This Week in Princeton History for October 5-11

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, President Bill Clinton speaks on campus for the third time, classes begin after a long delay, and more.

October 5, 2000—Sitting U.S. President Bill Clinton interacts with students in a tent outside after giving the keynote address at a conference on the American progressive tradition.


Harold Shapiro and Bill Clinton, October 6, 2000. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 202.

October 8, 1968—NBC news anchor David Brinkley gives the Ferris lecture in journalism in the Woodrow Wilson School auditorium.

October 9, 1936—Princeton’s students and townspeople gather to watch the famous German airship Hindenburg fly overhead on one of a handful of trips it will make along the east coast of the United States before a tragic crash eight months later.


The Hindenburg files over Pyne Hall, Princeton University, October 9, 1936. Photo taken by Ira D. Dorian ’37. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, No. 4523.

October 10, 1916—Classes finally begin at Princeton, having been delayed several weeks due to a severe polio epidemic. Students are still prohibited from going to the movies, eating off-campus, or leaving town until the epidemic passes.


Minutes of the Princeton University Senior Council, October 14, 1916. Senior Council Records (AC253), Box 2.

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.

“War Is Imminent”: The Veterans of Future Wars

Though Princeton University has had a reputation as a relatively wealthy institution, both the school itself and its students faced economic struggles alongside the rest of the nation during the Great Depression. One March evening in 1936, two Princeton roommates, Urban Joseph Peters Rushton ’36 and Lewis Jefferson Gorin, Jr., ’36, went to the movies. The newsreel prior to the film included a report on the Adjusted Service Compensation Act (ASCA), which authorized government payouts of $2 billion to World War I’s veterans. Feeling irritated by this huge expenditure at a time of financial hardship—close to $34 billion in today’s dollars—the two sat at Viedt’s Chocolate Shoppe afterward, outlining their thoughts on paper napkins while they waited for their chocolate malts and bacon and tomato sandwiches to arrive.

It later seemed either a cynical or a chilling prophecy: “War is imminent,” their manifesto had begun, though the Spanish Civil War had not yet started and Adolf Hitler would not invade Austria for two years. At t the time, it was just a joke made by a few irritated youth who had come of age in a time more familiar with poverty than prosperity. They demanded their “war bonuses” before they were asked to fight—after all, many would die and not otherwise be able to benefit from it, they argued. A thousand dollars each, with thirty years’ worth of interest added, payable immediately to every man of military age (18 to 36), was the only fair thing.

VFW ad from Princetonian_1936-05-11_v61_n076_0001

Ad from the Daily Princetonian, May 11, 1936.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 28-October 4

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a prominent feminist urges Princetonians to support women’s suffrage, dorm residents struggle to keep warm, and more.

September 29, 1915—On the same day as President Woodrow Wilson is in town but refusing to answer reporters’ questions about whether or not he supports female suffrage, Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale, author of What Women Want: An Interpretation of the Feminist Movement, gives an address in Alexander Hall calling for American women to be given the right to vote.

September 30, 1939—Ralph Wood, a modern languages instructor at Princeton, arrives at Jersey City after a harrowing 18-day journey across the Atlantic with 200 other people on board a boat that normally holds 12, having fled Germany during the outbreak of hostilities that will soon be known as World War II.

October 1, 1976—Although the heat would normally have been turned on in the dorms in accordance with New Jersey law at the beginning of October, instead students read an announcement letting them know that it will be delayed until October 11 due to a national energy crisis. As temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night, students begin bundling up to keep warm.


A student bundled against the indoor chill at Princeton University, ca. Fall 1976. Photo from 1978 Bric-a-Brac.

October 4, 1997—At least 15 Princeton students join approximately 500,000 evangelical men at an all-male prayer rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the “Promise Keepers” organization.

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.

Power to the People: Princeton’s Black Activism Movement

ABC was a place where we could go and it was us. We did have a kindred spirit. I mean because it was 98 black students, all of us knew each other. And even guys that you didn’t hang out with, at some point in time you might be in their dorm room.
Ralph Austin ’73

In 2015,  Brandon A. Holt ’15 conducted interviews with black activists from Association of Black Collegians (ABC) and other organizations at Princeton. The interviews, which include alumni from the classes of 1969-1981, address student participation in demonstrations, hate crimes on campus, and black solidarity. The transcripts of the Brandon D. Holt Collection of Oral History Interviews on Black Student Activism at Princeton are available freely online and provide an insider’s look into black student life.

