This Week in Princeton History for January 18-24

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a professor explains the language he used in the Army, an anonymous Princetonian writes that “Satan has fallen like lightning from Heaven upon this college,” and more.

January 18, 1882—In a lecture in Princeton’s Methodist Church, Prof. Joseph Karge refers to the controversy that plagued him in the 1870s over the language he had used as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War. The Princetonian summarizes: Karge “added that, in war, words not used in polite society were sometimes useful.”

Joseph Karge. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Files Series.

January 19, 1991—Joshua Berman ’87 awakens to the sounds of an air raid siren, dons his gas mask, and joins friends in a sealed room while Iraq’s missiles hit Tel Aviv. Iraq has attacked Israel in the hopes of provoking them to retaliate and thus discourage a coalition of nations that opposes Iraq in the Gulf War, since many of them might not be willing to fight on the same side as Israel.

January 20, 1913—The Department of History, Politics, and Economics splits in two, becoming the Department of History and Politics and the Department of Economics.

January 23, 1817—An unnamed Princetonian writes a letter to the editor of Virginia’s Alexandria Gazette: “Have you heard that Satan has fallen like lightning from Heaven upon this college? … I went over the college this morning surveying the desolations. The doors and windows are nearly all broken, the furniture dashed to pieces, and REBELLION written on the walls everywhere.”

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This Week in Princeton History for January 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a newspaper pronounces the curriculum “fashionable” for including chemistry, rowing wins support at a mass meeting, and more.

January 11, 1805—The Albany Register notes that Princeton, among a handful of other colleges, offers students an education in chemistry, and notes “This extensive and useful science, is becoming gradually a part of regular and fashionable courses of study. And as soon as its great utility shall be more generally known and acknowledged, Chemistry, will be introduced into all colleges.”

January 13, 1877—Jacob Ridgway Wright, Class of 1879, visits the Stony Brook Sunday School in a Santa costume.

January 16, 1884—At a hastily-called mass meeting of the student body, attendees vote to establish rowing as a sport at Princeton, but strong opposition to it remains.

Though rowing was not supported by many students, a team had nonetheless been in existence for some time before the 1884 vote. This is Princeton’s varsity rowing team for the 1883-1884 academic year. Photo found in Athletics at Princeton: A History (1901).

January 17, 1994—Carrie Ryan ’95 struggles to reach her parents in Los Angeles on overloaded telephone circuits after the collapse of the Santa Monica freeway in the Northridge Earthquake. The 6.6 quake is the strongest ever to hit an urban area in the United States.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 4-10

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the cost of attendance is estimated at $250-$300 per year, a sophomore has an unfortunate experience with a squirrel, and more.

January 5, 1972—The Anthropology faculty vote to adopt a statement opposing the return of the ROTC to Princeton. “ROTC has nothing in common with the humanitarian values stressed by the university, within the curriculum or outside it.”

January 6, 1830– The Augusta Chronicle prints cost comparisons for different colleges, noting that for a Philadelphia parent to send a student to Harvard or Yale it would cost about $300 per year, but $250 per year for Princeton because of the reduced traveling expenses. Parents in Georgia should expect a Princeton education to cost about $300 per year in total.

January 8, 1889—The Washington’s Birthday debate question is announced: “Resolved, That the Annexation of Canada would be detrimental to the United States.”

Program for Washington’s Birthday Exercises, College of New Jersey (“Princeton College”), February 22, 1889. Washington’s Birthday Celebration Records (AC200).f

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This Week in Princeton History for December 28-January 3

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a former student defends the institution to the press, the Western Pennsylvania Club gathers in Pittsburgh, and more.

December 30, 1991—At the invitation of the Kuwaiti government, two students leave for an all-expense paid tour of Kuwait.

December 31, 1823—Someone identified only as “An Alumnus of N. Jersey College” takes Philadelphia’s National Gazette to task for its “ridiculous account of the late disturbance of the College of New Jersey,” saying,

The Faculty have done their duty on the occasion; and if they shall be supported by the Trustees, as doubtless they will be, —and, if parents will do as several have done, much to their credit, send their sons back, —teaching them, that a pledge of honor to do mischief, is not worth redeeming, our public seminaries would be freed from a deal of vexation, and we might hope to see our youth better educated, and trained to better habits. I am neither an Officer nor a Trustee of any College, but I am a friend to public institutions of learning, and take the liberty of saying, that the publication of unauthorized statements, calculated to bring them into disrepute, to break the sinews of discipline, and countenance youthful insubordination, is an act of flagrant injustice to the community.

