during Bicker, 100 sophomores stage a “takeover” of Quadrangle Club, one of the sign-in clubs. Current membership of the club is apprehensive about the likely results of this influx of new members (now over 60% of the total membership).

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Quadrangle Club, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD02, Image No. 7824.

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This Week in Princeton University History for February 1-7

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Paramount Pictures pulls a movie over collegiate protest, Eleanor Roosevelt is on campus, and more.

February 1, 1929—Under pressure from Princeton University’s president, John Grier Hibben, Paramount Pictures withdraws Varsity, a controversial movie set and filmed on the Princeton campus. It is the last day moviegoers will be able to see it.

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First page of a letter written to John Grier Hibben by Eleanor H. Boyd, November 16, 1928. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 394, Folder 7.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 25-31

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a dissertation defense occurs 46 years late, Robert Frost gives a poetry reading, and more.

January 25, 1992—75-year-old professor emeritus Milton Babbitt earns his Ph.D. in musicology 46 years after he initially submitted his dissertation for review, having passed a surprise oral exam. Though viewed as impressive, groundbreaking work, his thesis on the mathematics of the 12-tone system was rejected in 1946 because Princeton University’s Department of Music then only offered a Ph.D. in historical musicology, not theory and composition. At that time, the music faculty deemed his work “unreadable” despite praise from his outside reader in the mathematics department, professor John W. Tukey. Colleagues felt he deserved a second opportunity to complete the degree and resubmitted his dissertation for review without his knowledge.

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Milton Byron Babbitt’s Princeton University Graduate School scholastic card, Graduate Alumni Records (AC105), Box 50. Note the “degree granted” date in the lower right corner.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 18-24

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a sleigh ride results in the arrest of 24 undergraduates, Theodore Roosevelt lectures on police reform, and more.

January 18, 1879—A Columbia student is surprised when an innocent-seeming sleigh ride with Princeton students in Trenton lands him in jail alongside 24 Princetonians. Sleighing having become a public nuisance in Trenton, the local police had decided to make an example of these students. The New York papers will report later that at the time of their arrest, the students had been drinking and were singing “Jingle Bells” and “Sweet By and By” loudly at around 1:00 AM. After being denied bail, all plead guilty to disorderly conduct and pay a fine of $3.85 each to avoid spending the night to stand trial in the morning. The College of New Jersey (Princeton) president, James McCosh, will be quoted in the New York Times: “They are a very honorable set of young gentlemen. I do not believe those who went to Trenton would use indecent language, insult ladies, or get intoxicated.”

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As noted by several newspapers in the aftermath of the Trenton arrests, sleighing was a popular form of recreation for College of New Jersey (Princeton) students in the late 19th century. Pictured here are four members of the Class of 1895 outside University Hall. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP14, Image No. 4856.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 11-17

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus tries to get back into the swing of things after the holidays, a professor expresses irritation with William Jennings Bryan, and more.

January 11, 1945—Princeton University Librarian Julian P. Boyd’s lunch with United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sparks rumors that he is being considered for the position of Librarian of Congress.

January 13, 1882—Feeling a bit of the post-holiday blues, the Princetonian asks, “The recreations of the holiday season have been thoroughly enjoyed, and we now settle down to—work?”

January 14, 1814—The faculty of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) determine that the “villainous acts” of January 9 (an arsonist attack on the College privy) was the work of young men not affiliated with the school and turn the matter over to civil authorities.

January 15, 1923—Princeton University geology professor William B. Scott responds in frustration to anti-evolution activist William Jennings Bryan’s local lecture asserting that the theory is a menace to religion, civilization, and society: “Upon that subject he is an ignoramus. … His arguments are absurd; he does not know what he is talking about; he does not even want to learn.”

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William Jennings Bryan boxes with a monkey in front of a huge crowd. Donald R. McKee, “Why Dempsey and Wills?” Political Cartoon Collection (MC180), Box 22.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for January 4-10

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the school’s president petitions Bill Clinton for an end to a “discriminatory policy,” Nassau Hall gets new tigers, and more.

