This Week in Princeton History for August 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 change allows for Greek literature to be studied in English, a professor offers encouraging words in Alexander Hall, and more.

August 3, 1898—Harold Perry Smith of the Class of 1898 sets sail for Puerto Rico, having enlisted in the Army immediately after his graduation in order to fight in the Spanish-American War.

August 6, 1936—Registrar Wilbur F. Kerr announces some new offerings in the fall curriculum. Because incoming students are no longer assumed to have studied Greek ahead of matriculation, Greek literature may be studied in English, and the Classics department will also offer a course in elementary Greek. Due to a broader interest in modern languages, Princeton will also now offer a course in Japanese.

August 7, 1880—The Trenton Sentinel reports that applications for admission to Princeton are down. The Sentinel attributes the decline to the spring’s typhoid epidemic: “The recent sickness at the college has something to do with it.”

August 8, 1894—In an address to “a company of historical pilgrims” in Alexander Hall, Professor William Sloane says “The lesson to be learned from Princeton’s historic scenes should be that intellect and not numbers controls the world; that ideas and not force overmaster bigness; that truth and right, supported by strong purpose and high principle, prevail in the end.”

Alexander Hall, ca. 1900. Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 1.

For the previous 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 July 27-August 2

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the governor seals the college charter, trends in the overall diversity of the incoming class are mixed, and more.

July 27, 1942—A Daily Princetonian editorial criticizes Secretary of State Cordell Hull for “abundant lip service” lacking substantive action. The editorial urges America to live up to its principles rather than merely claiming them: “And while the Negro, for example, is exploited in this country and given no more than meagre opportunities for realizing his potentialities, how far have we succeeded in making that promise any more [than] another ‘fine illustration of the white man’s hypocrisy?’”

July 28, 1748—Gov. Jonathan Belcher writes to Ebenezer Pemberton to invite him and Aaron Burr to visit the governor in Burlington to pick up the College charter, now that the seal is on it.

Seal of the governor of the province of New Jersey, 1748.

Detail of the governor’s seal affixed to the 1748 Charter of the College of New Jersey (note that New Jersey is here referred to by its Latin name, Nova Caesarea in America). Board of Trustees Records (AC120).

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This Week in Princeton History for July 20-26

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Ivy League’s first Black dean dies, the FBI arrests a graduate student and holds him without charges, and more.

July 20, 1998—Carl Fields, a former Princeton University administrator and the first Black dean in the Ivy League, dies at 79.

Carl Fields (center) with members of Princeton University’s Association of Black Collegians, ca. 1960s. Carl Fields Papers (AC365), Box 12, Folder 12.

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This Week in Princeton History for July 13-19

After an unscheduled but unavoidable delay, we are returning with our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni. In this week’s installment, a rising sophomore is unable to avoid being drafted despite his opposition to the Vietnam War, a recent graduate’s senior thesis provides suggestions for improving bridge safety in town, and more.

July 13, 1972—Brian K. Kemple ’75, unable to escape the draft by any legal means, is compulsorily inducted into the U.S. Army. Kemple, who will train to be a Russian-language interpreter, is opposed to the Vietnam War.

July 14, 1964—A new local ordinance banning the purchase of alcoholic beverages for minors means Princeton University will no longer throw a beer party for the underclassmen who participate in the Cane Spree.

July 15, 1991—Janet McKay *74 becomes president of Mills College.

July 16, 1985—Elizabeth Jones ’83 is vindicated: Though no immediate action followed after she sent her senior thesis to the Mercer County engineer, the Harrison Street bridge is now closed for repairs. Jones, a civil engineering major, had inspected the bridge and found a broken support strut, rusted bracing, and other hazards that rendered the entire structure dangerous.

Harrison Street Bridge, ca. 1910s. Historical Postcard Collection (AC045).

For the previous 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 June 22-28

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, James McCosh expresses concerns about youth wasted in the gymnasium, the Princeton Rocket inspires Williams College, and more.

June 22, 1874—In his report to the Board of Trustees, College president James McCosh expresses concerns about students spending excessive time in the gym preparing for gymnastic competitions: “I have seen all along that there must be some limit to set to them, lest they so excite a portion of our students as to lead them to waste upon them their best energies, and thus waste their youth.”

