In this week’s installment of our returning series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, tensions are boiling between town and gown, Dwight D. Eisenhower expresses thanks for the support of Princetonians, and more.
October 16, 1883—According to reports in the New York Sun, the governor of New Jersey has sent the entire state militia and police force to prevent full-scale warfare between students at the College of New Jersey and the residents of Princeton following a bloodbath on October 15. “To-night the annual cane-spree takes place and the students threaten to lynch any townsmen who appear on the Campus. The latter, on their part, declare their intention of cleaning out the College. Both parties are heavily armed. Trouble is feared. The desperate ruffianism of Princeton students is well known.”
October 17, 1952—Dwight D. Eisenhower, who is seeking election as U.S. President, notices a “PRINCETON LIKES IKE” sign among a crowd of 5,000 supporters in Princeton and says he is “really delighted to see some Princeton signs here.
In this week’s installment of our returning series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a junior’s work on racial justice nets results locally, another junior hitches a ride on the presidential plane, and more.
September 3, 1992—Partly in response to efforts by Yolanda N. Pierce ’94, student representative to the Borough Merchants of Princeton, 84 of 220 local businesses have signed a pledge “to treat all customers fairly and equally regardless of ethnic heritage or racial origins.”
Yolanda N. Pierce ’94. Photo from 1994 Nassau Herald.
[We recently digitized a campaign film from the Adlai E. Stevenson Papers, located in our Public Policy Papers. The film, “Nuclear Test Ban,” was produced as a televised campaign program for Stevenson’s 1956 presidential bid against Dwight D. Eisenhower. The film speaks to an important transitional moment in the American encounter with nuclear weapons.]
With a deafening roar, a mushroom cloud blossoms on the screen. As viewers watch the cloud of smoke, dust, and water vapor take its awful form, a narrator declares, “this is the H-Bomb at work… This is the means for destroying all living things on earth.”
The scene cuts to Adlai Stevenson, Democratic candidate in the 1956 presidential election, as he makes his case to the American public for a ban on hydrogen bomb testing. Stevenson is quick to dispel the notion that his proposal is simply an election maneuver: the issue “was and it is too serious for that,” despite then-Vice President Richard Nixon’s assertion that a ban was “catastrophic nonsense.”
For the next twenty-three minutes, Stevenson and a group of experts in the field present a grim assessment of the possible consequences of America’s nuclear testing: sickness, war, and horrors unknown.
The film ends with Stevenson’s disquieting appeal: “I believe we must somehow guarantee mankind against the horrible destructiveness of the hydrogen bomb… I believe we have no alternative.”
Princeton University celebrated its 200th anniversary with a year-long series of events, starting on September 22, 1946 and ending with a convocation on June 14-17, 1947. The newsreel posted here was shot during the conclusion of the bicentennial celebrations on June 17th, when thirty-six notables received honorary degrees, including US President Harry Truman, who gave the convocation address.
The newsreel opens with footage of Harry Truman, posing with former president Herbert Hoover (already a recipient of an honorary degree) and the widows of US presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, who were special guests. The first recipients featured are General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who would succeed Harry Truman as US President in 1953, and Admiral Chester Nimitz (0:37). Both were honored for their leadership during the war, Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander, and Nimitz as commander of the Pacific Fleet. Other recipients shown are Dr. Vannevar Bush, wartime director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (organizer of the Manhattan Project) and Bernard Baruch, presidential adviser during both world wars. They are followed by Warren Austin, US representative of the United Nations, and Viscount Harold Alexander, governor general of Canada (0:43-0:51). Albert Einstein, based at the Institute of Advanced Studies, but an honored guest on campus, also participates in the procession (0:31). The film ends with President Harry Truman’s rallying address, in which he urges the adoption of universal military training (1:28).