January 4, 1836—Two students “having been detected in having ardent spirits in their rooms” are asked to withdraw from the College of New Jersey (Princeton).

January 5, 1993—Princeton University president Harold Shapiro signs a letter along with 66 other American university presidents urging U.S. President Bill Clinton to remove the ban on homosexuals in the military as a “discriminatory policy” that “is antithetical to our institutions’ commitment to respect for individuals, as well as for equal access and opportunity.” The action invites intense criticism for Shapiro.

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Harold Shapiro, ca. 1993. Photo from the 1993 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 28-January 3

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Woodrow Wilson stamps are selling fast, all computers go offline, and more.

December 28, 1925—The Princeton post office sells more than 3,000 Woodrow Wilson stamps on their first day of issue to approximately 700 people. Among the sales is a sheet of 100 to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of the Princeton University Library.

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We believe these are from the sheet of stamps purchased by the Princeton University Library on December 28, 1925. Woodrow Wilson Collection (MC168), Box 45, Folder 12.

December 31, 1999—In anticipation of the “Y2K bug,” Princeton University disconnects all of its computers and servers from the internet.

January 1, 1814—James M. Garnett (Class of 1814) writes of an incident in Nassau Hall: “Today to refresh us after our labours, we had a great dinner, composed of Pigs, Geese, Irish potatoes, minced-pies, hickory nuts, cider, & wine. The President [Ashbel Green] did us the honour to dine with us, and gave us a toast; when he rose to give it he commanded silence which want of politeness gave such offence to some of our well-bred company that they returned the toast with a scrape” (i.e., the students scraped their shoes on the floor to protest).

January 2, 1946—Ground is broken on Firestone Memorial Library.

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Early construction of Firestone Memorial Library. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD04, Image No. 8264.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for December 21-27

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a veteran-athlete is killed, Abraham Lincoln writes a thank you note, and more.

December 21, 1918—With orders home in his pocket, celebrated athlete Hobey Baker  ’14 crashes in France while testing a repaired plane, sustaining fatal injuries.

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Hobey Baker’s crashed plane. John D. Davies Collection on Hobey Baker (AC005), Box 5, Folder 7, Image No. 21828.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 14-20

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus rallies around a professor targeted by a racist screed, a new library draws patrons despite a broken furnace, and more.

December 14, 1757—The College of  New Jersey (Princeton) Board of Trustees vote to send a representative to meet with the ecclesiastical council that will decide whether Jonathan Edwards may be released from his ministerial duties in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to assume the responsibilities of President of the College.

December 15, 1990–The Princeton University campus reels from news of a racist letter sent to Director of Afro-American Studies Nell Painter asserting that she “does not have the intellectual worth to teach at the college level.” Administrators, faculty, and students scramble to express their support of the history professor.

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Nell Painter, ca. 1990. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

December 17, 1873—College of New Jersey (Princeton) President James McCosh reports that Chancellor Green Library is complete, with the exception of a non-functional furnace; the cold does not prevent the library’s use, as 26 people per day borrow books.

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Chancellor Green Library (pictured with old Dickinson Hall at left), 1873. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC112), Box MP013, Image No. 327.

December 20, 1946—It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart ‘32, premieres at the Globe Theatre in New York. The Daily Princetonian will give it a positive review despite the film’s “excessive sentimentality and overwrought tension.”

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

This Week in Princeton History for December 7-13

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a history professor gets national attention, undergraduates protest new library rules, and more.

December 7, 1776—The British Army reaches Princeton to begin the “20 days of tyranny.” Annis Boudinot Stockton hides the papers of the College of New Jersey’s American Whig Society while burying her family silver on the Morven estate. Later, she will be posthumously elected as Whig Hall’s first female member.

December 8, 1998—Princeton University history professor Sean Wilentz makes the news for his testimony before the United States Congress, saying to House Republicans aiming to impeach President Bill Clinton, “…history will track you down and condemn you for your cravenness.” The New York Times will later editorialize that his testimony was a “gratuitously patronizing presentation,” but Wilentz will respond that he has been misunderstood.

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Princeton University history professor Sean Wilentz, 1994. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 193.

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