This Week in Princeton History for December 19-25

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, alumni have the chance to see proposed dormitory plans, a student plot to make eggnog is foiled, and more.

December 22, 1890—The Charlotte News notes that “A large number of Princeton students passed the city yesterday en route south.”

December 23, 1908—Today’s issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly contains drawings of the proposed new dormitories to be built on the northwest corner of campus, thanks to a generous donation from Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage. Ultimately, none of the buildings in the group, later to be known as Rockefeller College, will bear her name, but one of the dining halls will be dubbed “Russell Sage Hall” in honor of her husband.

Though it is not that unusual to find references to “Sage Hall” or “Sage Tower” in archival records from the early 1910s, this tower is now much better known as Holder Tower, named for Christopher Holder, a 17th-century ancestor of Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage. Holder was an early Quaker who endured religious persecution in Massachusetts Bay Colony and returned to England to escape execution. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP51, Image No. 1788.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 21-27

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, an unusual Thanksgiving storm brings heavy snow to the area, a Scottish newspaper remarks on the racial composition of the town, and more.

November 22, 1967—Joshua Rifkin *70 is at work on two projects: a thesis on an early 16th-century Flemish manuscript, and arranging and conducting the album “Wildflowers” for singer Judy Collins, with whom he has recently also worked on the album “In My Life.”

November 24, 1938—An unusual early snowstorm brings nearly 9 inches of snow to Princeton—more than the entire annual snowfall during the previous winter—beginning around the time most locals are beginning to eat Thanksgiving dinner.

November 25, 1985—James Currier ’89 laments a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision that Princeton’s eating clubs are not legally permitted to bar women from admission.

Women at Princeton who might want to join the all-male eating clubs do so because they like them better than the other clubs—these clubs have something that the girls would consider special. But having girls in the clubs will change them; they will lose this ‘something special.’ The women can’t be a part of the clubs now, obviously, because they’re all-male; but by joining they would change the essence of the all-male clubs, and they…wouldn’t be a part of what is special. So why ruin [them] for the guys?

November 26, 1877—An article in The Scotsman describes Princeton: “The township is small, containing some 3000 inhabitants, a considerable proportion of whom are black, externally.”

Unidentified residents of Princeton photographed by William Roe Howell, 1869. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP75, Image No. 3005.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 5-11

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the arrival of undergraduate women draws attention, a recent graduate reflects on the contrast between life as a student and life on a war’s front lines, and more.

September 6, 1969—Amid media fanfare and besieged by unsolicited attention from their male peers, undergraduate women arrive on campus.

Clay Fowler ‘72 helping his sister, Dee Dee Fowler ‘73, move in to her new dorm in September 1969. Dee Dee was one of the women who arrived during the first year Princeton University admitted female undergraduate degree candidates. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112).

September 8, 1875—Reflecting on the time he has spent in America, Princeton’s president, James McCosh, tells students, “Physiologists tell us that in seven years every particle of matter in the body is renewed. Now I have been seven years in this place, and I feel as if I had become thoroughly an American. During these seven years I have become identified out and out with Princeton College.”

September 9, 1917—Robert Lee Nourse, Jr., Class of 1917, writes to his parents from “The Front” in France.

And only four months ago I was living the idle, dreamy life of the student…During these four months I have lived two lives; I have experienced many times the content of the other twenty-one years. … I have found that in the ideals, the life and death of this great War, that which I had thought gone—has come to life in an almost unreal intensity, an intensity that must dim the “far off things.”

September 10, 1761—The planned drawing for the College of New Jersey Lottery to support Princeton does not take place today, because, as the Pennsylvania Gazette will report, the managers have “many of their Tickets in distant places,” and “are forced to postpone…”

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This Week in Princeton History for September 27-October 3

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the Board of Trustees approves a plan for French classes, a student is sent home for involvement in a secret society, and more.

September 27, 1843—The Board of Trustees vote to require students to pay a $5 deposit in order to study French, which will be refunded if, and only if, they complete the full term of the course.

September 28, 1789—A member of the Class of 1789, upon graduating, writes of leaving Princeton: “Freed from tyrannic tutor’s sway, I leave thee, sacred doom! This day, Adieu ye reverend hypocrites! Ye holy despots, little wits!”

September 30, 1956—Director of Admission C. William Edwards reassures students and alumni that coeducation is “impossible” at Princeton and “Princeton has never considered the possibility of co-education.”

October 1, 1855—Samuel Betts, Class of 1856, is suspended from Princeton for wearing the badge of a forbidden secret society.

Although we don’t know specifically what badge Betts wore, this is an example of a mourning badge that members of the society, Phi Kappa Sigma, wore in 1863. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 212, Folder 2.