Princeton’s black students experienced the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement as a reality of daily life, not just as stories they saw on the news. From low numbers of African American students to discrimination on campus, the black college experience at Princeton University had its share of adversity. During these tumultuous years, black Princetonians united across national, class, and gender lines to fight for inclusion and civil rights on campus as well as worldwide.


Photo from 1970 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 21-27

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Halle Berry talks about women and race in film, a freshman struggles to adjust, and more.

September 21, 1970—The op-ed (opposite editorial) page, pioneered by editorial page editor John R. Oakes ’34, makes its debut in the New York Times. Its intense popularity will lead to its adoption by many other newspapers.

September 22, 2000—Halle Berry is the keynote speaker at a conference entitled, “Imitating Life: Women, Race, and Film, 1934-2000,” in McCosh 50. She tells the packed audience being asked to speak was personally significant: “That invitation reminded me who I was, and that I could be proud of that person because Princeton wanted me to come speak.”


Halle Berry speaking at the “Imitating Life: Women, Race, and Film, 1934-2000” conference, Princeton University, September 22, 2000. Photo from Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 203. The video recording of Berry’s speech is found in the Broadcast Center Recordings (AC362), Box 8.

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#Princethen Announcement and Rules for Participation

With special thanks to Yankia Ned ’17 and Sophia Su ’17

Classes start today at Princeton. What better time to get to know the campus? Although we know Princetonians have a lot to do, we think they also benefit from a little fun, so we’re going to play a game next week. Please play along!

Here’s how it works:

Between September 23 and September 30, tweet a photo from around campus to us @MuddLibrary using the hashtag #Princethen. Make sure it’s your own photography—no cheating stealing stuff from the internet! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Feel free to take phone selfies if that’s your style. We will respond to all such tweets that we can with a photo of the same place from within our collections alongside your photo. Here are a handful of examples:


The simplest photos are just shots taken from around campus, like this one (on the left) by Yankia Ned ’17. We’ve responded here with a photo from ca. 1960 from the Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111). Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for September 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 infirmary surprises incoming freshmen with a nude photo requirement, a water shortage prevents students from showering, and more.

September 14, 1887—Although the name of the school is still The College of New Jersey, the New York Herald Tribune reports that its alumni have all been referring to it as Princeton University and that it is “a university in everything save the name.”

September 17, 1989—Virginia Cha ’86 is named first runner up in the Miss America pageant and wins a $20,000 scholarship, which Cha says she plans to use to pursue graduate studies in journalism. She will later become a news anchor for ABC 10 in San Diego.


Virginia Cha ’86 modeling at a local fashion show in Princeton in February 1986. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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75th Anniversary Exhibition Celebrates Princeton’s Beloved WPRB Station

Princeton University’s radio station, WPRB, has for the most part been a frenetic hodgepodge where Beethoven plays alongside The Ramones and sports broadcasts back to back with national news. However, the radio station has also been the space where new bands get airplay, campus history is made, and revolutionary ideas are expressed without restraint. For 75 years, WPRB has facilitated creative and intellectual pursuits by serving as the delightful petri dish for the students that spin its turntables.

In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the exhibition “WPRB: A Haven for the Creative Impulse” showcases the impact of the college radio station on the Princeton campus and the entire nation.

students in WPRU studio

Photo from 1947 Bric-a-Brac.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 7-13

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Firestone Library opens, the campus reels from domestic terrorism, and more.

September 7, 1948—With much of the interior construction not yet complete, Firestone Library opens to students and faculty for the first time.


Interior of Firestone Library, ca. 1948. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD04, Image No. 8223.

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Princeton Junction & Back: Our Dinky Archives

Though New Jersey Transit lists the stop as the “Princeton Station,” locals refer to their train as the “Dinky” or “PJ&B” (Princeton Junction & Back). Recently, the station moved several hundred feet from its former site near University Place along Alexander Road, making it the talk of the town. Protests of a planned replacement of the little train with a bus spared this bit of Princeton history, which most of our readers are likely to remember. As it happens, the “Save the Dinky” movement echoes a nineteenth-century protest that both saved the train and created its route. Aside from a short-lived Boston & Albany route that ran 1.2 miles in the early 1950s, Riverside to Newton Lower Falls (Massachusetts), this has always been—and remains—the shortest passenger train route in the United States. Here we take a look at how Princeton got its tiny train and kept it running.


Princeton Station with the College of New Jersey (Princeton) campus visible in the background, 1870. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 91.

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