This Week in Princeton History for January 18-24

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a sleigh ride results in the arrest of 24 undergraduates, Theodore Roosevelt lectures on police reform, and more.

January 18, 1879—A Columbia student is surprised when an innocent-seeming sleigh ride with Princeton students in Trenton lands him in jail alongside 24 Princetonians. Sleighing having become a public nuisance in Trenton, the local police had decided to make an example of these students. The New York papers will report later that at the time of their arrest, the students had been drinking and were singing “Jingle Bells” and “Sweet By and By” loudly at around 1:00 AM. After being denied bail, all plead guilty to disorderly conduct and pay a fine of $3.85 each to avoid spending the night to stand trial in the morning. The College of New Jersey (Princeton) president, James McCosh, will be quoted in the New York Times: “They are a very honorable set of young gentlemen. I do not believe those who went to Trenton would use indecent language, insult ladies, or get intoxicated.”

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As noted by several newspapers in the aftermath of the Trenton arrests, sleighing was a popular form of recreation for College of New Jersey (Princeton) students in the late 19th century. Pictured here are four members of the Class of 1895 outside University Hall. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP14, Image No. 4856.

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Princeton University During World War I

By Spencer Shen ’16

On the afternoon of September 24, 1914, President John G. Hibben gave an address to incoming freshman in Marquand Chapel, acknowledging that “the opening of this new academic year…presents to our minds a striking contrast: the peaceful setting of this assembly against the dark background of the terrible European war.” With the outbreak of the conflict only a month before, many Princetonians took Hibben’s call “to the service of the world” to heart. Several joined Canadian regiments and other branches of the Allied military services. Still others volunteered as ambulance drivers for the French Red Cross. A Princeton chapter of the National Red Cross Society formed, with representatives from both town and gown.

By December 1914, students had petitioned successfully for Princeton to offer organized military training. Overseen by what would later become the Committee on War Courses, the program was approved by the University trustees and headed by General Leonard Wood. Over the next two years, more and more lectures were presented by officers of the Army on military history and organization. Tactical excursions were offered and covered skills such as trench and pontoon building, bridgework and road construction, and rifle practice.

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Soldiers near Princeton University’s Witherspoon Hall, ca. 1915. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Image No. 4378.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 11-17

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus tries to get back into the swing of things after the holidays, a professor expresses irritation with William Jennings Bryan, and more.

January 11, 1945—Princeton University Librarian Julian P. Boyd’s lunch with United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sparks rumors that he is being considered for the position of Librarian of Congress.

January 13, 1882—Feeling a bit of the post-holiday blues, the Princetonian asks, “The recreations of the holiday season have been thoroughly enjoyed, and we now settle down to—work?”

January 14, 1814—The faculty of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) determine that the “villainous acts” of January 9 (an arsonist attack on the College privy) was the work of young men not affiliated with the school and turn the matter over to civil authorities.

January 15, 1923—Princeton University geology professor William B. Scott responds in frustration to anti-evolution activist William Jennings Bryan’s local lecture asserting that the theory is a menace to religion, civilization, and society: “Upon that subject he is an ignoramus. … His arguments are absurd; he does not know what he is talking about; he does not even want to learn.”

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William Jennings Bryan boxes with a monkey in front of a huge crowd. Donald R. McKee, “Why Dempsey and Wills?” Political Cartoon Collection (MC180), Box 22.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

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

Who Founded Princeton University?

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Who founded Princeton University? 

A. The founding of Princeton University is nearly as complex as the courses that have been and continue to be taught within its hallowed lecture halls. The College of New Jersey (as Princeton University was known until 1896) was a child of the Great Awakening, an institution born in opposition to the religious tenets that had ruled the colonial era.

The principles on which Princeton University was founded may be traced to the Log College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, founded by William Tennent in 1726. Tennent was a Presbyterian minister who, along with fellow evangelists Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies, and George Whitefield of England, preached and taught an approach to religion and life that was the very essence of the Great Awakening period. The seven founders of the College of New Jersey were all Presbyterians. Ebenezer Pemberton, a minister and a graduate of Harvard, was the only one of the seven who did not graduate from Yale. The remaining six were Jonathan Dickinson, Aaron Burr Sr., and John Pierson, who were ministers; William Smith, a lawyer; Peter Van Brugh Livingston, a merchant; and William Peartree Smith.

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Original location of Pennsylvania’s Log College (photo taken in 1914). Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP62, Image No. 2402.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 4-10

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the school’s president petitions Bill Clinton for an end to a “discriminatory policy,” Nassau Hall gets new tigers, and more.

January 4, 1836—Two students “having been detected in having ardent spirits in their rooms” are asked to withdraw from the College of New Jersey (Princeton).

January 5, 1993—Princeton University president Harold Shapiro signs a letter along with 66 other American university presidents urging U.S. President Bill Clinton to remove the ban on homosexuals in the military as a “discriminatory policy” that “is antithetical to our institutions’ commitment to respect for individuals, as well as for equal access and opportunity.” The action invites intense criticism for Shapiro.

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Harold Shapiro, ca. 1993. Photo from the 1993 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 28-January 3

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Woodrow Wilson stamps are selling fast, all computers go offline, and more.

