Woodrow Wilson and the Graduate College

Written by Anna Rubin ’15

This is the second installment in a two-part series examining two aspects of Woodrow Wilson’s Princeton University presidency, featuring sources in our recently-digitized selections from the Office of the President Records. In the first, we looked at his attitude towards Princeton’s eating clubs. Here, we turn to his conflict over the location of the Graduate College.

At the start of Woodrow Wilson’s Princeton presidency, plans for a Graduate College had been in the works since 1896, as part of the transformation of Princeton from a college to a university. In the summer of 1905, graduate students moved to a building on an eleven acre tract called Merwick just to the north of Princeton’s main campus. Andrew F. West, the Dean of the Graduate College at the time, supported the Graduate College’s placement at Merwick, believing that the small, homey atmosphere of the house was precisely the right environment. In a report to Wilson, West said, “I am very anxious that Merwick shall not take on anything of the character of a boarding house, a club, or a hotel, but shall preserve at all times the aspect of a quiet studious home.” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 63, Folder 1)

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Andrew Fleming West, 1889. Historical Photograph Collection, Faculty Photographs Series (AC059), Box FAC103.

Graduate students appreciated Merwick’s removed but walkable location from the campus, “aloof” and secluded, yet homey air, beautiful and distinctive appearance, and distance from the raucous undergraduate happenings on campus and around Prospect Avenue. Those who lived there found it to have an “atmosphere of consistent and dignified work” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11). But Wilson feared that Merwick’s location would thoroughly remove the graduate student population both academically and socially from the life of the campus and the University at large. “Geographical separation from the body of the University has already created in the Graduate School a sense of administrative as well as social seclusion which, slight as it is and probably unconscious, is noticeable, and of course undesirable….” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11)

Wilson hoped to move the Graduate College to the heart of Princeton’s campus, between Prospect House (where as University President, he lived) and Class of 1879 Hall (where his tower office was located), in the area now occupied by Woolworth (music) and the School of Architecture. He was passionate about the move, framing it as the cornerstone of his Princeton presidency. In May 1907 he wrote:

My hopes and my chief administrative plans for the University would be injured and deranged at their very heart were the Graduate College to be put at any remove whatever from such a central site. I count upon it as model and cause of intellectual and social changes of the deepest and most significant kind. It is upon the model and by means of the inspiration of such a College, with its dignified, stimulating, and happy life, that, in my judgment, the University is to be made over into a body academic, vital and of universal example in America. (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11)

Wilson’s desire to have the graduate college at the heart of Princeton’s campus was not purely social or intellectual. The benefactor who was to pay for a portion of the new college, the estate of Josephine Thomson Swann, had specified that the fund must be used on “the grounds” of the University. Swann passed away before final plans for the placement of the College were made, causing the phrase to become the center of controversy among those determining where to place the College, including former U.S. President Grover Cleveland, a bastion of Princeton town and gown.

Wilson’s plans to relocate the graduate college to the campus were no secret and in fact were part of his original goals for the University upon taking up the presidency in 1902. In March 1907, as the plans began to move forward more rapidly, 30 graduate students wrote a letter to the Trustee’s Committee on the Graduate School, lamenting that “It is with the deepest regret that we have heard of the possibility that the graduate school may be removed to the campus. There are many reasons why the present situation of the house appeals to us, and we venture to hope that they may seem valid to you.” The committee cited the need of “retirement and seclusion,” defined as “freedom from the too easy intrusion of undergraduate friends, remoteness from the campus noise and excitement, and from the club street and club life of the college.” They believed it was especially important to for those who earned undergraduate degrees at Princeton to have a distinction between undergraduate and graduate life. “Proximity of their quarters to the campus would mean that they would continue to live the undergraduate life.” (Office of the President Records (AC117), Box 62, Folder 11)

The Committee on the Graduate School ultimately resolved that the “Graduate College be fixed in the grounds of Prospect about midway between Seventy Nine Hall and the President’s house…” on April 9, 1908. In May 1909, William Cooper Proctor offered the Board of Trustees a $500,000 gift for the Graduate College, under the conditions that a) it be matched by another gift, b) only $200,000 of it would be used for the actual buildings of the graduate college and c) that the graduate college not be built in the middle of campus. Mr. Proctor preferred instead the golf links west of campus.

