How Bicycles Changed Princeton, 1860s-1910s

Bicycles are seemingly ubiquitous at and around Princeton University in our time. The ever-present sight of bicycles parked near campus buildings or cyclists making their way across campus or along the D & R Canal raises no eyebrows; their absence, as with the absence of other forms of traffic, was one of the most noteworthy aspects of local life during the COVID-19 shutdown of 2020. Yet there was once a Princeton where bicycles were unknown, and their appearance presented a concerning novelty.

Bicycle in Princeton, ca 1880s. Historical Photograph Collection, Student Photograph Albums Series (AC061), Box 186.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for April 26-May 2

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, late frosts mean no butter, employees bring their daughters to work with them for the first time, and more.

April 26, 1790—In a letter to the New York Daily Advertiser, a writer describes unpleasant circumstances in Princeton: “Never was a more truly disagreeable and untoward spring than the present—scarcely a blade of grass to be yet seen in the fields; and nothing but storm upon strum till the earth is glutted. What most afflicts us is the approaching return of the Students from their late vacation. In consequence of the severe frosts, &c. we shall have no butter to give them, so that the college will be under the necessity of recurring in earnest to dry husks of philosophy and stale scraps of logic. God’s will be done.”

April 28, 1993—Princeton celebrates its first “Take Our Daughters to Work Day.”

Schedule for Take Our Daughters to Work Day, April 28, 1993. Clipping from the Daily Princetonian.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for March 15-21

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, 100 Princetonians picket a local bank for ties to apartheid, an unexpected loss of housing causes financial stress, and more.

March 16, 1816—A trunk is discovered open on the lawn of Nassau Hall with $3,000 stolen from it (about $46,000 in 2020 dollars, adjusted for inflation). The trunk belongs to a traveler on his way to New York who was robbed at the local Rowley’s Inn.

March 17, 1977—More than 100 students picket the Princeton Bank and Trust on Nassau Street for more than 90 minutes to demand an end to sales of Krugerrand, a South African gold coin. Sales of the coin help support apartheid, and students want to raise awareness of such entanglements locally, beyond the university’s investments. Emery Witt, a pharmacist next door, is frustrated that the picketing seems to be hurting his own business, but says he is pleased that students are expressing themselves.

Princeton University students picket Princeton Bank and Trust, March 17, 1977. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

March 18, 1997—Ashley Stevenson ’99 and Dan Morris ’98 marry each other at a Spring Break wedding in Salt Lake City, Utah.

March 20, 1843—Charles Godfrey Leland writes to his father to ask for money to cover his expenses after he has unexpectedly lost his room in town and none are available on campus:

The next and greatest question is, what shall I do next session for board—the only way to get a room in College is to take a room and buy the furniture, for every room in College is now occupied and will be still more so next session. Fonte, however, intends going out of College and will give his room (one of the very best) to any one who will buy his furniture (which, with the exception of the carpet, is the same that George Boker had)—for 30 or 40 dollars—which is very cheap. I have promised him I would let him know by the end of this week whether I would take his room or not.

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 December 21-27

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, an Ohio newspaper weighs in on a judge’s decision, James McCosh recovers his stolen horse, and more.

December 23, 1893—The Cleveland Gazette complains about the decision of a Mercer County judge to fine two Princeton students $50 each for assaulting Sing Lee (a Chinese immigrant who operates a laundry on Nassau Street) and his assistant, Lee Why; ransacking Lee’s business; breaking the windows; and stealing $85 from Lee. The students themselves argued that the disapproval expressed in newspapers nationwide was punishment enough, but the judge disagreed. In addition to material losses, Lee and Why suffered burns from hot irons and boiling water, but the Gazette minimizes the incident and considers it normal behavior. “Civilization is rapidly growing effete and tottering to its fall. The next thing we know college hazing will be dragged into the courts and treated like any other ruffianism.”

December 24, 1868—James McCosh has recovered his stolen horse. The horse, worth $1,500 (approximately $27,500 in 2020 dollars), was stolen from its stable in Princeton recently. Police found the horse at a farm in Trenton attached to a buggy stolen from someone else.

Horses have played a significant role in the lives of Princetonians, as with these horses who pulled a buggy for visitors to Prospect House ca. 1900s. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD06, Image No. 8908.

December 25, 1874—Two students set off on foot for Washington, D.C. “The roads were in a very bad condition, but they are both men of indomitable energy and pluck.”

December 27, 1765—The St. John’s Grand Lodge of Massachusetts grants a petition from residents of Princeton to establish a Masonic Lodge. Members include Richard Stockton and John Witherspoon.

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 November 23-29

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a new dress code is approved, a petition urges administrators to address escalating crime on campus, and more.

November 24, 1898—Leslie’s Weekly praises Joseph M. Huston, Class of 1892, for his work as a Philadelphia architect: “Perhaps the most attractive feature next to the visit of the President himself, at the Philadelphia Peace Jubilee, was the court of honor, the beautiful structure made up of arches and pillars extending over several blocks, through which the parade marched in the presence of the official visitors on adjacent stands.”

