This Week in Princeton History for August 10-16

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Alfred A. Woodhull enters the Class of 1856, the Princetonian asks town residents to stop looking at undergraduates, and more.

August 10, 1854—Having successfully passed the entrance exam, Alfred A. Woodhull enters the Class of 1856. He will later describe his experience as follows: “Although formidable in anticipation and rather terrifying in fact, the examination, as I look back upon it, was not well calculated to determine what one did or did not know.”

Title page of faculty minutes for the first semester of Princeton’s 1854-1855 academic year. Office of the Dean of the Faculty Records (AC118), Vol. 5.

August 11, 1962—Zimani David Kadzamira ’66 arrives in New York for orientation in a program bringing African students to American universities before starting his studies at Princeton. It is his first time outside Nyasaland (which will later be named Malawi).

August 14, 1942—In response to a Trenton Evening Times article on the concerns of the town about students in the summer session at Princeton University not wearing enough clothing (“Scanty Summer Attire of Princeton Students Raising Official Eyebrows”), the Daily Princetonian suggests “poor embarrassed townfolks” should simply stop looking at them.

August 15, 1868—The Dublin Evening Mail reports that friends in Belfast presented James McCosh with an engraved silver coffee and tea set and a gold bracelet to bring with him to America.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for July 27-August 2

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the governor seals the college charter, trends in the overall diversity of the incoming class are mixed, and more.

July 27, 1942—A Daily Princetonian editorial criticizes Secretary of State Cordell Hull for “abundant lip service” lacking substantive action. The editorial urges America to live up to its principles rather than merely claiming them: “And while the Negro, for example, is exploited in this country and given no more than meagre opportunities for realizing his potentialities, how far have we succeeded in making that promise any more [than] another ‘fine illustration of the white man’s hypocrisy?’”

July 28, 1748—Gov. Jonathan Belcher writes to Ebenezer Pemberton to invite him and Aaron Burr to visit the governor in Burlington to pick up the College charter, now that the seal is on it.

Seal of the governor of the province of New Jersey, 1748.

Detail of the governor’s seal affixed to the 1748 Charter of the College of New Jersey (note that New Jersey is here referred to by its Latin name, Nova Caesarea in America). Board of Trustees Records (AC120).

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This Week in Princeton History for June 15-21

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Joseph Henry’s accomplishments are honored, the Director of Admission reports on changing demographics on campus, and more.

June 16, 1885—A tablet to the memory of Prof. Joseph Henry is unveiled. The tablet commemorates Henry’s contributions to the development of the telegraph, but does not mention his assistant, Sam Parker, without whom Henry would have been unable to carry out his work.

Joseph Henry, ca. 1843. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box 22.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 25-31

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a member of the Class of 1945 survives a bombing in France, the Prince responds to proposed limits on enrollment, and more.

May 25, 1940—Pierre Soesman ’45, who fled Belgium earlier this month, survives a terrifying German bomber attack on the road from Paris to Angers. He will later write of the experience, “When they left, we did not move from the ditch for more than five minutes. Finally, people began to get up, laughing in hysteria.”

May 26, 1921—The Daily Princetonian responds to the news that Princeton will begin limiting enrollment for the first time by kicking off an editorial series urging a holistic approach to admissions decisions rather than one based entirely on test scores.

As Princeton University began limiting enrollment in the 1920s, it instituted a new admissions system that included an application with evaluation from secondary school officials. This is a page from an application from a member of the Class of 1930 found in the Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC198).

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This Week in Princeton History for April 13-19

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian takes over the function of the Bulletin Elm, the baseball team plays its first game, and more.

April 15, 1975—Two students receive a letter offering admission to Princeton in error on or about this day. Though the students were supposed to be rejected, Princeton will honor the acceptance if they choose to attend.

April 17, 1885—The Princetonian announces that it will begin assuming the function of the Bulletin Elm because the tree is dying.

Bulletin Elm, ca. 1885. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP07, Image No. 159.

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“The End of a Monastery”: Princeton’s First Female Graduate Students

The Princeton University Graduate Announcement for 1961-1962 warned potential applicants, “Admissions are normally limited to male students.” Yet this “adverbial loophole,” as the Daily Princetonian termed it, left room for some admissions that were not “normal” for Princeton at the time. Within the loophole, dozens of women became degree candidates before the advent of undergraduate coeducation.

Clipping from the Daily Princetonian, October 1, 1962.

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This Week in Princeton History for January 15-21

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, students and guests attend the first art lecture, the Board of Trustees ends gender-based admissions quotas, and more.