Equipment in Princeton’s Bonner-Marquand Gymnasium, 1870s. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP47.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 15-21

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Joseph Henry’s accomplishments are honored, the Director of Admission reports on changing demographics on campus, and more.

June 16, 1885—A tablet to the memory of Prof. Joseph Henry is unveiled. The tablet commemorates Henry’s contributions to the development of the telegraph, but does not mention his assistant, Sam Parker, without whom Henry would have been unable to carry out his work.

Joseph Henry, ca. 1843. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box 22.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 8-14

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, thanks are offered to Harriet Crocker Alexander, an anonymous donor offers the colony of New Jersey funding for a scholarship for a Native American, and more.

June 9, 1894—During the formal presentation of Alexander Hall, Princeton’s president, Francis Patton, thanks Harriet Crocker Alexander for her gift to the school.

Harriet Crocker Alexander, pictured here ca. 1880s, donated the funds to build Princeton University’s Alexander Hall in 1890. In accordance with her wishes, Alexander Hall is not named in her honor, but in honor of her husband, her husband’s father, and her husband’s grandfather (Charles B. Alexander, Class of 1870; Henry M. Alexander, Class of 1840; and Archibald Alexander, Class of 1810). Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box 1.

June 10, 1974—Women’s Wear Daily observes, “Students at Princeton, taking advantage of spring weather, are showing lots of leg—male and female. The big favorite for both sexes—short cutoff jeans. Most girls are keeping their skirts short. It’s okay for those with bronzed, shapely limbs, but forget about those pasty whites.”

June 13, 1755—An anonymous donor in Great Britain sends a donation of over £300 to the colony of New Jersey to establish an endowed fund for one of four possible purposes:

  • To support a missionary “among the Indians in North America”
  • To support “a pious & well qualified Schoolmaster in teaching the Indians the English language & the principles of natural and revealed religion”
  • To support the education of “a well qualified Indian Youth at the College of New Jersey…in order to his instructing his Countrymen in the English language & the Christian religion or preaching the Gospel to them,” or
  • To support the education of a student from Scotland or England at the College of New Jersey to prepare “for teaching or preaching the Gospel among the Indians in case an Indian Youth of suitable Qualifications cannot at some particular time, be obtained”

June 14, 1886—The Princetonian celebrates its tenth anniversary with a special issue detailing its early history.

For the previous 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 June 1-7

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, John Witherspoon’s marriage is celebrated, a sophomore writes to his father about an upcoming election, and more.

June 1, 1887–The Princetonian reports on the New Jersey Courier’s investigation into Walter Ridgely. Ridgely, a Texan who made national headlines for killing seven men near the Red River, is not, as many newspaper reports claim, a graduate of Princeton. No record exists of him having ever attended the school.

June 2, 1791—A holiday celebrating the marriage of John Witherspoon, age 68, to the widow of one of his former students, Ann Marshall Dill, age 24, continues on this day.

Clipping from the Gazette of the United States, June 15, 1791.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 25-31

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a member of the Class of 1945 survives a bombing in France, the Prince responds to proposed limits on enrollment, and more.

May 25, 1940—Pierre Soesman ’45, who fled Belgium earlier this month, survives a terrifying German bomber attack on the road from Paris to Angers. He will later write of the experience, “When they left, we did not move from the ditch for more than five minutes. Finally, people began to get up, laughing in hysteria.”

May 26, 1921—The Daily Princetonian responds to the news that Princeton will begin limiting enrollment for the first time by kicking off an editorial series urging a holistic approach to admissions decisions rather than one based entirely on test scores.

As Princeton University began limiting enrollment in the 1920s, it instituted a new admissions system that included an application with evaluation from secondary school officials. This is a page from an application from a member of the Class of 1930 found in the Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC198).

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This Week in Princeton History for May 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Nassau Lit celebrates its centennial, pranksters kidnap a professor during a final exam, and more.

May 18, 1942—The Nassau Literary Review’s centennial issue comes out, with selections from many of its best-known historical contributors, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Booth Tarkington, Woodrow Wilson, Jacques Maritain, and Norman Thomas.

Cover of the Nassau Literary Review, May 1942.

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