Peace Jubilee Court of Honor, Philadelphia, 1898. Image courtesy New York Public Library.

November 25, 1818—The Board of Trustees approves a new dress code: “Every student shall possess a black gown, which shall be made agreeably to a fashion which the faculty shall prescribe, and all the students of the college shall appear in their gowns on all such occasions as shall be specified and announced to them by the trustees or faculty of the college.”

November 26, 1974—More than 500 students’ names appear on a petition to Princeton administrators to take steps to reduce crime on campus, a sign of ongoing tensions between students and administrators about whether more can be done to address escalating concerns about student safety.

Student petition urging Princeton University administrators to address concerns about public safety and crime, Daily Princetonian, November 26, 1974.

November 27, 1833—Virginia’s Alexandria Gazette reports that two Princeton students, both seniors, have coincidentally both died within weeks of one another, both of tetanus after being shot accidentally.

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 November 9-15

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a graduate student gets help from the FBI to track down stolen microscopic slides, the YWCA opens a Hostess House for Navy officers in training, and more.

Couple at Princeton, ca. 1950. Historical Subject Files (AC109), Box 1, Folder 2.

November 9, 1959—A graduate student has gotten the help of the FBI and is offering a $100 reward to anyone with information that leads to the discovery of his 500 stolen microscopic slides, which represent 3 years of research.

November 11, 1949—Princeton’s debate team loses to Yale on the question of whether women should commit suicide to avoid premarital sex or rape. Princeton argues that they should. Yale’s winning dissent focuses on how men will suffer if women die to avoid “dishonor.” “Dishonor can be fun. … Princeton’s theory can only result in mass feminine suicide. Shall we deprive the world of a ravishing woman simply because she is in danger of being ravished?”

November 12, 1928—Wallace M. Sinclair, Class of 1904, survives the sinking of the SS Vestris off the coast of Virginia, which kills more than 100 people.

November 13, 1918—The Princeton Girls Patriotic League (later the YWCA) opens a Hostess House in Quadrangle Club for the men training to be Navy paymasters who are living at the Graduate College.

Princeton’s Girls Patriotic League is visible behind the women of the New Jersey Red Cross in this parade down Nassau Street to raise money for the Liberty Loan Fund in 1918. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box AD05, Image No. 8646.

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 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.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for March 9-15

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Martin Luther King’s visit to campus is attracting controversy, a new card-playing club forms, and more.

March 9, 1989—A bomb threat—the third in two weeks—cuts midterms short for three classes forced to evacuate McCosh Hall.

March 11, 1874—Students and townspeople alike are alarmed by news of the murder of a peddler passing through town. The Nassau Literary Magazine reports, “The Juniors were so affected that the ‘final’ in logic was altogether forgotten… On the night following, few single rooms were occupied, but companies formed for mutual protection and defence” [sic].

March 13, 1960—Amid controversy, Martin Luther King., Jr. preaches in Princeton University Chapel. His originally scheduled visit was postponed due to the injuries King sustained in an assassination attempt at a department store in 1958. Alumni are divided over whether his visit should be viewed positively. David Baker, Class of 1915, responded in a letter to Robert Goheen, “I would also like to enter my protest against the University selecting a Dean of the Chapel who is not even a naturalized American citizen, and who cannot therefore understand the feelings of the people in America” (Office of the President Records (AC193), Box 193, Folder 16).

March 14, 1895—Students organize the Whist Club, devoted to playing the popular card game of the era.

Students from the Princeton Class of 1889 playing cards, ca. 1889. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP14, Image No. 3470.

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 December 23-29

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Triangle Club performs in Cincinnati, the Board of Trustees decide to meet in Princeton for the first time, and more.

December 23, 1953—Campus proctors catch Ovel Withers, a former Princeton V-12 student and Harvard graduate student, who has been committing serial burglary across the Ivy League.

December 24, 1912—On it’s longest annual tour to date, the Triangle Club performs “Once in a Hundred Years” in Cincinnati.

Publicity photo for Princeton University Triangle Club’s “Once in a Hundred Years,” 1912. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 256.

December 25, 1752—The Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey decides to hold their next meeting in Princeton rather than in Elizabeth.

December 27, 1898—Franklin Woolman D’Olier (Class of 1898) sees a boy struggling after falling through the ice in the Delaware River near Burlington, New Jersey, and rescues him. For this he will be awarded a medal from the Life Saving and Benevolent Association of New York.

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 December 16-22

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, New Jersey’s governor pardons the marching band’s drum major, Jimmy Stewart’s singing gets positive reviews, and more.

December 16, 1981—Drum Major Stephen Teager ’82 will not appear in Princeton Municipal Court today as planned, thanks to an 11th-hour pardon by Gov. Brendan T. Byrne ’49. Teager would have faced charges of parading without a permit for causing congestion on Witherspoon Street when he led the marching band in a victory parade on November 23. “There’s no question I was guilty,” Teager says. The penalties could have earned Teager a fine of $1,100 and a jail sentence of up to 210 days.

Editorial cartoon depicting the arrest of Stephen Teager ’82, Princeton Alumni Weekly ,December 14, 1981.

Continue reading