This Week in Princeton History for June 14-20

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Mills Tariff Bill is debated, the Prince offers a guide to “scarce” women’s restrooms, and more.

June 14, 1928—A member of the Class of 1913 is struck by lightning and dies just before joining classmates at an outdoor reunion dinner near Palmer Stadium.

June 18, 1843—Charles Godfrey Leland writes to his father to defend Princeton students against accusations of disrespecting President John Tyler during Tyler’s recent visit to campus, saying press reports exaggerated the incident. “It is true that they did hiss Tyler, but not much.”

June 19, 1888—Students debate the Mills Tariff Bill, which has split the Democratic Party and become the central issue of the 1888 presidential election.

June 20, 1970—For the sake of incoming female undergraduates, the Daily Princetonian’s Special Class of 1974 issue includes a list of women’s restrooms on campus, “a commodity last year’s coeds found scarce.”

Restroom in Palmer Physical Laboratory, ca. 1960s. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD06, Image No. 8713.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 7-13

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, members of the Class of 1875 refuse masters degrees, a member of the “Old Guard” complains about the presence of women, and more.

June 7, 1794—Catherine Bullock, age 22, niece of the Morgans who own Prospect Farm, dies of an illness, but her grave on the family’s land will spark generations of rumors among Princeton students to suggest her death was somehow more salacious until the grave is moved off campus in the 20th century.

June 8, 1877—Members of the Class of 1875 refuse the A. M. degree on the grounds that “we do not merit a general literary degree…”

June 10, 1890—The cornerstone is laid for Clio Hall’s new building, an enlarged copy of the original built in the 1830s.

June 13, 1914—The presence of women in the P-Rade on this day disturbs some alumni. Van Tassel Sutphen, Class of 1882, will write to the Princeton Alumni Weekly,

in these days of militant feminism I am well aware that I am taking a perilous position in venturing to deny any privilege whatever to the newly dominant sex. Pray don’t misunderstand me, for I am quite ready to admit that woman has her appointed place in the great scheme of creation; it is her ministering hand that still soothes the fevered brow, it is she who stands ever ready to answer the telephone, upon occasion we may even permit her to supplement the family income by taking in washing. She has won her footing in the market place; we are always glad to welcome her on her infrequent visits to the home; we are not wholly averse to inviting her to enter the polling booth. But, gentlemen of the ‘Old Guard,’ the line must be drawn somewhere, and I would draw it at the Alumni P-Rade; I contend that a woman has no more business in that galley than I would have at a mother’s meeting, unless indeed this is the first insidious step (God forbid!) towards turning Princeton into a co-educational institution.

The Class of 1904 marches in the 1914 P-Rade. Photo from 1916 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 31-June 6

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the installation of a sculpture brings unexpected tragedy, the Dean of the College expresses his thoughts on the impact of the Great Depression on graduating seniors, and more.

May 31, 1998—To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Princeton’s first class to include undergraduate women for all four years, a husband and wife team, Sen. Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, give the baccalaureate address. It is believed to be the first time the baccalaureate is delivered by a pair. The graduates of the Class of 1998 include their daughter, Amy Harkin.

June 1, 1883—The Princetonian complains, “The enthusiasm of the Princeton drum corps is a great nuisance.”

June 2, 1970—Two workers are killed installing a sculpture on campus.

Five Disks, One Empty. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

June 5, 1931—The New York Times quotes Dean Christian Gauss on why the hardships faced by the Class of 1931 made them better educated than their counterparts in the Class of 1929, who finished their educations before the so-called “Great Crash”: “Whatever regrets we may have over the unhappy lot of our unemployable college seniors, we can console ourselves with the thought that their true education has been very much advanced by the unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves. … They have had it borne in upon them that the welfare of each is somehow bound up with the welfare of all, and the older, easier optimism has disappeared. They know that we are all in the same boat and that each must pull his oar if we are again soon to go forward.”

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This Week in Princeton History for May 24-30

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a writer praises the new chapel building, a student publication urges kindness for Civil War veterans, and more.