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This Week in Princeton History for June 14-20

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Mills Tariff Bill is debated, the Prince offers a guide to “scarce” women’s restrooms, and more.

June 14, 1928—A member of the Class of 1913 is struck by lightning and dies just before joining classmates at an outdoor reunion dinner near Palmer Stadium.

June 18, 1843—Charles Godfrey Leland writes to his father to defend Princeton students against accusations of disrespecting President John Tyler during Tyler’s recent visit to campus, saying press reports exaggerated the incident. “It is true that they did hiss Tyler, but not much.”

June 19, 1888—Students debate the Mills Tariff Bill, which has split the Democratic Party and become the central issue of the 1888 presidential election.

June 20, 1970—For the sake of incoming female undergraduates, the Daily Princetonian’s Special Class of 1974 issue includes a list of women’s restrooms on campus, “a commodity last year’s coeds found scarce.”

Restroom in Palmer Physical Laboratory, ca. 1960s. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD06, Image No. 8713.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 30-December 6

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Henry Ward Beecher celebrates the football team’s defeat, Patrick Stewart lectures on campus, and more.

December 1, 1883—While preaching to his congregation in Brooklyn, Henry Ward Beecher says, “I stood yesterday to see Yale and Princeton at football. I always did hate Princeton, but I took notice there was not a coward on either side, although I thank God that Yale beat [them].”

December 2, 1811—John Randolph (Class of 1791) writes of his experiences at Princeton when he and his brother were both students:

[Samuel Stanhope Smith] called us into his library and interrogated us about our Indian descent—we knew nothing more than that we derived it through our grand-mother, whom it suited him to make the daughter of Pocahontas, in order that we might be in defiance of time and fact in the fourth descent from her. He gave us, about that time, a copy of his essay [on race], which now lies before me, with my marginal notes. I cannot think of Princeton (where my ardor for learning was first damped) with any sort of patience.


December 5, 1995—Patrick Stewart lectures on acting in Shakespeare’s plays at 185 Nassau. Because so many of the general public have lined up to see him, few students are able to attend, provoking discussions of ways to ensure students have the opportunity to have priority admission to high profile lectures. The venue, which seats 220, was chosen because Stewart does not like to use microphones and does not want to strain his voice.

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December 6, 1970—More than 90% of the membership of Tower Club vote in favor of allowing women to bicker (i.e., apply for membership). Treasurer Norris H. Bokum ’71 explains, “There was no valid reason to vary membership on the basis of sex.”

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This Week in Princeton History for September 7-13

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Mudd Library opens, Virginia sends the college a map, and more.

September 7, 1976—Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library opens for research.

Architect’s rendering of plans for Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, 1974. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 160.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an angry bystander punches a graduate student protester, a professor arrives in Athens after drifting 100 miles at sea, and more.

May 11, 1966—Nearly 400 protesters demonstrate their opposition to the American involvement in the Vietnam War during U. S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit to Princeton University. (Johnson is present for the dedication of the Woodrow Wilson School.) A bystander reportedly expresses disagreement with the protesters by punching a graduate student involved.

Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for April 20-26

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Jesse Owens poses, John F. Kennedy speaks, and more.

April 20, 1942—Jesse Owens talks with Princeton’s Creative Sculpture class while he poses for a piece in Joe Brown’s series of sculptures of American athletes.

April 22, 1891—The Princetonian reports that a Civil War veteran is planning to return to campus to join the Class of 1894. He is 53 years old.

April 25, 1973—Princeton hosts its first “Lifestyles Colloquium” to help students learn how to manage a dual-career family.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 24-March 1

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a professor speaks publicly about his escape to America as a fugitive deserter from the Prussian cavalry, the school song gets new lyrics, and more.

February 24, 1883—Professor Joseph Kargé gives a lecture in the Old Chapel, “The Crisis of My Life,” telling the story of how he escaped to America as a fugitive deserter from the Prussian cavalry.

Joseph Kargé, undated. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series (AC067), Box 77.

February 26, 1987—After months of debate among students, alumni, and administrators, Princeton University announces that the lyrics to the alma mater, “Old Nassau,” will be officially changed. “My boys” will replaced by “we sing” and “her sons will give while they shall live” will change to “our hearts will give while we shall live.”

“Old Nassau” arranged for male voices, 1905. Princeton Music Collection (AC056), Box 10. (Click to enlarge.)

February 29, 1956—A Princeton sophomore is acquitted on charges of shooting out street lights with a revolver. He will later plead guilty to another charge related to the incident (carrying a concealed weapon).

March 1, 1875—Students are pushing for Princeton to hire women to clean their dorm rooms: “Sweeping and bed-making is women’s work, and there is no reason whatever why we should not have women to do women’s work in our dormitories. Their services can be procured for one-third less wages than is paid the miserable Irishmen who now pretend to set our sanctums in order.”

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