January 2, 1767—Samuel Greville, a former student at Princeton who was probably a member of the Class of 1766 before dropping out, makes his acting debut in Tamerlane at Southwark Theatre in Philadelphia. Greville reportedly found the rules at Nassau Hall too constraining. He is believed to be the first American ever to act professionally, a fact that will not gain him respect in his lifetime. A friend who attends the play will write, “The People in general here rather pity than condemn him: this is the Consequence of loose Morals & may serve as a Lesson to others.”

January 3, 1894—Students and alumni affiliated with Princeton’s Western Pennsylvania Club gather in Pittsburgh, where Nat Goodwin and Burr McIntosh provide entertainment at the Duquesne Theatre with roles in In Mizzoura and speeches afterward. From there, the group banquets at the Duquesne Club.

An artist’s depiction of Princeton’s Western Pennsylvania Club taken from the 1893 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 21-27

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an Ohio newspaper weighs in on a judge’s decision, James McCosh recovers his stolen horse, and more.

December 23, 1893—The Cleveland Gazette complains about the decision of a Mercer County judge to fine two Princeton students $50 each for assaulting Sing Lee (a Chinese immigrant who operates a laundry on Nassau Street) and his assistant, Lee Why; ransacking Lee’s business; breaking the windows; and stealing $85 from Lee. The students themselves argued that the disapproval expressed in newspapers nationwide was punishment enough, but the judge disagreed. In addition to material losses, Lee and Why suffered burns from hot irons and boiling water, but the Gazette minimizes the incident and considers it normal behavior. “Civilization is rapidly growing effete and tottering to its fall. The next thing we know college hazing will be dragged into the courts and treated like any other ruffianism.”

December 24, 1868—James McCosh has recovered his stolen horse. The horse, worth $1,500 (approximately $27,500 in 2020 dollars), was stolen from its stable in Princeton recently. Police found the horse at a farm in Trenton attached to a buggy stolen from someone else.

Horses have played a significant role in the lives of Princetonians, as with these horses who pulled a buggy for visitors to Prospect House ca. 1900s. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD06, Image No. 8908.

December 25, 1874—Two students set off on foot for Washington, D.C. “The roads were in a very bad condition, but they are both men of indomitable energy and pluck.”

December 27, 1765—The St. John’s Grand Lodge of Massachusetts grants a petition from residents of Princeton to establish a Masonic Lodge. Members include Richard Stockton and John Witherspoon.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 14-20

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a protester finds tea in his shoes, potential abuse of women seeking abortions is causing concern, and more.

December 16, 1773—Thomas Melville, Class of 1769, joins other protesters at the Boston Tea Party and is surprised to find tea in his shoes when he goes home.

December 17, 1805—Princeton announces that it has established a museum of natural history, which conflates indigenous peoples of the Americas and Africa with animals. “It consists, at present, of many hundred species of birds, beasts, fishes, reptiles, insects, minerals, fossils, corals, shells, earths, together with domestic utensils, and warlike instruments of several savage nations of America and Africa.”

Princeton’s natural history museum, Nassau Hall, 1886. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP042, Image No. 1256.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 7-13

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, concerns about local residents corrupting undergraduates are expressed, sophomores cancel plans to burn a dean in effigy, and more.

December 8, 1835—A new academic year begins. The Class of 1838, which began with 12 and grew to 24 during the previous academic year, absorbs 50 new classmates.

December 9, 1786—A committee reports to the New York Manumission Society: “With great satisfaction we communicate to the society the agreeable accounts of the exertions made in different states, and also in Great Britain, towards the emancipation of the unfortunate Africans—That to this end public orations have been made and received with great applause at the colleges of New Haven and Princeton and of Cambridge, in Great Britain, in which the injustice of holding Africans in slavery, hath been depicted in the most lively colors that sound judgment and elegant imaginations could form.”

