This Week in Princeton History for September 19-25

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, the campus community prays for Birmingham, the Graduate College opens for occupancy, and more.

September 19, 1963—The University Chapel is open from 12:00-7:00 for prayer and meditation on the racial crisis in Birmingham, Alabama following the Ku Klux Klan bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.

September 20, 1932—Acting Princeton president Edward D. Duffield ’92 writes to reassure students and alumni that Princeton will continue to function in spite of its serious economic and administrative challenges.

By reason of rigid economy and able administration Princeton completed the last fiscal year ending June 30, 1932, without a deficit, and we have every reason to believe that by added economies to offset possible loss of income from investments we will be able to show a satisfactory result for the coming year.

September 24, 1913—Princeton’s Graduate College opens for occupancy.

Postcard showing Graduate College and Cleveland Tower, ca. 1920s. Historical Postcard Collection (AC045).

September 25, 1760—Benjamin Rush has delivered what the Pennsylvania Gazette describes as “an ingenious English Harangue in Praise of Oratory” at Princeton’s Commencement in Nassau Hall.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for July 5-11

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, staffing levels force the U-Store to close for one hour each day, the CIA notes payments have been sent to researchers involved in secret experiments, and more.

July 5, 1945—Due to “depleted staff,” the Princeton University Store will close for lunch from 1:00-2:00PM daily beginning on this date through September 10th.

Clipping from the Princeton Bulletin.

July 6, 1936—The Princeton Township Committee discusses the challenges they face as those employed at Princeton University’s eating clubs and other academic-year-only positions will require public aid to meet expenses “due to summer lay offs.”

July 7, 1922—Eva and Edward McEwen, who work at Dial Lodge and Cap and Gown Club, respectively, welcome the birth of their daughter, Eva Felica McEwen, who will later serve Princetonians at Rockefeller College and will tell students stories about the desegregation of all of the town’s educational institutions. “I can remember working for professors (at their homes) when I was only in high school who said they didn’t want ‘different ones’ there. … They knew they didn’t want Afro-Americans, they did not want Jewish people. I knew this because they told me. And I couldn’t understand that.”

July 9, 1958–As part of project MKULTRA, which is conducting secret experiments with LSD at 86 American colleges, the CIA notes it has made payments of more than $3,000 to two Princetonians through “an unwitting consultant” at Princeton University.

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 May 31-June 6

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the installation of a sculpture brings unexpected tragedy, the Dean of the College expresses his thoughts on the impact of the Great Depression on graduating seniors, and more.

May 31, 1998—To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Princeton’s first class to include undergraduate women for all four years, a husband and wife team, Sen. Tom Harkin and Ruth Harkin, give the baccalaureate address. It is believed to be the first time the baccalaureate is delivered by a pair. The graduates of the Class of 1998 include their daughter, Amy Harkin.

June 1, 1883—The Princetonian complains, “The enthusiasm of the Princeton drum corps is a great nuisance.”

June 2, 1970—Two workers are killed installing a sculpture on campus.

Five Disks, One Empty. Photo from the Daily Princetonian.

June 5, 1931—The New York Times quotes Dean Christian Gauss on why the hardships faced by the Class of 1931 made them better educated than their counterparts in the Class of 1929, who finished their educations before the so-called “Great Crash”: “Whatever regrets we may have over the unhappy lot of our unemployable college seniors, we can console ourselves with the thought that their true education has been very much advanced by the unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves. … They have had it borne in upon them that the welfare of each is somehow bound up with the welfare of all, and the older, easier optimism has disappeared. They know that we are all in the same boat and that each must pull his oar if we are again soon to go forward.”

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 August 31-September 6

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, alumnae celebrate the completion of a cross-country fundraising bike ride with a dip in the Fountain of Freedom, an invoice is paid for Nassau Hall’s weather vane, and more.

August 31, 1989—A champagne reception at the Princeton Public Library greets five Princeton University alumnae who bicycled across the country as a fundraiser for the Literacy Volunteers of America and Princeton’s women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams. After the reception, the women jump into the Fountain of Freedom near Robertson Hall. Altogether, they have raised more than $25,000.

September 1, 1941—After months of negotiations, Classics professor Shirley H. Weber and his wife arrive in Princeton, having left Athens about five weeks ago. He brings information about how the Greeks have been weathering the Axis occupation: “The Greek people wait and hope with a religious fervor for the ultimate victory of the British.”

Nassau Hall, 1860. Historical Photograph Collection, Grounds and Buildings Series (AC111), Box MP66, Image No. 2629.

September 2, 1856—Charles S. Olden, Treasurer of the College of New Jersey, pays an invoice from Bottom and Tiffany for $1,270.05 for the installation of a weather vane on the Nassau Hall cupola.

