This Week in Princeton History for January 31-February 6

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the matriculation process is explained, local women report on their efforts to keep students from drinking, and more.

February 2, 1845—A letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun explains what it is like for a new student at Princeton:

When he arrives[,] he look[s] round, well pleased; the polished professors welcome him with a smile, advise him to take care of his health, and not study too hard, and then his name is inscribed, in a formal manner, in a book, which process is called matriculation. This is all very easy. Next day, however, he recites in Hebrew, next in moral philosophy, next in ecclesiastical history, and next in Theology. While this is going on, the professors are busily engaged in finding out his attainments, but in such a sly way as not to alarm the victim with the idea of an ordeal. By the time he gets through, however, he begins to think something more than usual was the matter with him, else he would not have perspired so hard, and at last actually sees that he has escaped from the very fingers of Moloch, and blesses his stars that he was not burned up. This whole operation, by the knowing ones, is technically called cutting, and when the victim gets through it he is permitted to run at large with the other dogs.

Selected page from Princeton’s Matriculation Register, 1821-1844. Office of the Registrar Records (AC116), Box 47.

February 3, 1767—College Steward Jonathan Baldwin defends himself against charges of having paid too much for some mutton, and his butcher against charges of swindling. The New York Journal will later publish Baldwin’s account of the facts behind the mutton controversy that has drawn significant colonial press.

February 5, 1881—The Women’s Christian Temperance Society of Princeton reports on its first year of operation in town, which has included having speakers repeatedly address crowds outdoors on the college campus to tell stories “in the most thrilling way” about the dangers of intoxicating drinks. The Society feels a particular responsibility to engage in activism among “that perpetually shifting part of the population, the 500 or 600 young men who come here for education.”

February 6, 1917—The new Senior Class Committee on Business Opportunities sends out a circular letter requesting that companies interested in hiring a member of the Class of 1917 write back about available openings.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 22-28

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, new admissions requirements are approved, a new church building frees local residents from an obligation to rent pews in Nassau Hall, and more.

November 24, 1845—Two seniors are dismissed from Princeton “in consequence of a quarrel & from an apprehension that it might lead to a duel.” A junior is also “suspended for being afterwards involved, in some degree, in that quarrel.”

November 25, 1818—The Trustees approve new admissions requirements: Familiarity with Greek and Latin grammar and literature, arithmetic, English grammar, geography, and “the Catechism of the Church to which the candidate belongs.”

November 26, 1794—Following the death of John Witherspoon, a “Graduate” warns in Philadelphia’s Independent Gazetteer,

It is a fact of which the Trustees of Princeton College have perhaps never been apprized, that the authoritative language, the arrogant and despotic demeanor of the Professors, their insatiate desire, or rather ambition, of rendering themselves odious, and making Students tremble at the flash of their indignant eyes, will ever have a tendency to alienate the affections of Students, who will consequently leave no stone unturned, to degrade the Institution in the eyes of the world. Much has the reputation of Princeton College suffered by late unprecedented severity and irksome despotism, which have already brought down upon the Institution a sufficient share of obloquy and contempt.

November 28, 1766—Now that the church building is completed, local residents who are members of the First Church of Princeton (later renamed First Presbyterian Church, then Nassau Presbyterian Church) will no longer need to rent pews in the chapel of Nassau Hall, but John Witherspoon will continue to serve in the double role of minister to the congregation and president of the College, as have his predecessors.

First Presbyterian Church (as it was then named), ca. 1860. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD42, Image No. 9644.

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 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.

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

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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