This Week in Princeton History for February 5-11

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the library makes a significant change in how it catalogs books, the Board of Trustees is divided over a hiring decision, and more.

February 5, 1976—University Librarian Richard Boss announces that new materials will use the Library of Congress classification system rather than the Richardson system unique to Princeton, originally developed in the 1890s by Boss’s predecessor, Ernest Cushing Richardson. Richardson felt that the Dewey classification system was inappropriate for a research library. However, in the open stacks, books with Richardson numbers would not be completely phased out until 2011.

An employee shelves books in the Princeton University Library, ca. 1970s. The call numbers here are all Richardson numbers. (Click to enlarge.) Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP06, Image No. 132.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 18-24

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a newspaper’s editorial cartoon satirizes the contrast between the presidential leadership of John Maclean and James McCosh, a Princetonian becomes Senate Majority Leader, and more.

December 18, 1772—John Witherspoon writes to the New York Gazette to defend himself against charges that by praising the College of New Jersey (Princeton) he is denigrating the College of New York (most likely this refers to King’s College, which will later be renamed Columbia University). “There are many real Advantages attending a College in a large City, for the Instruction and Improvement of Youth. Should any Gentleman think fit to recommend the College of New-York, on these Accounts, pray how would it be taken if I should resent it as an Injury to the College of New-Jersey?”

December 22, 1875—The Daily Graphic runs a front-page editorial cartoon depicting the faculty of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) as the frogs, former president John Maclean as the Log King, and current president John McCosh as the Stork King in Aesop’s fable, “The Frogs who Desired a King.” Three student fraternities waving signs in the background reference recent controversies over secret societies at Princeton.

Cartoon from Daily Graphic, December 22, 1875. Click to enlarge.

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This Week in Princeton History for September 4-10

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a tropical storm batters the campus, a mountain is named after a professor, and more.

September 4, 2001—Anthony Romero ’87 becomes the American Civil Liberties Union’s first Latino and first openly gay executive director.

Anthony Romero ’87, ca. 2001. Photo from Daily Princetonian.

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This Week in Princeton History for August 28-September 3

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a sophomore is suspended for multiple infractions, the Tigertones perform for the U.S. President, and more.

August 29, 1803—Sophomore Francis A. DeLiesselin, Class of 1805, is brought before the faculty to address several infractions: “drawing a caricature & writing upon the walls of the College,” having “taken the trumpet out of the servants’ room & sounded it with the design of interrupting the order of the College,” and having “created disorder in the dining room by throwing bread.” He is suspended, but will not immediately learn his lesson; after his readmission a few months later, he will be suspended for unruly conduct again in 1804.

August 30, 1997—The Tigertones perform for President Clinton and guests on Martha’s Vineyard.

The 1996-1997 Tigertones. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box AD40, Folder 14.

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The Temples of Cloacina

Today, behind Nassau Hall just beyond Cannon Green, visitors to the Princeton University campus will see stairs between two large tiger sculptures installed in 1969. This sharp incline had different scenery prior to the twentieth century, however. Students sometimes called it “South Campus,” “The Temples of Cloacina,” or “Cloaca Maxima.” Less euphemistically or poetically, it served a most basic purpose, which students studying ancient Rome will have already guessed from the last two names: this was where the College of New Jersey (Princeton) sent its sewage.

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Photo by Denise Applewhite, 2015. Courtesy Princeton University Office of Communications.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 15-21

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, reports of a strange creature living in the lake captivate imaginations on campus, a banner is stolen, and more.

February 16, 1758—The Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) vote to repeal a rule requiring students to wear caps and gowns (“peculiar habits”). This rule will be reinstated in 1768.

Peculiar habits

Minutes of the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), February 16, 1758. Board of Trustees Records (AC120), Vol. 1.

