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.

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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.

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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The Changing Shape of American Football at the College of New Jersey (Princeton)

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, our thoughts have turned toward the history of American football. We’ve repeated the fact several times: On November 6, 1869, the first intercollegiate football match ever was played on College Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, between the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and Rutgers College. Yet some dispute this. The game Princeton and Rutgers played that day looked a lot more like soccer than what we now know as American football. The ball was perfectly round, not the oval we use now. The teams had about 25 players each on the field, rather than 11. But even if this wasn’t “football” as we know football, without that game to attract the attention of other colleges, American football would probably have never gotten off the ground. Thus, we’ll still continue to say that the first intercollegiate American football game happened on November 6, 1869.

Questions might still remain, however. How did Princeton go from playing with approximately 25 men on the field chasing a round ball to playing with 11 men on the field chasing an oval ball?

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The College of New Jersey (Princeton) 1873 football team. Note the round ball in front of the man in the top hat. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box LP36, Image No. 2522.

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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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Woodrow Wilson and the Eating Clubs

Written by Anna Rubin ’15

We are pleased to announce another newly digitized collection: the Woodrow Wilson Correspondence in the Office of the President Records. Wilson was president of Princeton University from 1902-1910, Governor of New Jersey 1911-1913, and U.S. President 1913-1921. This collection contains correspondence between Wilson and University faculty, administrators, alumni, and parents, as well as departmental records and information on University projects that were taking place during his term, such as the construction of the Graduate College. Wilson’s Princeton presidency presented him with many challenges, the most ultimately significant of which was conflict over campus social life. In the first of a two-part series, we take a look at Wilson’s battle with the eating clubs.

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Woodrow Wilson as Princeton’s president. Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project Records (MC178) Box 445.

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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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