December 11, 1868—A letter to the editor of the Princeton Standard warns that not enough residents of the town take temperance seriously enough. “How many times has the law which forbids the sale of intoxicating drinks to the students of Colleges, or other literary institutions, been enforced in Princeton during the last year? And how many of the graduates of the College of New Jersey now fill drunkards graves, or are fast hastening toward them, under the influence of habits of intoxication contracted, and confirmed, while residing in Princeton during their College course?”

In this sketch by an unknown artist ca. 1863 (”It’s a Way We Have at Old Nassau”), students at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) are shown drinking to excess while playing cards. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP159, Image No. 4395.

December 13, 1999—Sophomore class officers have decided to cancel their plans to burn Dean of Student Life Janina Montero in effigy to protest the recent ban on the Nude Olympics after a flood of disapproving emails from members of the Class of 2002. The Daily Princetonian quotes Joanna Ganson ’02: “Burning someone in effigy…should be used for important protests, not to protest not running around naked.”

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This Week in Princeton History for November 30-December 6

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Henry Ward Beecher celebrates the football team’s defeat, Patrick Stewart lectures on campus, and more.

December 1, 1883—While preaching to his congregation in Brooklyn, Henry Ward Beecher says, “I stood yesterday to see Yale and Princeton at football. I always did hate Princeton, but I took notice there was not a coward on either side, although I thank God that Yale beat [them].”

December 2, 1811—John Randolph (Class of 1791) writes of his experiences at Princeton when he and his brother were both students:

[Samuel Stanhope Smith] called us into his library and interrogated us about our Indian descent—we knew nothing more than that we derived it through our grand-mother, whom it suited him to make the daughter of Pocahontas, in order that we might be in defiance of time and fact in the fourth descent from her. He gave us, about that time, a copy of his essay [on race], which now lies before me, with my marginal notes. I cannot think of Princeton (where my ardor for learning was first damped) with any sort of patience.


December 5, 1995—Patrick Stewart lectures on acting in Shakespeare’s plays at 185 Nassau. Because so many of the general public have lined up to see him, few students are able to attend, provoking discussions of ways to ensure students have the opportunity to have priority admission to high profile lectures. The venue, which seats 220, was chosen because Stewart does not like to use microphones and does not want to strain his voice.

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December 6, 1970—More than 90% of the membership of Tower Club vote in favor of allowing women to bicker (i.e., apply for membership). Treasurer Norris H. Bokum ’71 explains, “There was no valid reason to vary membership on the basis of sex.”

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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 November 23-29

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a new dress code is approved, a petition urges administrators to address escalating crime on campus, and more.

November 24, 1898—Leslie’s Weekly praises Joseph M. Huston, Class of 1892, for his work as a Philadelphia architect: “Perhaps the most attractive feature next to the visit of the President himself, at the Philadelphia Peace Jubilee, was the court of honor, the beautiful structure made up of arches and pillars extending over several blocks, through which the parade marched in the presence of the official visitors on adjacent stands.”

Peace Jubilee Court of Honor, Philadelphia, 1898. Image courtesy New York Public Library.

November 25, 1818—The Board of Trustees approves a new dress code: “Every student shall possess a black gown, which shall be made agreeably to a fashion which the faculty shall prescribe, and all the students of the college shall appear in their gowns on all such occasions as shall be specified and announced to them by the trustees or faculty of the college.”

November 26, 1974—More than 500 students’ names appear on a petition to Princeton administrators to take steps to reduce crime on campus, a sign of ongoing tensions between students and administrators about whether more can be done to address escalating concerns about student safety.

Student petition urging Princeton University administrators to address concerns about public safety and crime, Daily Princetonian, November 26, 1974.

November 27, 1833—Virginia’s Alexandria Gazette reports that two Princeton students, both seniors, have coincidentally both died within weeks of one another, both of tetanus after being shot accidentally.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 16-22

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a controversial statue finds a home on campus, ticket scalping for sporting events is causing concern, and more.

November 17, 1978—Princeton accepts a statue Kent State University rejected, George Segal’s “Abraham and Isaac,” which memorializes the Kent State Massacre. Officials at Kent State have said that they fear the statue would incite more violence.

People viewing George Segal’s “Abraham and Isaac” on Princeton University’s campus, ca. 1978. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD09, Folder 1.

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