May 24, 1851—A letter to the Trenton State Gazette describes chapel services at Princeton: “If any of our alumni, or other college acquaintances, who associate the service of daily prayers with the old ‘Prayer Hall,’ its whittled benches and dingy walls, would drop in at the same exercises as they are now conducted, they would wonder at the change. The beautiful chapel, the painted pews, the carpeted and cushioned platform, and the sweet organ, give a new aspect to the whole service. It is true that now and then a student forgets the proprieties so much as to enter in his study-gown, and that some begin to leave the pews before the prayer is quite ended, but the general deportment is far better than in old times.”

The College of New Jersey (Princeton) Chapel, ca. 1860s. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box_MP28, Image 651.

May 25, 1772—An anonymous young woman writes in a poem:

In arts and sciences my knowledge
Might shame the lads of Princeton college
I can explain the globes and maps,
As readily as pin my caps;
Mechanics too, and hydrostatics,
Astronomy and mathematics,
Discoveries by sea and land;
I know them all—and understand
The works of Newton, Boyle, and Locke,
As well as—how to make a smock,
Or fix a tucker to my frock!

May 28, 1900—Reliable train service between Princeton and New York is instituted, with one train running to New York and one returning daily, except on Sunday, to spare riders the hassle of switching trains at Princeton Junction.

May 30, 1890—As students observe Decoration Day, the Nassau Literary Magazine warns them not to denounce living Civil War veterans despite their “shameless hunt for pensions.”

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This Week in Princeton History for May 17-23

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Asian American Students Association denounces anti-Asian and antisemitic prejudices on campus, local residents band with students to take revenge on a traveling show, and more.

May 17, 1942—Philosophy professor Theodore M. Greene condemns tutoring as “immoral and unpatriotic.”

May 21, 1990—The Asian American Students Association denounces harmful portrayals of Chinese and Jewish people in Triangle Club’s “Easy Street” and expresses concerns about the motivations in choosing these groups for mockery. “In the future, we hope that the same ‘consideration’ shown to ‘other minorities’ will be accorded to Asian Americans as well.”

Playbill for Triangle Club’s “Easy Street,” 1989. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 281. Lyrics to “Chinese Jewish Cowboy” were particularly troubling to some audience members, with lines like “they told me I filled all their quotas/Yes, I’m a demographic planner’s dream . . ./Well who needs a real resume/When looks can deceive/Who would ever believe/That he’d get into Princeton, oy veh!” and “Where never is heard a discouraging word/When you’re Chinese, or Jewish, or gay.”

May 22, 1874—James McCosh explains why he doesn’t believe higher education should be publicly supported and should instead rely on private donations, which he believes encourages greater freedom of thought: “Would Professor White have a college a mixture of Protestantism and Popery, and partly Christian and partly Atheistic? Now, sir, we have these colleges, and let them go on; let us call forth the liberality of the people, and I believe you will get that liberality.”

May 23, 1851—Students and local residents of Princeton, disappointed in Barnum’s traveling menagerie and museum, call it a “humbug,” join forces, seize one of its wagons, and throw it into the D & R canal.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 10-16

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the debate team loses to Harvard on immigration restrictions, the grading system is radically changed, and more.

May 10, 1947—In the Chicago Defender, W. E. B. Du Bois reports that Princeton University had written to him in 1910: “Princeton University has never had graduates of Negro descent.”

At the time W. E. B. DuBois received that letter, Princeton had several African American graduates, including I. W. L. Roundtree, Graduate Class of 1895. Clipping from the Trenton Evening Times.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 3-9

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a “Wild West” show is in town, a junior asks his father to send news about riots at home, and more.

May 4, 1807—Trenton’s True American prints a letter from “A Collegian” from Princeton responding to a recent statement by the Board of Trustees about student rebellion, “With respect to this publication of the trustees, it is necessary further to observe, that their relation of the matter is by far too indefinite; they merely skim over in a superficial manner the most material cause of the insurrection, in order to suit their own purpose, and to conceal their injustice under the base disguise of prevarication.”

May 7, 1895—The “Wyoming Historical Wild West” show is in town, led by Buck Taylor. Students can attend for an admission fee of 25 cents.

This ad appeared in the Princetonian on April 26, 1895. Wild West shows like these were popular in Princeton and elsewhere in the United States in this era. They tended to be characterized by fictionalized reenactments of historical events on the American frontier. Typical shows would have sensationalized portrayals of Native Americans.