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The Changing Shape of American Football at the College of New Jersey (Princeton)

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, our thoughts have turned toward the history of American football. We’ve repeated the fact several times: On November 6, 1869, the first intercollegiate football match ever was played on College Field in New Brunswick, New Jersey, between the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and Rutgers College. Yet some dispute this. The game Princeton and Rutgers played that day looked a lot more like soccer than what we now know as American football. The ball was perfectly round, not the oval we use now. The teams had about 25 players each on the field, rather than 11. But even if this wasn’t “football” as we know football, without that game to attract the attention of other colleges, American football would probably have never gotten off the ground. Thus, we’ll still continue to say that the first intercollegiate American football game happened on November 6, 1869.

Questions might still remain, however. How did Princeton go from playing with approximately 25 men on the field chasing a round ball to playing with 11 men on the field chasing an oval ball?

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The College of New Jersey (Princeton) 1873 football team. Note the round ball in front of the man in the top hat. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box LP36, Image No. 2522.

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Who Founded Princeton University?

Q. Dear Mr. Mudd,

Who founded Princeton University? 

A. The founding of Princeton University is nearly as complex as the courses that have been and continue to be taught within its hallowed lecture halls. The College of New Jersey (as Princeton University was known until 1896) was a child of the Great Awakening, an institution born in opposition to the religious tenets that had ruled the colonial era.

The principles on which Princeton University was founded may be traced to the Log College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, founded by William Tennent in 1726. Tennent was a Presbyterian minister who, along with fellow evangelists Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Davies, and George Whitefield of England, preached and taught an approach to religion and life that was the very essence of the Great Awakening period. The seven founders of the College of New Jersey were all Presbyterians. Ebenezer Pemberton, a minister and a graduate of Harvard, was the only one of the seven who did not graduate from Yale. The remaining six were Jonathan Dickinson, Aaron Burr Sr., and John Pierson, who were ministers; William Smith, a lawyer; Peter Van Brugh Livingston, a merchant; and William Peartree Smith.

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Original location of Pennsylvania’s Log College (photo taken in 1914). Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP62, Image No. 2402.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 7-13

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a history professor gets national attention, undergraduates protest new library rules, and more.

December 7, 1776—The British Army reaches Princeton to begin the “20 days of tyranny.” Annis Boudinot Stockton hides the papers of the College of New Jersey’s American Whig Society while burying her family silver on the Morven estate. Later, she will be posthumously elected as Whig Hall’s first female member.

December 8, 1998—Princeton University history professor Sean Wilentz makes the news for his testimony before the United States Congress, saying to House Republicans aiming to impeach President Bill Clinton, “…history will track you down and condemn you for your cravenness.” The New York Times will later editorialize that his testimony was a “gratuitously patronizing presentation,” but Wilentz will respond that he has been misunderstood.

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Princeton University history professor Sean Wilentz, 1994. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 193.

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This Week in Princeton History for November 16-22

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the college president boasts about America’s educational system, Billy Joel draws crowds, and more.

November 16, 1772—The New York Gazette prints a letter from College of New Jersey (Princeton) President John Witherspoon that asserts that an American college education is the best in the world, because Princeton does not practice corporal punishment: “no correction by stripes is permitted: Such as cannot be governed by reason and the principles of honour and shame, are reckoned unfit for residence in a College.”

November 17, 1972—The University Council’s Executive Committee orders flags on campus to fly at half-mast in mourning for two students shot to death during a protest at Southern University in Baton Rouge under circumstances some say mirror deaths at Kent State University in 1970. The committee refers to the police killings as a “tragedy [that] represents a resort to violence as response to disagreement among people.” The Association for Black Collegians is taking up a collection to help provide for other students in Louisiana affected by the incident.

November 19, 2001—Billy Joel lectures on the history of music and performs in a variety of styles in Princeton’s Richardson Auditorium.

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Billy Joel gestures to the crowd in Richardson Auditorium, November 19, 2001. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 197.

November 21, 1917—The Daily Princetonian runs an editorial suggesting “meatless and wheatless” days in campus dining halls and eating clubs in response to widespread food shortages.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

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