This Week in Princeton History for March 13-19

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, juniors make plans, an activist housewife is on campus, and more.

March 15, 1869—Samuel Rene Gummere (Class of 1870) writes to classmate Adrian Hoffman Joline to invite him to a game of Whist in Gummere’s dorm room tomorrow night.

Letter (see caption for transcript)

Gummere’s invitation to Joline, which reads as follows: “Princeton, Mar. 15, 1869. Dear Addie, Will you come over to my rooms tomorrow evening at half past eight, for a little game of Whist? Yours, Sam Gummere. 28 East College. R.S.V.P.” Scrapbook Collection (AC026), Box 21.

March 16, 1971—Halfway through her 450-mile walk from Boston to Washington to protest the Vietnam War, housewife Louise Bruyn speaks at Murray-Dodge. Bruyn says she is

trying to reach those who have become anaesthetized and feel there is nothing one person can do. I am asking them to look for alternatives, to actively say “no” to the death machine which is war, in their own way.

March 18, 1880—Locals take in the “Chalk Talk” arranged by the Student Lecture Association. Frank Beard’s comedic lecture illustrated with chalk drawings (the genre he pioneered) pleases the audience.

March 19, 1798—Princeton president Samuel Stanhope Smith writes to Benjamin Rush regarding his belief in the benefits of bloodletting to cure disease, on the basis of his own experience of frequent use of a lance to bleed himself over the years.

I have, perhaps, carried my bleedings somewhat farther than was absolutely necessary; but, in such cases, it is difficult to fix the point of strict necessity, and success has justified my rashness.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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

Five Princeton Alumni Minority Rights Activists from the 18th and 19th Centuries

There are Princeton alumni who were involved with advancing minority rights in the 20th and 21st centuries who are known better today, but Princeton graduates engaged in these activities well before then. Here are five alumni who advocated for Native American, Black, Jewish, and immigrant rights after earning a Princeton degree in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Leonard D. Shaw, Class of 1784

Leonard D. Shaw, a member of the Class of 1784 from New Jersey, had close ties to Native Americans. Shaw was appointed a deputy agent of the United States to the Cherokee in 1792. This appointment meant learning to speak Cherokee and exchanging information on agriculture and “such useful arts as you may know or can acquire.” The intent of the appointment was to improve relations and “to infuse into all the Indians the uprightness of the views of the President…and his desire to better the situation of the Indians in all respects.”

Records assert that after moving to live among the Cherokee, however, Shaw’s sympathies began to fall with them rather than with his own country’s leadership. Soon, he had married into the tribe. He advised the Cherokee chiefs that they should not confer with the Tennessee governor, because the governor would not act in the best interests of the tribe, urging them to attempt to deal directly with the federal government in Washington instead. He then reportedly told them, “You know I was sent here by your father the president, to do you justice, and justice you shall have, as far as in my power.” He promised to “go to Congress, and recover your land for you, to the old line.” This did not go over well with Shaw’s superiors.

We have found no record of what happened to Shaw after 1793, when he was removed from office for “inebriety and great want of prudence.” The only thing we know is that he vowed to bring the Cherokee to then-president George Washington to help them demand a return of their land, an event that did not apparently occur. It is believed that he lived out the rest of his life with his new family among the Cherokees in Tennessee. Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for April 5-11

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Princetonians join NOW’s rally in Washington, the Board of Trustees urge parents not to send their children too much money, and more.

April 5, 1877—Marveling at the possibilities the intention of the telephone has brought, the Princetonian anticipates a future with remote learning and the ability to order meals on a whim: “Oh, when will this glorious activity among students appear, when from morning until night, from year in until year out, we need not leave our rooms, but can pursue our College course, and can at last graduate a la Telephone?

April 6, 2000—Graduate student Xiaohui Fan discovers a quasar.

April 9, 1989—More than 160 Princeton students and faculty members join hundreds of thousands of others in the National Organization for Women (NOW) rally for abortion rights in Washington, D.C.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian.

April 10, 1807—The Board of Trustees writes to parents urging them not to give more money to students than is strictly necessary. Students will need $188.32 for tuition, room, board, wood, servants, candles, laundry, and incidentals, and no more than $250-$280 per year for all other expenses, including the furnishings for their rooms. The Board has established a Bursar in order to manage students’ money. “The guardians of the college cannot too earnestly press upon parents the danger of much exceeding in their remittances…they may be assured they do it at the great hazard of both the virtue, and to the scholarship of their sons. More young men have been injured by money and credit in this institution than by all other causes.”

For the previous 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 9-15

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a typing class is starting, reform-minded undergraduates organize, and more.

December 9, 1958—Registration is underway for an undergraduate typing course. For six dollars, students will learn how to type about 20-30 words per minute.

A variety of options were available to students who wanted to hire typists. This was one of several ads for typing services that ran in the Daily Princetonian in 1958.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 29-November 4

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Art Museum reopens in a modernized environment, the football team’s stunning victory over Penn sparks a riot, and more.

October 29, 1966—The Princeton University Art Museum reopens in its new home in a new McCormick Hall.

The new McCormick Hall was built on the site of the old McCormick Hall and Art Museum extension. The 1880 building, pictured here, was advanced for the 19th century but no longer a suitable home for Princeton’s collections. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box SP05, Image No. 1216.