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Graduate College, Historical Postcards Collection (AC045), Box 1. This collection has been partially digitized and is viewable here.

Although Wilson attempted to convince the Board of Trustees not to accept the gift if it meant the graduate college must be placed elsewhere, they nonetheless did. The Committee of the Graduate School felt that too much emphasis was being placed on the graduate college residences, rather than the faculty and classroom facilities, and they wanted to commence with construction quickly with as little continued fanfare as possible. While Wilson believed that the residence, which played an integral role in his social reorganization of the University, was the most important aspect of bolstering the reputation of the new Graduate College, the Committee wanted the focus to be on academic and intellectual excellence. When the final decision was made in 1910, Wilson was outnumbered and, once again, lost. He left the Princeton presidency later that year, successfully running for New Jersey’s governorship. The initial buildings of the Graduate College were completed in 1913, just to the west of campus on the other side of what is today the Springdale Golf Club.

Anna Rubin ’15 worked as an archives assistant at the front desk here at Mudd while completing her senior year at Princeton. She was heavily involved in the digitization of this collection.

This Week in Princeton History for March 7-13

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Nassau Hall is almost totally destroyed, undergraduates rescue stranded train passengers, and more.

March 9, 1770—The Providence Gazette reports that James Caldwell (Class of 1759) is on his way back to Princeton from Charleston, South Carolina with ₤700 he has raised for the College of New Jersey.

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The Board of Trustees acknowledged Caldwell’s efforts at their next meeting on September 26, 1770. By then he had reportedly raised over ₤1,000. Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey/Princeton University, Vol. 1, Board of Trustees Records (AC102).

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Becoming Henry Fairfax

By April C. Armstrong *14, Madeline Lea ’16, Allie Lichterman ’16, and Spencer Shen ’16, with special thanks to Megan Chung ’19

April C. Armstrong *14

In a blog post about Princeton’s imaginary community members several months ago, I wrote about Henry Fairfax, a mythical figure who delivered Valentines to freshmen and sophomores in the 1970s and 1980s. After rediscovering him, I had an idea. What if we, as the Princeton University Archives, revived Henry?

Fortunately, the University Archivist (Dan Linke) and Assistant Archivist for Public Services (Sara Logue) were agreeable to my plan. Alongside the rest of the staff in Public Services at the Mudd Manuscript Library (Christa Cleeton, Rosalba Varallo Recchia, and Sara), I designed a Fairfax Valentine for today’s students using a reprint of a Princeton postcard from at least a century before and ordered 250 copies. I then turned to my student employees. We divided the campus into zones where they would take the Valentines, essentially becoming Henry themselves. For four days leading up to Valentine’s weekend, they fanned out across Princeton, slipping in and out of libraries, classrooms, laundry rooms, dining areas, and dormitory common spaces to hide the postcards. The Valentines gave Mudd’s email address in case recipients had curiosity about anything else that might have happened at Princeton and suggested they tweet at us to let us know they’d found them.

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The front and back of our Fairfax Valentines. The original Valentine postcard we used is from our Historical Postcard Collection (AC045), Box 4.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 29-March 6

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Ethel Barrymore is on campus, undergraduates head to Washington to celebrate a presidential inauguration, and more.

March 1, 1969—The new Jadwin Gym is dedicated at a Harvard-Yale-Princeton track meet.

March 2, 1931—Ethel Barrymore appears in the opening of “Love Duel” at McCarter Theater.

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Ethel Barrymore, ca. 1931. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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“Even Princeton”: Vietnam and a Culture of Student Activism, 1967-1972

by Kyla Morgan Young GS

College campuses in the 1960s and early ’70s were bastions of social and political activism. Students across the nation began to discover a renewed sense of political duty that came in the form of critique. Activism swelled around a myriad of issues including civil rights, gender equality, Apartheid, and most notably, America’s involvement in Vietnam. Princeton University was not immune. Student activism was a significant part of campus life in the mid-1960s. The issues of the Vietnam War, in particular, mobilized the masses on Princeton’s campus in new and often unexpected ways.

Princeton student activism was fueled by both larger national politics and University-specific issues. While the draft and the morality of U.S. involvement abroad sparked debate, the actions of the University, from the role of the Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to the University’s affiliation with the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), prompted students to pursue change at the University as well. This new political presence initially did not concern University President Robert F. Goheen. His opening remarks to the class of 1969 that “Only through disturbance comes growth” were not meant as prophecy, but students grew disturbed and sought change (quoted in Richard K. Rein, “The Rise of Student Power,” PAW, May 12, 1972).

In the fall of 1965, the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was founded and became one of the lead organizations for radical campus activism. Among its many concerns, the SDS was particularly outspoken against U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Draft resistance became part of college campus life across the country, especially at Princeton. In April 1967, the Princeton Draft Resistance Union was created and sponsored by SDS, as undergraduates signed under the statement “We won’t go” (later published in the Daily Princetonian). Out of the 100 draft resistance centers across the United States, Princeton had two of the most active: the Princeton Graduate Draft Union and the undergraduate Princeton Draft Resistance Union.

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Princeton University Broadsheets Collection (AC375), Box 1.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 22-28

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Dan Quayle sparks protest, the Princetonian advocates smallpox vaccines, and more.

February 22, 1990—Two students are arrested for disrupting a speech by Vice President Dan Quayle in Richardson Auditorium, yelling “stop the killing!” and “There’s women’s blood on your hands, Dan!” Quayle responds, “Is there an echo in here?” while the Secret Service remove them from the room. A third student is arrested because later reports will claim he “lunged toward Quayle” during Quayle’s interaction with a group of protesters.

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Dan Quayle in Richardson Auditorium. Photo from 1990 Bric-a-brac.

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Reprocessing the Raymond Blaine Fosdick Papers

Raymond Blaine Fosdick, Princeton Classes of 1905 and 1906

Raymond Blaine Fosdick, Princeton classes of 1905 and 1906, in Mexico. Raymond Blaine Fosdick Papers (MC055), Box 26.

Sometimes less is more. Recently the Mudd Manuscript Library addressed some long-standing problems with the Raymond Blaine Fosdick Papers to improve access to his voluminous correspondence (22 archival boxes, almost 10 linear feet). Fosdick, who is best remembered for his leadership roles in the League of Nations and at the Rockefeller Foundation, donated his papers to Princeton University in 1966. At some point, a portion of the correspondence in the Fosdick Papers was cataloged at the item level, meaning that (supposedly) there was a record of the author, date, and general subject matter of every single letter in that part of the collection. Each letter was (again, supposedly) also assigned a serial number, and the correspondence was arranged in numerical order according to these serial numbers. A database was available on an older version of the Mudd Library’s website that allowed researchers to do a keyword search of the item level descriptions, and the results would tell researchers the serial number(s) of the correspondence they might be interested in so they could request the relevant folder(s) through the collection’s finding aid. In the finding aid, however, the description of the correspondence just looked like this:

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William Taylor’s “Doggie Wagon”

Searching for materials in archival collections means, at times, trying to figure out how the people of the past would have labeled their photos, named their articles, or categorized their artifacts. They didn’t always use the same terms we would now. For this Black History Month, we examine William Taylor and how he illustrates the challenges we sometimes face when we’re trying to research the experiences of prior generations.
A tradition of longstanding at Princeton University ended in 1949. Last year, we told you about James “Jimmy Stink” Collins Johnson, a fugitive slave who went into business for himself on the College of New Jersey (Princeton) campus after abolitionist-minded townspeople and students helped him buy his freedom. Johnson sold snacks and drinks from a cart he pushed around campus. In his later years, Johnson took an apprentice named Spader, who sold peanuts from a large bag while wearing a top hat, an ascot, and a cutaway jacket. As the third and last African American campus vendor among the salesmen who have pushed carts around Princeton, William Taylor had the longest tenure, from 1904-1949. Taylor’s death on March 26, 1949 was a blow to the community. A local newspaper, Town Topics, wrote that “When he went, Princeton became a smaller town.”
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William Taylor, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box LP1, Image No. 294.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 15-21

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, reports of a strange creature living in the lake captivate imaginations on campus, a banner is stolen, and more.