September 4, 1931—The Princeton Herald reports that the Great Depression is beginning to cause hardships for Princeton University students, quoting Student Employment manager Richard W. Warfield ’30: “the problem will be serious during the coming academic year…Undergraduate budgets which were not reduced at all last year will be cut this year and a great many more men will be forced to help support themselves.”

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.

The Bank Holiday of 1933 at Princeton University

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated President of the United States on Saturday, March 4, 1933. Immediately following his inauguration weekend, at 1:00 AM on March 6, Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2039. This action ordered all banks in the United States to close. No one would be able to withdraw, transfer, or deposit money between Monday, March 6 and Thursday, March 9. But even after some banks were allowed to reopen, those deemed to be in danger of failing would remain closed until they were deemed sound. This emergency measure was intended to prevent runs on banks that would cause a catastrophic ripple effect throughout a fragile economy, giving Congress time to pass legislation to shore up the nation’s banking system. On March 9, they passed the Emergency Banking Act. Gradually, banks reopened, now backed by the Federal Reserve. If a bank failed, account holders were insured against the loss, removing motivation to withdraw and hoard government-issued scrip.

In the interim, citizens all over the United States scrambled to find solutions to the problems that nearly a week or more without access to currency, without warning, would cause. One popular solution was for individuals and private corporations to issue their own scrip to circulate locally. Newspapers, in particular, commonly offered scrip, because they had ready access to printing presses.


Daily Princetonian scrip, 1933. Daily Princetonian General Records (AC285), Box 2.

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Majority of James M. Beck Papers Now Available Online

We are pleased to announce the completion of another digitization project. The bulk of the papers of James M. Beck (1861-1936), who enjoyed a long career as a lawyer, author, public speaker, Solicitor General, and U.S. Congressman, are now available online through the finding aid for collection MC007. Beck served as Solicitor General from 1921-1925 and represented the Philadelphia region as a Republican Congressman from 1927-1934. Researchers interested in a variety of topics will find this collection useful. For those interested in American politics and foreign policy during Beck’s life, the collection holds many items relating to World War I and Beck’s fights against Prohibition and the New Deal. It also reflects Beck’s personal interests in American history and Shakespeare.


James M. Beck. Photo from James M. Beck Papers (MC007), Box 11, Folder 8.

One subject the collection focuses upon is World War I. Beck’s writings on World War I were widely read. Beck defended America many times against the claims that initial neutrality in the European conflict was rooted in nationalist selfishness: “If the bones of your sons are now buried in France there are the bones of many a brave American boy who, without the protection of his flag … have gone and given their young lives as a willing sacrifice. Therefore, I say to you, men of England, if there are pinpricks, do not misjudge the American people, who have done what they did under the most trying and delicate circumstances…” (Beck, “America and the Allies,” July 5, 1916, p. 19) Later, Beck agreed that conditions had made it necessary for the United States to enter the war, but warned that the outcome of the hostilities of the era would “leave a heritage of hatred among nations” and that someday in the not too distant future Germany and Japan might join forces to fight America and its allies. (Beck, “America and the War”) Our collection contains translations of Beck’s World War I writings and speeches in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, and Greek. The correspondence he received in response, from all over the world, is also in many languages. Thus, in addition to reflecting American opinions, researchers will find perspectives from diverse nations in the collection.

Another subject the collection provides insight into is the public’s impressions of domestic policies. Beck’s stand against Prohibition earned a mixed response from his constituents, with Lillian Francis Fitch writing to Beck in 1930, “It is more than difficult for me to see how any high-minded, intelligent person can … be a ‘wet’” and C. Pardo writing to praise Beck’s efforts that same year on the grounds that Prohibition “is the work largely of … busy bodies.” Beck’s strong criticism of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, which authorized United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to regulate industry in an attempt to stimulate the economy during a period of severe deflation, also resulted a variety of responses. Most letters on the subject in our collection heaped praise upon Beck for his stand, but Cable Welfair urged a more cautious response to the bill: “I am not so terribly disturbed about some of the emotional legislation passed by the last Congress. Things that are said and done when one is excited must be more or less discounted. You don’t have to get a divorce from your wife because she says you are a brute. Maybe she is mistaken; or maybe you are, but can improve.”

A final substantial component of the collection concerns Beck’s private intellectual pursuits. Beck was particularly fond of Shakespeare. The collection includes his correspondence with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Joseph Quincy Adams, and materials related to his membership and presidency in the Philadelphia Shakespeare Society. Researchers will also note that Beck frequently quoted Shakespeare in his speeches. Beck spoke to a variety of audiences on a range of topics in American history as well, and was a frequent guest speaker for the Pennsylvania Society and the Sons of the Revolution. This index to his speeches will help researchers locate these items.