This Week in Princeton History for June 28-July 4

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a London magazine notes the impact of Prohibition on Princetonians, Yale offers condolences on the death of a rising senior, and more.

June 29, 1869—The American Whig Society celebrates its centennial.

July 2, 1927—The London Graphic reports on life at Princeton: “Before Prohibition, the Princeton ‘tigers’…were like German students in being noted beer-drinkers. Now their only relics of past prowess and happier days are their ‘beer-suits,’ which seniors wear for a special celebration on their return to ‘school.’”

July 3, 1891—Students from Yale write to students from Princeton to offer condolences on the death of Frederick Brokaw, Class of 1892, noting that Yalies and Princetonians attend college “with the same purpose and aim, the development of a manly Christian character…” Brokaw died trying to save three women from drowning at the Jersey Shore, and was known beyond Princeton as the baseball team’s catcher. The Yale baseball team will send a floral arrangement to Brokaw’s funeral.

Frederick Brokaw. Image from the 1892 Nassau Herald.

July 4, 1837—Independence Day is celebrated on campus “with unusual spirit,” including cannon salutes firing, a ceremonial procession to the Chapel, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and at least eight speeches throughout the course of the day.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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Does Princeton Have a Mandatory Swim Test?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

Is it true that Princeton has a mandatory swim test for freshmen? Furthermore, was this test instituted after the drowning death of an alumnus, whose parents gave the university a pool on the condition that all students were trained to swim to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again?

New Students Card for William Humphreys ‘1928
Historical Subject File, Box 122, Folder 7

Princeton did indeed have a swim test, but this test was not instituted because of the death of an alumnus. It is, however, easy to see why this story would develop and create a lasting legend.

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