February 16, 1758—The Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) vote to repeal a rule requiring students to wear caps and gowns (“peculiar habits”). This rule will be reinstated in 1768.

Peculiar habits

Minutes of the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), February 16, 1758. Board of Trustees Records (AC120), Vol. 1.

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Majority of James M. Beck Papers Now Available Online

We are pleased to announce the completion of another digitization project. The bulk of the papers of James M. Beck (1861-1936), who enjoyed a long career as a lawyer, author, public speaker, Solicitor General, and U.S. Congressman, are now available online through the finding aid for collection MC007. Beck served as Solicitor General from 1921-1925 and represented the Philadelphia region as a Republican Congressman from 1927-1934. Researchers interested in a variety of topics will find this collection useful. For those interested in American politics and foreign policy during Beck’s life, the collection holds many items relating to World War I and Beck’s fights against Prohibition and the New Deal. It also reflects Beck’s personal interests in American history and Shakespeare.

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James M. Beck. Photo from James M. Beck Papers (MC007), Box 11, Folder 8.

One subject the collection focuses upon is World War I. Beck’s writings on World War I were widely read. Beck defended America many times against the claims that initial neutrality in the European conflict was rooted in nationalist selfishness: “If the bones of your sons are now buried in France there are the bones of many a brave American boy who, without the protection of his flag … have gone and given their young lives as a willing sacrifice. Therefore, I say to you, men of England, if there are pinpricks, do not misjudge the American people, who have done what they did under the most trying and delicate circumstances…” (Beck, “America and the Allies,” July 5, 1916, p. 19) Later, Beck agreed that conditions had made it necessary for the United States to enter the war, but warned that the outcome of the hostilities of the era would “leave a heritage of hatred among nations” and that someday in the not too distant future Germany and Japan might join forces to fight America and its allies. (Beck, “America and the War”) Our collection contains translations of Beck’s World War I writings and speeches in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, and Greek. The correspondence he received in response, from all over the world, is also in many languages. Thus, in addition to reflecting American opinions, researchers will find perspectives from diverse nations in the collection.

Another subject the collection provides insight into is the public’s impressions of domestic policies. Beck’s stand against Prohibition earned a mixed response from his constituents, with Lillian Francis Fitch writing to Beck in 1930, “It is more than difficult for me to see how any high-minded, intelligent person can … be a ‘wet’” and C. Pardo writing to praise Beck’s efforts that same year on the grounds that Prohibition “is the work largely of … busy bodies.” Beck’s strong criticism of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, which authorized United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to regulate industry in an attempt to stimulate the economy during a period of severe deflation, also resulted a variety of responses. Most letters on the subject in our collection heaped praise upon Beck for his stand, but Cable Welfair urged a more cautious response to the bill: “I am not so terribly disturbed about some of the emotional legislation passed by the last Congress. Things that are said and done when one is excited must be more or less discounted. You don’t have to get a divorce from your wife because she says you are a brute. Maybe she is mistaken; or maybe you are, but can improve.”

A final substantial component of the collection concerns Beck’s private intellectual pursuits. Beck was particularly fond of Shakespeare. The collection includes his correspondence with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Joseph Quincy Adams, and materials related to his membership and presidency in the Philadelphia Shakespeare Society. Researchers will also note that Beck frequently quoted Shakespeare in his speeches. Beck spoke to a variety of audiences on a range of topics in American history as well, and was a frequent guest speaker for the Pennsylvania Society and the Sons of the Revolution. This index to his speeches will help researchers locate these items.