This Week in Princeton History for August 15-21

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a dean dreams of pretty postcards, the natural history museum receives a significant donation of specimens, and more.

August 15, 1923—Andrew Fleming West, Dean of the Graduate School, writes to a friend about his hopes to get attractive postcards printed showing scenes around campus: “They have such cards at Oxford and Cambridge—really artistic souvenirs—some from photographs, some from pen-and-ink drawings. Why, O why can’t we do it?”

This postcard booklet contained 16 images from Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary’s campuses, with Nassau Hall on the cover (shown here) and the Graduate College on the reverse. It appears to date from the 1930s or 1940s. Historical Postcard Collection (AC045).

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This Week in Princeton History for May 30-June 5

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, students ask for rules to be enforced, the town is trying to address a major rat problem, and more.

May 30, 1878—“Troubled at the spirit of luxuriousness now gaining foothold in the College, and more especially by the barking of the spaniels kenneled in our dormitories,” the Princetonian urges the institution to enforce rules against students keeping horses, dogs, weapons, and explosives on campus.

If we judge from 19th-century photographs, dogs were virtually ubiquitous on campus, and the student plea to have rules against keeping them likely had no real effect. Unidentified group of Princeton students, 1894, some holding dogs. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP16, Image No. 3954.

June 1, 1860—A notice in today’s Princeton Press urges locals to donate to the controversial Charles Chiniquy’s St. Anne Colony in Illinois.

June 3, 1933—Princeton University announces the election of Harold W. Dodds as its 15th president.

June 5, 1941—The town of Princeton has set out on an extermination campaign to get control of the rat population. The rats are believed to be breeding at the corner of Nassau Street and Palmer Square. Estimates indicate that the population of rats will increase from the current 10,000 to 70,000 if the campaign is not successful.  (The human population of Princeton is 6,992.)

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for February 3-9

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the last winter Commencement is held, a woman successfully bickers an Eating Club for the first time, and more.

February 3, 1949—Princeton holds its sixth and last winter Commencement, presenting 274 degrees. Frank Osborn, Class of 1910, tells the assembled graduates, “we are forced to realize that the world is a dangerous place to live in. That’s a new idea for my generation. We don’t like it.”

Frank Osborn with Harold Dodds at Princeton University’s Feburary 2, 1949 Winter Commencement. Photo from Princeton Alumni Weekly, March 19, 1949. Osborn’s speech can be found in the Princeton University Commencement Records (AC115).

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This Week in Princeton History for May 16-22

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Thomas Mann says he has found a new home, a miniseries about a professor premieres, and more.

May 16, 1959—In today’s issue of Nation, Princeton University’s resident psychiatrist, Louis E. Reik, writes of Cold War tensions among the undergraduate population, “the problem of whether the individual’s aggressive energies will be expressed in useful or destructive ways has never before cast such a deep and terrible shadow over human life. … That the days of unbridled individualism are gone is a lesson that, at bottom, no high-spirited young man wants to learn.”

May 17, 1927—The results of the Nassau Herald’s poll of graduating seniors are released. Isaac Hall is selected as the “Greatest Woman-Hater” of the Class of 1927.

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Photo from 1927 Nassau Herald.

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“The New Order”: How Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor (Briefly) Led to Women Enrolling in Classes at Princeton University

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan”: so began Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 8, in a speech asking the United States Congress for a declaration of war. Princeton University didn’t wait until Roosevelt’s speech; instead, the Princeton Senate declared war on Japan immediately following the attack. The Daily Princetonian reported on this story and others under the banner headline, “PRINCETON PRESENTS UNITED FRONT AS UNITED STATES FACES TOTAL WAR.”

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Army Specialized Training Program, ca. 1942-1945, Princeton University, Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4431.

It would be difficult to overstate the transformations that World War II brought to the United States at large and to Princeton University in particular in a nearly immediate and all-consuming way in the wake of the Japanese strikes on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A stunned administration under the leadership of University President Harold Willis Dodds (Graduate Class of 1914), who had only six weeks before asserted that the threat of war “will call for minor adjustments in the curriculum” (“Some Thoughts on Universities and National Defense,” October 31, 1941), suddenly and drastically revised its approach. Rather than minor adjustments, Princeton instead embraced major upheavals to nearly all of its traditions.

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British military class, Princeton University, ca. 1943, Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Item No. 4433.

On December 15, Dodds presented the rough outlines of a changed Princeton curriculum to a mass meeting of students in Alexander Hall. A Princeton A.B., typically a four-year degree, would have an accelerated option with year-round classes, so that it could be completed in three. Additional “emergency courses” would be added to teach skills deemed useful for war. Princeton would yield itself to the needs of the U.S. Army and Navy, whatever those needs happened to be. All of these anticipated changes quickly went into effect. Here, we highlight how the war effort brought one other dramatic change to the campus: for the first time, women enrolled in classes.

New_Order

“The New Order,” Princeton Tiger, December 1941.

Photogrammetry, or making maps from aerial photographs, was among many emergency courses added for the Summer 1942 term. Tuition was not charged for the class, taught by engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, but admission was competitive, as applications poured in from across the nation.

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Flyer advertising Princeton University Photogrammetry Course, 1942, Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109), Box 421, Folder 3.

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Unidentified female student with engineering professor Philip R. Kissam, Princeton’s Photogrammetry class, 1942, Historical Photographs Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP212, Item No. 5577.

The class of 45 ultimately included 23 women, most from the East Coast region between New London and Philadelphia, and one from Royal Oak, Michigan. The Prince marveled, “One of the few remaining strongholds of the male, the classrooms of Princeton University, have been opened by the war to women students for the first time in the 196 years of its existence.” This was a bit of an exaggeration, however, as only a few classrooms were actually open to women, and the photogrammetry class was the only one taken by American women. Three female members of the British military also attended classes here during the war (Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 10, 1943), but afterward, coeducation at Princeton became nothing more than a memory until the 1960s. For more on the history of women at the University, see our previous blog post.

For further reading on World War II’s impact on Princeton University, see our previous blog posts about the bronze memorial stars that adorn some dormitory windows and the wartime love letters of alumnus Peter Page ’41.

Sources:

Board of Trustees Records (AC120)

Daily Princetonian

Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112)

Historical Subject Files Collection (AC109)

Office of the Dean of the College Records (AC149)

Princeton Alumni Weekly

The Princeton Tiger

Root, Robert K. The Princeton Campus in World War II. Princeton: Self-published, 1978.