January 15, 1877—Professor Edward Delano Lindsey gives the first lecture of a course in Art in the newly established Department of Art and Archaeology. The Nassau Literary Magazine observes, “Even the ladies were represented and proved by their attention and expressive countenances their appreciation of both lecturer and subject.”

January 16, 1813—Students successfully petition the faculty “to be allowed this day as a holy day [sic], for the purpose of spending it in the amusement of sleighing.”

January 19, 1974—The Board of Trustees votes to end an admissions policy that enforces quotas on the number of women who may be admitted to Princeton University, a policy originally intended to prevent a decline in the number of men admitted after the advent of coeducation.

This photo of a Princeton University classroom ca. 1975 was labeled “Coed classroom.” If you look closely, you will find a woman in this class (out of focus toward the left). Though Princeton began admitting women to all degree programs in 1969, it was some time before it felt fully coeducational to students, in part due to quotas that kept the ratio of men to women high. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP150, Image No. 4013.

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This Week in Princeton History for October 30-November 5

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a letter provokes debate over race, undergraduates complain of excessive demands on their time, and more.

October 30, 1942—A. M. Shumate ’29’s letter to the editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly takes Daily Princetonian editor Frank Broderick to task for advocating that Princeton change its admissions policies and allow African Americans to attend. “To admit negroes would be to cut off the stream of excellent material that has traditionally come to Princeton from the South. That loss in enrollment would presumably be made up with dusky gentry. A smart deal? If Broderick is really keen on mixing ’em up he might well be acceptable as a transfer student at one of the better-known negro colleges.” Shumate’s letter will result in weeks of alumni debate in the PAW.

October 31, 1932—Students gather with local Princeton residents in a group of 1,500 at Princeton Junction Station to cheer and express support for Herbert Hoover’s reelection campaign as Hoover passes through on his way to Newark.

November 1, 1872—Students are asking for relief from demands on their time that include Saturday recitations and lengthy chapel exercises on Sundays as well as their Monday-Friday classes and morning vespers, but the Board of Trustees is reluctant to grant even a half-day per week off from College responsibilities. They are expressing concern that students will abuse free time if it is granted to them, “by going to Trenton and other places, as well as running up and down the streets at night, breaking lamps and causing disturbance…”

“Old Chapel” at the College of New Jersey (Princeton), ca. 1860s. Princeton students were required to attend daily vespers in chapel each morning until 1882, as well as both morning and afternoon services on Sundays until 1902. Compulsory chapel attendance ended altogether in 1964. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP28, Image No. 651.

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Integrating Princeton University: Robert Joseph Rivers ’53

As we have previously pointed out, Princeton’s first African American undergraduates were not purposefully admitted: they were instead brought as part of a Navy training program during World War II. In 1945, Trustee Laurence G. Payson wrote to fellow member of the Class of 1916 John McFerran Barr to explain the presence of black students in response to apparent objections. “When the personnel [for the Navy unit] arrived its members included, unbeknownst to us in advance, four negroes.” Meanwhile, a law requiring tax-exempt institutions not to discriminate on the basis of race had recently passed in New Jersey. “If Princeton were to stand against the negroes who were admitted under the Navy War-time ROTC the Trustees would be in a very difficult spot.” He explained that future African American applications for admission would be evaluated by administrators at Nassau Hall (i.e., the Office of the President) rather than by the Office of Admission, then headed by Dean Radcliffe Heermance. (Heermance had revoked one black student’s offer of admission in the 1930s when he showed up to register for classes and his race became apparent.) In spite of Princeton’s wariness of challenge to its traditions, one young local African American resident found the presence of black students at the prestigious university inspirational in its seeming promise of new possibilities.

James Everett Ward ’47 and Arthur Jewell Wilson ’47 outside Laughlin Hall, 1946. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP215, Image No. 5644.

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“We May Be Unable to Give You an Admission Decision”: The Women of the Princeton University Class of 1970

Female_student_entering_Admissions_office_1970_NH

Photo from Nassau Herald (1970).

In 2013, 26,642 people applied to the Princeton University Class of 2018. Princeton made offers of admission to 1,983 of these applicants, an acceptance rate of 7.4%. Though many find this competitiveness discouraging, clearly a significant number choose to try their odds anyway. Yet how many applications can one imagine Princeton would get if the school announced that they might end up rejecting all of those who applied? This was the dilemma faced by female students in the winter of 1969: whether to apply to a university unsure if it would admit a single woman.

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