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Acción Puertorriqueña and Divisions among Puerto Ricans at Princeton

By Mario Garcia ’18

Founded in 1972, Acción Puertorriqueña—later known as Acción Puertorriqueña y Amigos—was a student group initially consisting of Puerto Rican undergraduates and later allies who sought to create spaces for Puerto Rican cultures on Princeton’s campus through cultural events and student-led activism. Such celebratory events included the beginnings of Latino Graduation in 1990 and National Hispanic Heritage Month in 1989 as commemorations of the experiences of Princeton students descending from Latin American ancestry, while activist initiatives included lobbying for seminars related to Puerto Rican histories and recruitment programs for Puerto Rican students in the 1970s as strategies for empowering Puerto Rican communities on campus.

Event flyer, 1981. Carl Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding Records (AC342), Box 1.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 22-28

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, protesters are arrested at Nassau Hall, a professor urges Princetonians to buy Liberty Loan bonds, and more.

May 22, 1949—Nassau Hall’s flag flies at half mast as a tribute to James V. Forrestal, a member of the Class of 1915 and the nation’s first Secretary of Defense, who died after jumping out a window on the sixteenth floor of Bethesda Naval Hospital on this date.

James Forrestal, ca. 1940s. Official U.S. Navy Photo. James V. Forrestal Papers (MC051), Box 188.

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This Week in Princeton History for March 20-26

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior wins a game show, a graduate makes history at MoMA, and more.

March 20, 2003—Three students are arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing a highway when they sit in the middle of Nassau Street bound to each other with piping to protest the Iraq War. One explains their choice to break the law: “We’ve exhausted all the other means of protest. … Any other tactic seemed inadequate in the light of the horror inherent in the attacks on the Iraqi people.”

March 22, 1951—Richard W. Kazmaier, Jr. ’52 defeats opponents on the television show Blind Date and goes out on the town with Pat Dowd of Brooklyn.

Richard Kazmaier ’52. Photo from 1952 Nassau Herald.

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An Update on Archiving Student Activism at Princeton (ASAP)

The following is a guest post by Chase Hommeyer ’19, a first-year undergraduate student at Princeton working at the Mudd Manuscript Library this semester.

Hi everyone! My name’s Chase, I’m an undergraduate here at Princeton, and I’ll be working at the Mudd Manuscript Library in the Princeton University Archives this semester on the initiative Archiving Student Activism and Princeton (ASAP).

I arrived on campus with the perception that the legacy of Princeton was one of prestige, rigor, achievement…and rigid tradition. I didn’t perceive that there was, or ever had been, a great deal of room on Princeton’s campus for activism–which is why I was so shocked when I started talking to Princeton’s archivists and began learning about the incredible tradition of movement, contention, and action on our campus.


Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 38

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Princeton’s African American Honorary Degree Recipients: Activists and Public Servants

by: Brenda Tindal

In the fall of 1748, Princeton University–then known as the College of New Jersey– held its first commencement. During this ceremony, six undergraduate students were graduated with Bachelor of Arts degrees and the administration conferred the honoris causa (honorary degree) upon Jonathan Belcher, the Governor of New Jersey. Thereafter, Princeton awarded honorary degrees to individuals who had made significant contributions in various sectors of society including religion, academics, arts and culture, politics, science, military, and finance, among other fields. However, it would not be until 1951 that Princeton would confer this honor upon an African American. Since then, more than forty African Americans have been honored in this way. This post focuses on some African American activists and public servants who have received an honorary degree from Princeton University.

Ralph Johnson Bunche

Diplomat and scholar-activist Ralph Johnson Bunche was the first African American awarded an honorary degree from Princeton in 1951, receiving a Doctor of Laws degree.

Citation read at Princeton’s 204th Commencement:
"A political scientist on the faculty of Howard University on leave since 1941 for government service. Stafford Little Lecturer at Princeton in 1950. Professor-designate at Harvard. An expert analyst of colonial areas and territorial affairs for the State Department and advisor to the United States Delegation at the several Conferences that initiated the United Nations. Now on loan from the State Department to be Director of the Department of Trusteeship in the United Nations. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1950 as United Nations mediator in Palestine. Where human affairs need a knowing appraisal and statesmanlike leadership, people draft him because he can be believed. His singleness of purpose brings people to the point of reconciliation, and his sincerity and simplicity inspire in them confident hope. A world citizen ‘ever willing to accept as great a share of hazard as of honor.’ "

Thurgood Marshall

Judge and civil rights litigator Thurgood Marshall received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1963.


Citation read at Princeton’s 206th Commencement:


Whitney Moore Young, Jr.

Leader of the National Urban League and civil rights activist Whitney Moore Young, Jr., received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1967.


Citation read at Princeton’s 220th Commencement:


Coretta Scott King

Human rights activist and widow of slain Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities in 1970.


Citation read at Princeton’s 223rd Commencement:


John Lewis

Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1987.
Citation read at Princeton 240th Commencement:

Constance Baker Motley

Judge and civil rights litigator Constance Baker-Motley received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1989.

Citation read at Princeton’s 242nd Commencement:


Dorothy Irene Height

Civic leader, activist, and educator Dorothy Irene Height received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1990.
Citation read at Princeton’s 243rd Commencement:


Robert Parris Moses

Educator and civil rights pioneer Robert Parris Moses received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 2002.
*Moses is currently the 2011-2012 Visiting Fellow in Princeton’s Center for African American Studies (CAAS)
Citation read at Princeton’s 257th Commencement: