This Week in Princeton History for September 26-October 2

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, Jewish students set aside a day for volunteering, an alum causes a stir with a political speech, and more.

September 27, 1998—The Center for Jewish Life hosts “Mitzvah Day,” sending four groups of students out on local volunteer projects. There is high participation among students, organizers believe, because the day takes place during the High Holy Days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Students participating in “Mitzvah Day” by helping to build low income housing in Princeton, 1998. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

September 29, 1807—A junior is brought before the faculty on the charge that he kicked another student. He admits to kicking him, but says he was justified because of relentless “insults and abuses” from the student he kicked. Though many witnesses corroborate the story about the verbal abuse, “he was reprimanded before the faculty for resorting to that mode of obtaining satisfaction.”

September 30, 1835—Nicholas Biddle (Class of 1801) causes a stir with his address to the alumni. He urges his audience to preserve America in the face of internal enemies (i.e., Andrew Jackson and his supporters):

Confront its betrayers, as madmen are made to quail beneath the stern gaze of fearless reason. They will denounce you. Disregard their outcries—it is only the scream of the vultures whom you scare from their prey. They will seek to destroy you. Rejoice that your country’s enemies are yours. You can never fail more worthily than in defending her from her own degenerate children. … The avenging hour will at last come. It cannot be that our free nation can long endure the vulgar dominion of ignorance and profligacy. You will live to see the laws re-established—these banditti will be scourged back to their caverns—the penitentiary will reclaim their fugitives in office, and the only remembrance which history will preserve of them is the energy with which you resisted and defeated them.

His remarks will later be published in the Hartford Times, which will italicize his conclusion.

October 1, 1892—A report in the Trenton Times describes two Princeton students at a hearing following their arrest for larceny for attempting to steal a sign: “They are two sissy-looking youths. Both had their hair banged and parted in the middle, and wore little dinky boy hats, very much resembling fried eggs.”

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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Proudly We Can Be Jews: The Jewish Experience at Princeton

“I never found Princeton a terribly comfortable place in terms of my being a Jew…”
–Morton Denn ‘61

In 1993, the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) opened at 70 Washington Ave. The mission of the CJL was to provide a place for all Jews (orthodox, conservative, reform or secular) to eat, worship, and socialize. Although the Center primarily served Jewish needs, it also allowed Jewish students to dine with their non-Jewish friends. The struggle to gain campus recognition was a long endeavor that lasted more than a century. Before the CJL opened, Jewish students gathered at Murray-Dodge, in off-campus housing, or in their dorm rooms, keeping Judaism and Jewishness alive.


First page of a letter from Marcus Lester Aaron ’20 to Rabbi Louis I. Egelson, December 15, 1919. Marcus Lester Aaron Correspondence (AC420), Box 2, Folder 3.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 23-March 1

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Jewish students get their own space, the campus reels from discovering the true identity of a student, and more.

February 23, 1883—The Princetonian calls for coeducation in an editorial that asserts, “The time has now come … when the onward march of learning demands for woman the same attention as is bestowed upon men.” An added plus, the editorial says, will be an improvement in the morals of the male students. In order to ensure this, it proposes that female students be required to sign the following pledge: “We, the undersigned, solemnly promise, while connected with this institution, to receive no attention from any gentlemen who use tobacco or intoxicating liquors.” Princeton will actually become coeducational 86 years later, without requiring such a pledge from any student.


Nineteenth-century drawing, Princeton Artwork Collection (AC376), Box 2.

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