December 28, 1925—The Princeton post office sells more than 3,000 Woodrow Wilson stamps on their first day of issue to approximately 700 people. Among the sales is a sheet of 100 to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of the Princeton University Library.

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We believe these are from the sheet of stamps purchased by the Princeton University Library on December 28, 1925. Woodrow Wilson Collection (MC168), Box 45, Folder 12.

December 31, 1999—In anticipation of the “Y2K bug,” Princeton University disconnects all of its computers and servers from the internet.

January 1, 1814—James M. Garnett (Class of 1814) writes of an incident in Nassau Hall: “Today to refresh us after our labours, we had a great dinner, composed of Pigs, Geese, Irish potatoes, minced-pies, hickory nuts, cider, & wine. The President [Ashbel Green] did us the honour to dine with us, and gave us a toast; when he rose to give it he commanded silence which want of politeness gave such offence to some of our well-bred company that they returned the toast with a scrape” (i.e., the students scraped their shoes on the floor to protest).

January 2, 1946—Ground is broken on Firestone Memorial Library.

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Early construction of Firestone Memorial Library. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD04, Image No. 8264.

For last week’s 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 December 21-27

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a veteran-athlete is killed, Abraham Lincoln writes a thank you note, and more.

December 21, 1918—With orders home in his pocket, celebrated athlete Hobey Baker  ’14 crashes in France while testing a repaired plane, sustaining fatal injuries.

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Hobey Baker’s crashed plane. John D. Davies Collection on Hobey Baker (AC005), Box 5, Folder 7, Image No. 21828.

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Study of Education at Princeton and the 1954 Advisee Project

By Madeline Lea ’16

The Study of Education at Princeton was a unique project that evolved during post-World War II discussions of education at the University led by economics professor Frank W. Notestein. Professor Samuel S. Wilks of the mathematics department and Dean of the Faculty J. Douglas Brown ’19 were also involved. They asserted that a scientific study of education would provide hard data to support any changes to University admissions or curriculum. The project’s goal was “to examine as critically and systematically as possible all aspects of residential university life, including both instructional methods and programs and extracurricular activities, for their effect on the student’s intellectual, moral and physical development.” Faculty interest in the study was bolstered by President Harold W. Dodds’s wholehearted support and the assistance of University Trustee General Frederick H. Osborn, Class of 1910.

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“The Underclass Years,” by S. Roy Heath, Jr. ’39, Princeton Alumni Weekly, October 16, 1953.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 14-20

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the campus rallies around a professor targeted by a racist screed, a new library draws patrons despite a broken furnace, and more.

December 14, 1757—The College of  New Jersey (Princeton) Board of Trustees vote to send a representative to meet with the ecclesiastical council that will decide whether Jonathan Edwards may be released from his ministerial duties in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to assume the responsibilities of President of the College.

December 15, 1990–The Princeton University campus reels from news of a racist letter sent to Director of Afro-American Studies Nell Painter asserting that she “does not have the intellectual worth to teach at the college level.” Administrators, faculty, and students scramble to express their support of the history professor.

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Nell Painter, ca. 1990. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

December 17, 1873—College of New Jersey (Princeton) President James McCosh reports that Chancellor Green Library is complete, with the exception of a non-functional furnace; the cold does not prevent the library’s use, as 26 people per day borrow books.

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Chancellor Green Library (pictured with old Dickinson Hall at left), 1873. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC112), Box MP013, Image No. 327.

December 20, 1946—It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart ‘32, premieres at the Globe Theatre in New York. The Daily Princetonian will give it a positive review despite the film’s “excessive sentimentality and overwrought tension.”

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

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

Imaginary Princetonians

There have been many famous Princetonians, but there have also been a number of famous—or perhaps infamous—imaginary members of the Princeton community. Here we take a look at the nonexistent people who became legends on campus.


Adelbert L’Hommedieu X (Bert Hormone), Class of 1917

The Class of 1917 invented an imaginary member and provided regular updates on his activities for the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Among his exploits, Adelbert L’Hommedieu X (Bert Hormone) was expelled from Princeton after only a single semester, fought in a seemingly endless number of wars, and seduced countless women. In 1941, Harvey Smith included an extended treatment of “Bert” in the fictional book-length account of the adventures of the Class of 1917, The Gang’s All Here.


 Ephraim di Kahble ‘39

When they arrived on campus, five members of the Class of 1939 decided to pull a prank on their classmates. They invented Ephraim di Kahble ’39, who “lived” at 36 University Place, where the group rented and decorated an empty room to make it look like his. Ultimately, they aimed to get their imaginary friend elected treasurer of their class. Ads began running in the Daily Princetonian under the name of Ephraim di Kahble, each more fanciful than the last.

The pranksters took things just a little too far, though, when they had young di Kahble take out an ad in the New York Times requesting information about an orange and black guinea pig. The New York Journal then ran a phone interview with “Eph,” discussing his hopes to change the Princeton mascot. He promised to wash all orange and black guinea pigs before he bought them to be sure they were authentic. The University Press Club was suspicious and investigated, finding that no such person existed. Di Kahble then “died” from exposure.

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Clipping from the Daily Princetonian, November 19, 1935.

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