May 8, 1844—Charles Godfrey Leland, Class of 1845, writes to his father asking for him to send newspaper accounts from home in Philadelphia about the city’s anti-Catholic Nativist Riots.

May 9, 1872—A group of students annoys the campus with a bonfire on Cannon Green. “They evidently like hard work better than we do, for it must have been no small amount of labor to have lugged such heavy stuff so great a distance, and all for the insignificant reward of seeing it burn up.”

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This Week in Princeton History for April 26-May 2

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, late frosts mean no butter, employees bring their daughters to work with them for the first time, and more.

April 26, 1790—In a letter to the New York Daily Advertiser, a writer describes unpleasant circumstances in Princeton: “Never was a more truly disagreeable and untoward spring than the present—scarcely a blade of grass to be yet seen in the fields; and nothing but storm upon strum till the earth is glutted. What most afflicts us is the approaching return of the Students from their late vacation. In consequence of the severe frosts, &c. we shall have no butter to give them, so that the college will be under the necessity of recurring in earnest to dry husks of philosophy and stale scraps of logic. God’s will be done.”

April 28, 1993—Princeton celebrates its first “Take Our Daughters to Work Day.”

Schedule for Take Our Daughters to Work Day, April 28, 1993. Clipping from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 19-25

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an excavation for new construction finds evidence of the original indigenous inhabitants of the area, a sophomore sees the inauguration of George Washington, and more.

April 21, 1802—A letter to the editor of Baltimore’s Democratic Republican attempts to reign in rumors that a student expelled from Princeton subsequently went on to incite an “insurrection” at the College of William and Mary, saying that student was suspended, not expelled, and is still in New Jersey, and therefore cannot have stirred up any rebellions in Virginia.

April 22, 1881—The Prince reports that an indigenous hatchet and stone pestle have been found in the excavation of Brown Hall.

Princeton University’s Brown Hall, ca. 1900. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP07, Image No. 0147.

April 23, 1789—On spring vacation from Princeton, Jacob Burnet, Class of 1791, is in New York to witness the arrival of George Washington for his inauguration. “New-York bay was literally white with vessels and boats of all sizes, filled with admiring multitudes, both male and female, clad in their richest attire. Many of these vessels had bands of music on board, and all of them displayed flags painted for the occasion, each having an allusion to some interesting event in the life of this great man.”

April 25, 1935—Journalist Dorothy Thompson speaks to an audience of mostly local women in McCosh 50 on the significance of Germany’s National Socialist Party, warning that Adolf Hitler plans to take over all of Europe.

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

This Week in Princeton History for April 12-18

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, women’s tennis plays its first game, violence breaks out over fashion, and more.

April 12, 1971—Women’s tennis plays its first game, defeating Penn 5-to-1.

Photos of women playing tennis from Princeton University’s 1971 Bric-a-Brac.

April 14, 1947—As the New Jersey telephone workers strike enters its second week, picketers are seen in town with signs reading “Neither Ma Bell or Pa Driscoll can enslave us.” Although the University switchboard operators are not involved, because they are employees of Princeton University rather than the telephone company, this does mean that no calls can be made to anyone off campus except in cases of emergency.

April 16, 1931—The Undergraduate Council unanimously condemns some students who have been seen wearing denim overalls, because they look too much like beer suits. “Yesterday’s spectacle of a few Juniors and a few Freshmen wearing light blue and dark blue overalls respectively…constituted an attempt to break down a privileged tradition of many years standing which belonged exclusively to the Senior Class.” Some of the underclassmen have also bought matching denim jackets. The store that sold the clothes to the students has been threatened, but owners vow to sell overalls and jackets to whomever they like in spite of the threats. Violence has broken out on campus, with seniors attacking underclassmen wearing denim on Prospect Street. The juniors are calling their outfits “Applejackets.”

This ad, which appeared in the April 16, 1931 issue of the Daily Princetonian, suggests how seriously the owners of the store that sold denim overalls to underclassmen took the threats they’d received from members of the Class of 1931.

April 17, 2001—Princeton president Harold Shapiro urges Chinese president Jiang Zemin to release Shaomin Li *88. Li was detained by Chinese security forces on February 25 and has not yet been charged with a crime.

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